I looked at the clock as the phone was ringing. It was 5:15 AM and Andrew was calling to let us know that his wife, Elizabeth, had just given birth to our grandson. Elsa, their five-year-old, was sleeping with her feet next to my head. We were also babysitting our two-year old granddaughter, Grace, who had been crying on and off for hours. Oh, my, this was going to be a complicated and full day!
Dan and I could hardly wait to go to the hospital when we finally got the call asking us to come. We wrangled the girls into their car seats and crossed the Agate Bridge off the island when Andrew called and said Elizabeth had fallen asleep and we should wait two hours.
What were we to do with two cranky granddaughters? We found an indoor play area in the mall to occupy the girls. Neither one of us had slept much, but a new grandson was the greatest joy we could imagine!
Elizabeth finally woke and once again we wrangled the girls into their car seats and eventually found the correct entrance into Harrison Hospital. Finally, the four of us got our hospital badges on and entered Elizabeth’s room.
Elizabeth and Andrew told their incredible birth story. They had planned to give birth at a birthing center, but complications during labor made that impossible. The doula and midwives advised them to get to the hospital as quickly as possible, as their son, Augustine, was stuck. Not wanting to wait for an ambulance, Andrew drove Elizabeth and one of the midwives to the hospital, speeding ninety miles per hour. She ended up delivering naturally within minutes of arriving at the hospital. It was possibly the high-speed drive that dislodged “Gus” from the birth canal!
Such joy! Such amazement that our five-foot-tall, slender daughter-in-law had given birth to an almost nine-pound baby! We heard their story over and over again as all our family members visited when they arrived home from the hospital the next day. Elizabeth seemed to be handling walking and sitting fairly easily, but I couldn’t help but worry about what her body had been through and how she was holding up. Two days later, the midwife came for the home visit. As they talked together about the birth, she assured Elizabeth that she had already forgotten the true agony and suffering that she had endured to dislodge Gus.
We tend to forget the harsh realities of our life and polish the story off to be less difficult to tell and to hear. We lessen the burden by our lack of remembering. But when we do this, we lose the nobility of what we had to suffer. We sometimes need to look back at what we suffered in order to realize the heroics that our lives have yielded.
We often ask Remember When? as we invite people to recall happy or funny moments. I am so grateful for those experiences because they are like a savory spice that gives zest to life. But seldom do we ask Remember When? as we call forth the dark moments that mix the interplay between fear and courage and despair and hope. In remembering and knowing the heroics we suffered, I believe God applauds us for our valiance.
When we gloss over the real story, we miss out on the character we have become in God’s greater story.
I believe that there is a deep temptation to indulge in nostalgia. We remember with rose-colored glasses. Is it not true of our ancestors of faith? Did the Israelites really forget the four hundred years under the whip of their masters? They ate the Passover meal, including bitter herbs to remind them of the tears shed over 400 years of slavery.
We will always round over the jagged memories of our suffering. We have an enormous capacity to suffer terrible labor and then be caught up in the wonder of our infant son or daughter. We should be captured by the sweetness of new life, but the price women pay to bring life to this earth is an act of heroism that men admire, fear, and envy. As you see the stretch marks, touch the varicose veins, and feel the tug of caesarean stitches, remember they are signatures of your valiant struggle and brazen commitment to suffer the risk of death for the sake of life.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of almost 40 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs