by Melanie Yong
“You’re going to need a c-section.”
Those words elicited a slew of emotions that I was not expecting!
Rewind the clock 9 months: I was a nursing student doing my rotations in labor and delivery when “baby fever” hit me. Watching the miracle of birth over and over again made me want to experience it for myself. This desire was combined with the influence of my instructor who was a midwife and an avid proponent of ‘natural’ childbirth (ie., without pain medication). I was ready for the amazing experience!
While what I wanted was based on good intentions for my baby, unfortunately, natural childbirth became more than good intentions. It became like an idol to me. I founded my worth as a woman upon my ability to have my baby without pain medication. I know I’m not alone in my struggle to honor God in my thoughts about childbirth. For example, Gloria Furman recently described her own struggle to worship God as she battled her “childbirth idolatry” in this post on the Christianity Today women’s blog. And in Priya Samuel’s post “The Gospel in the Delivery Room” she spoke of wrestling with pain and how it can point us to our sin and our need of something outside of ourselves to save us, namely Christ.
Jesus and his mercy, however, didn’t cross my mind at all when I considered childbirth. Instead, I wanted to take on the pain and conquer it just to prove to myself and an invisible audience that I was strong enough to do it. I could give birth naturally. My self-reliant attitude was totally opposite to a heart that cries out to Jesus for mercy and grace.
Fast-forward back to the birth of my first child…
After a 20-some-hour labor without pain medication I decided on an epidural to try and conserve energy for actually pushing. When it came time to push, I pushed and baby was not coming out. The doctor even tried to suction him out. Eventually baby’s heart rate went down, and that’s when the news came: You’re going to need a c-section.
I was surprised by the flood of emotions that overcame me. I had to fight back tears as my dreams were dashed. I wasn’t crying because I was afraid of surgery. (As a nurse, surgery was actually quite fascinating to me.) My tearful frustration came because I had placed such hope in my ability to “birth naturally.” My pride was crushed.
Never mind that I was never in control to begin with! The human heart is funny that way. We think that with our good plans we actually have sovereign control over events. But God’s word says that only God holds the title of Sovereign:
Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Childbirth gave me a window into my own heart. In my pride I was holding on so tightly to how I wanted things to happen that I had missed many opportunities to reflect on God’s kindness.
For one, I was given a great privilege of bearing a child and bringing life into this world.
- Childbirth is a gift I do not deserve! God has given us life in his Son Jesus Christ. Life and new life in Christ are more gifts I do not deserve.
- Through childbirth, in some small way I was given the gift of participating in the blessing of life itself. This is another gift I do not deserve.
Secondly, Scripture holds out so many truths that ought to correct my thinking of how I experience birth:
- God had not only formed my baby inside my womb, he had also created my body to labor in exactly the way He planned. Psalm 139 says “[God] formed my inward parts; [he] knitted me together in my mother’s womb… I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- Instead of putting so much worth on my birth experience, I should have, with Paul in Philippians 3, “glor[ied] in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh… indeed, I [should have] count[ed] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
- Through my disappointed plans, God was about the work of refining my faith. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Back in the delivery room, my husband had to gently remind me that if a c-section would keep the baby safe, it really was a no-brainer. I, on the other hand, was so self-focused that I almost missed the abundant blessings that were right in front of me: God’s sure promises through Christ, an opportunity to praise my great God for his good gifts, a supportive husband, a baby, modern medicine. Life itself!
After the c-section there were lingering guilt-feelings that stemmed from my hurt pride. Was there something wrong with my body to not be able to birth my own child? Was I less of a woman? Had I missed something glorious?
But delighting in Christ, the creator and giver of life, frees me to hold my birth plans with a loose grip. His knowledge of me allows me to combat Satan’s lies that I am somehow less worthy because I can’t give birth naturally. His grace makes my heart overflow with gratitude that he is using life’s disappointments to make me more like himself.
Praise God for his kindness and grace!
ABOUT THE WRITER
Melanie is from California. She’s married to Jeremy, who is a pastor in the Golden State. Together they’re raising three photogenic children (Miah, Ellie and Bethan) with another on the way. Mel’s welcoming smile is indicative of her joyful hospitality. Mel is crazy about seafood, but she finds particular delight in meditating on God’s word as it applies to discipling her children.