I grew up in the small village of Richland, Michigan with my good friend Corie, who still remains one of my closest friends today. Her mother, Ruthie, has been like a second mom to me and both she and Corie have been there for me through my pregnancies with comfort, advice, prayers, and support. Corie was there during my first labor faithfully spending 42 hours talking me through each contraction, reminding me to breathe, relax, and stay calm. Corie’s mom was with me as a doula during my third child’s birth doing the same. Now, seven years later, as I approach the end of my fourth pregnancy, their words remain with me: “You can do this. You’re body was designed for this. Stay calm. Relax. Breathe.”
The Braxton Hicks started early in this pregnancy. Already, with eight weeks lift to go, I’ve had contractions just minutes apart. But with some movement and a warm shower they usually go away and I can carry on with life. Some have been so tight that I’ve found myself getting anxious and fearful, wondering if my 40-year-old body can handle this. I’ve had to do some self-preaching and refocusing my mind on the truth: “Carrie, you are ok. You’re body was created to for this. God knew what he was doing giving you an unexpected child at the age of 40. Just stay calm, relax, and take some deep breaths. All your pregnancy and labor pains will soon be forgotten. New life is just around the corner.”
Even though it’s been several years, Lord-willing if all goes well, I know what to expect at this stage in pregnancy, and I can anticipate what’s coming. The acid reflux will continue until the day of birth. Discomfort, random cramps, and hard kicks will only increase. Fatigue and energy loss are all signs to remind me that my body is making a baby and doing its job. And soon, there will be real labor pains. Contractions will become unpreventable and closer together and in them, my one task will be to exert all my energy into trying to stay calm, relax, and breathe. But as transition comes, it will become a lot harder to remind myself of the truth. It will be harder for me to believe that I was designed for this, that God really does love me and see me, and that He’s in control. It will become increasingly difficult for me keep calm, more challenging to relax, and harder to catch my breath. And at some point I will inevitably yell out, “I can’t do this anymore!” And when those words leave my lips, as Corie and Ruthie have told me, I can rejoice because the end is in sight. All of my energy will switch from remaining calm, to pushing through with all of my might until the invisible life inside of me is birthed into a reality that I can see, hear, and hold against my chest. And in that moment, a love and joy, that I could never conjure up on my own, will flood my soul leaving all of my sorrows, doubts, and pain in the past.
The Bible in Matthew 24 compares end times to labor pains. As a kid growing up I can recall wars and rumors of wars. I can remember the fear of certain new diseases or the nervousness of Y2K, and I can certainly remember where I was sitting when the events of 9-11 occurred. However, I also remember being able to more easily carry on with life. We were able to catch our breath in between the normal trials of a broken world. Without too much effort, I could stop and keep my gaze on the truth. But now, it seems like a new trial forms even before the last one is over. Much like labor – even transitional labor – it’s becoming more and more difficult to stay calm, relax, and breathe. It’s been challenging to keep my mind on the truth that disease, war, and inflation are not catching God by surprise. In fact, He told us that all of this would happen. And even though I’ve camped out in the Psalms to remind myself of God’s sovereignty, the news and every conversation, and billboards, and TV ads are like contractions that are so prevalent and encompassing that it takes moment-by-moment intentionality to remain positive and sane. Many times I find myself thinking “I can’t do this anymore.” Whenever I’m not preaching to myself the truth; fear, anxiety, and despair are right there to take its place.
As we move closer and closer to the new life that we believers are all so eagerly longing for, like labor, it’s taking a great deal of effort to stay calm, to relax, to breathe in…and then to breathe out. And as we move through transition and into pushing through to the end, it seems we can’t let up for even a moment filling our minds with truth, after truth, after truth, after truth…until at last… can you just imagine it… there He is. The clouds opening up and the invisible life that was inside of us being birthed into the visible reality that we’ve been waiting for. We can see Him. We can hear Him. He’s gathering us up close to His chest like a new parent and filling us with a love and joy we’ve never know before. All our past sorrows, and pains, doubts, and tears are forgotten and swallowed up with new life.
Until then, I have to tell myself I can either get caught up in anxiety and panic like the rest of the world – which takes no effort at all – or chose moment-by-moment to intentionally fix my eyes on truth, to stay calm, relax, and breathe. Perhaps this is part of the reason God has given me another pregnancy. I needed a visceral reminder of how to respond during the times we are living in.