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
Becky, what a perfect post to wake to on the morning of my firstborn child’s 25th birthday. Thank you for honoring the suffering and naming the heroism. Eight births later, and I never forgot. In fact that line always bothered me. “You look into your child’s eyes with so much love that you forget the pain.” Or similar sentiments. Um. Not really. Congratulations on the birth of you grandson! And thank you for the gift of grace you gave your daughter in law, and through your words here, countless other women. Every Blessing to you!
Dear Julie, I love what you wrote:”“You look into your child’s eyes with so much love that you forget the pain.” Or similar sentiments. Um. Not really.” Truly….that is brilliant…and oh my goodness, eight labor and births! Bless you. I wish that I had added something to the effect of, “and to all the women who longed to give birth and never were able to….you deserve the greatest reward of all.” It has been an amazing privilege to be a mother….
Oh so powerful Becky….I will share with staff at The WellHouse. I am thinking of how we give birth to these women we work with. And I so love watching and reading more of your words….a writer has been born….
Oh Corinne, thank you! Yes…you and your staff at The WellHouse are total “life givers” and I love that they will be birthed in new ways with your care. And thank you for your encouragement…always…
Nostalgia has a powerful pull. Just go to a funeral. We want to round off the edges, lower the dim lights to invisible so we no longer have to see – but I wonder in so doing we miss joining God in counting the cost that was paid for the beauty (either in what we’ve become or what He did) and inadvertently step over the gratitude. Thank you for the pondering. Congrats on your new man-child. And the new picture with your bio – You are stunning and should be on a book jacket. 🙂
Thank you Timari! You encourage me and you are so true….wow, talk about a funeral and nostalgia!!!! Thank Jesus for the unbearable cost. Thank you for noticing the photo and we are THRILLED with perfect Augustine Paul!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
As a midwife, the remembering feels oh so important. I do not think that the body forgets. My own story informs me that memories live in the cells and can be brought to the surface whenever Jesus chooses.
How important, then, do you remember the scars and Varicosities and hard work. And not just for Birth! But the remember when of the courage of so many parts of the narrative.
I want to say Yes! Yes! Yes! Back to you, dear brave and valiant life bringer. Our bodies certainly keep the score and you witness the depth of this in ways that few really do. I love you calling. Your profession. You must embody and empower greatly on behalf of each woman and each baby born. Truly…I think you are a bit more close to heaven than anyone else…Bravo!
Good words for tonight on a week with lots of grief in my families. Thank you.
You’ve captivated me with your storytelling here – both as a mother/grandmother anticipating and celebrating the joyful arrival of Gus into your family and as a wise witness to your daughter-in-law’s telling of her dramatic birth story. Your observations were bold (in that they delivered a punch) and beautiful (in that they’ve lingered): “We lose the nobility of what we had to suffer/[we do not] realize the heroics that our lives have yielded.” “When we gloss over the real story, we miss out on the character we have become in God’s greater story.” Often I’ve felt that to tell my stories accurately is to diminish God’s presence, provision, or goodness. Where does that lie come from? Thank you for naming what is “missed out on” when I do that. Thank you! And welcome to the world, Gus. <3
Thank you Susan…I think that lie comes from generations before us that told us to not be conceited. To not be too proud. And… I think it kills the good and deep places in us that struggled really hard to be all that we wanted to be…. for ourselves, family, the outcast, the homeless. May we learn to be free and not to cut short the goodness we bear or the bravery in which we live for others….And…beautiful Gus, “Augustine Paul” what a joy to be your grandmother!
“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.” There feel like so many reasons to avoid remembering and telling these stories – fear of how others will respond, fear of what they bring up internally, fear of being dismissed…and yet the call to remember is powerful. Our oldest son turned 24 this weekend, I’ve been remembering all of it – the anticipation, the anxiety, the pain, the joy – every bit of it is part of the story.
Welcome Augustine, you are blessed with an incredible family!
Thank you Janet! Yes…I feel so blessed…and I recall my labor with Annie that did not go well and the c-sections for all three of our babies. Grateful! So very grateful. Yes…the pain you bore for your eldest twenty-four year old son. We are so very blessed to be living this long and to remember the pain …. and the joy!!!