“Yeah, you might just want to go ahead and tuck that away somewhere; we rarely use birth plans here, and I think you’ll find that things tend to not go like you have planned on them going.”
These were the words of my kind, but weary nurse. It was 10pm, Wednesday night, and I had been experiencing significant back labor pains since 5pm on Tuesday. I had been laboring at home for over a day, and now was at the hospital.
“Could I have misheard her?” I wondered, sure that the hours of natural labor were beginning to affect my ability to take in information. By nature, planning is what I do. I take comfort in believing that I can get some things right in this life, that I can control some outcomes and manage my life. So, when I realized the nurse was shrugging off the “birth plan” I had been nesting and agonizing over for several months, something deep inside of me revolted.
My heart’s desire was to be open-handed about my pregnancy and transition into motherhood. If it took Jon and me awhile to conceive, I wanted to accept this. If I was unable to deliver naturally, so be it. If my baby and I could not figure out nursing, we would navigate other options and be OK. Of course, these were things I told myself and prayed about during less requiring moments of inner surrender to the Father’s greater story.
When the labor pains set in, did not relent, and the groaning became an exhausting reality, I once again clung to “the plan.” And laboring only got harder. The next 24 hours were anything but what I had prepared for and hoped for, ending with a semi-emergency c-section during which my late epidural began to wear off. But during it, such sweet mercy was present with me through my faithful mid-wife, husband and my mother. And out of it, I was able to meet and begin life with my sweet Charlotte.
Then life at home thrust me into the daunting, new reality of caring for a newborn who was beginning to struggle significantly with what we now know was acid reflux. The path those first 6 weeks involved constant crying on her part and intermittent crying on our parts. The experience was more requiring, confusing and frustrating than what I could have prepared for; and at the same time there were moments of grace, provision and total enjoyment of our girl.
I imagine our story with Charlotte is not at all unlike most new parents’ experiences of having a baby, and yet it has been a place where God has asked His uniquely fearful, committed-to-competence daughter to trust Him to write the story well. Charlotte turned one three months ago, and I look back on a year that has flown by with gratitude for the joy she brings. I have been, more than ever, aware of how out of control I truly am, and this awareness had freed me to see that He can be trusted with what I long for – for myself and for my family. He calls me repeatedly back to this place, with a kind reminder that He can write Charlotte’s story, can carry her and sustain her far more completely than Jon or I will ever be able to.
To my delight, I have learned that there are better things this side of heaven than an assurance that I am in control; I can experience the everlasting arms sustain me as I let go. I can experience a taste of how He loves me as a daughter through how much I love my daughter. And in the moments I notice and receive this, it takes my breath away.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center on staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. Meredith counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. Meredith, her husband Jon, and daughter Charlotte live in Rock Hill, SC.