It began on a Wednesday afternoon.

On the way to the hospital, we stopped to visit our friends who were getting ready for mid-week service at Tree of Life Church. I figured we’d have a baby later that evening. But no, we were up all night sustained by old school Lamaze breathing.

“Hee, hee,  whoooo.” I had practiced and knew the routine well.

Michael, although we hadn’t picked out his name at the time, was posterior so my cervix didn’t dilate evenly.

Thursday morning, Dr Albert Rath broke my water. I spent the morning hours trying to push that nine pound boy out of my body.  We even tried vacuum extraction and the boy still wouldn’t come out. (He continues to be the kind of kid who is slow to embrace change.)  Finally, it was decided he would have to be delivered via cesarean.

The hospital staff sent my husband David down to the operating room and was preparing me for surgery when we lost Michael’s heartbeat. I don’t know what I would have done without my friend Christy who grabbed my hand and began to pray and speak life to our boy.

Our first son was born after nearly 20 of labor.

Three years and two weeks later, our second son arrived. Daniel’s birth is another story all together, and he is a completely different child.

I went to the grocery store that afternoon and picked up a sourdough Jack Burger on my way home. After I unpacked the food, I called my husband, put my hand where my hip was supposed to be and told him, “That is the last time this pregnant girl is going to get groceries!

Michael laid down for a nap and I started having contractions, so I filled the bathtub and tested out relaxation techniques I read about in a library book. I soaked in Bath & Body Tranquil Moments visualizing a flower opening petal by petal.

David called to check on me and asked me to start timing contractions. Five minutes. Eight minutes. Four minutes. Six minutes. Nine minutes. I called David back and told him we’d probably have a baby some time the next day. He rushed home.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was in transition on the floorboard of the back seat of our Chevy S10 Blazer as we drove down the interstate to the hospital. I told David if I wasn’t at least dilated to seven I was going to have an epidural.  When the nurse checked me, I was complete. Dr Lisa Savage delivered Daniel 20 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, assisted by a quick episiotomy.

I have to pause and point out an interesting piece of trivia you may not have noticed. Dr Rath and Dr Savage. WRATH and SAVAGE!  These were my birthing companions. I’m still shaking my head at that one.

I love birth stories and used to watch A Baby Story on TLC religiously. A birthing story brings together the polar opposites of life – extreme joy and extreme pain.

Yes, I read Supernatural Childbirth along with every other pregnant woman at my church. I just didn’t experience one. I’ve come to the conclusion that the gals they featured in that book didn’t have pain-free births either. They had some sort of “holy amnesia.” I DID get to experience that.

Maybe it was because of the cesarean or maybe it’s just what they did in a small town back in 1997, but Baby Boy Cherry did not stay in the room with me. They kept him in the nursery. I knew David was almost as exhausted as I was, so I sent him home to sleep in a real bed. Disappointed that my birth didn’t go as planned and exhausted from a sleepless night of labor, I cried alone.

“God where were you? Why was it so hard?”

When the nurse came to check on me and found me sobbing, she knew just what to do. She went to the nursery, got my baby, and laid him in my arms.  Everything began to shift as I held that boy. The pain faded as I breathed in his sweet scent and caressed his soft skin.

hold the baby

The pain faded so much that when I was pregnant the second time I declined the offer of scheduling a second cesarean. I took the risk of laboring again for hours, brave in the face of another disappointment.  Thankfully, Daniel was positioned correctly and he weighed two pounds less than his big (and I mean big) brother.  His birth was probably the most empowering moment of my life. I felt like I could do anything! Unfortunately, I reacted to the suture they used to stitch up the episiotomy. That brought pain to a whole other level.

Having experienced both a cesarean and an episiotomy, I can’t tell you which was worse. Pain is pain.

So here I was again in a different year, at a different hospital, in a different city, with the same tears.

A different nurse (Thank God for nurses!) came in, scooped my baby out of his clear plastic bassinet and laid him on my chest, skin to skin. The comfort of holding my baby eased the pain and calmed my postpartum emotions once again. I got that holy amnesia.

One of the labor nurses came to see us the next day. Apparently, during labor I said something Elizabethan like, “This is highly uncomfortable.” I hardly remembered.

Mary’s birthing experience would make a great episode of A Baby Story. Someday, I want to hear her tell it – that crazy journey for the census, her swollen ankles, the sights, sounds and smells of Jesus’ manger birth – and what it felt like to hold her Savior in her arms. She has been pondering those things in her heart for a long time. I’m sure she’ll be ready to tell her side of the story by the time I get to heaven.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this month:

Sometimes life is hard.

It’s really hard.

We suffer in the pain and brokenness of our world.

Maybe you know someone who is suffering – body wrecked by sickness, mind spun out by worry and anxiety, spirit crushed by trampled expectations. Trauma, grief, and loss has left them longing and confused.

We labor and strain and push for the life we’re expecting, but things don’t go as planned and no one can prepare us for that experience.

We cry alone.

Stack on the pressure of a Pinterest-perfect Christmas and it’s like all the joy we are supposed to be feeling this time of year only serves to exaggerate the hopelessness of our reality.

I’m not a nurse, but if that’s how you are feeling this year, I think I know something that will help. Allow me to pick up the baby Jesus and lay him in your arms.

Hold the Baby.

Be still for a while and enjoy his nearness. Let the quiet rhythm of his breathing steady you.

You’ll find that while you hold on to Jesus, he is holding on to you.

Hear the birth announcement an angel delivered over the hills of Bethlehem.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you…” Luke 2:11

Sure, I think the angel meant “you” as in “all y’all.” (That’s how we’d say it in Texas.)

Go ahead and hear “you” in the corporate sense. A Savior has been born for the world. God so loved the world.

Then, pause, take a deep breath and hear “you” as the very private, personal pronoun it is.

Do you need a rescue?

Do you want help?

Do you long for hope?

A Savior has been born to YOU.

As I’m writing, I’m praying for holy amnesia for every reader.  I’m praying that as you hold on to Jesus – the pain, sadness or disappointment of your life will fade and you’ll find yourself feeling brave. Brave enough to face life again, knowing his love saves, and his love is enough to carry you through whatever comes your way.