Power of Prayer: or Be Careful What You Pray For

“Be careful what you pray for,” Patrick said to me.  “I know.  I know.” I replied, “I am only asking that He give me a clear sign of labor when the time comes.”  I was pregnant with our sixth child.  The five previous children had all be born with the same routine:  weeks (anywhere from 3-16) of contractions 3-5 minutes apart lasting ten or more hours, failure to progress, pitcoin induction on the 3rd or 4th trip to the hospital, epidural for pain, birth of a healthy baby.  A blessed outcome indeed, but a very frustrating third trimester and delivery to say the least.  This time I wanted something different, something more edifying, something empowering.

We planned a home birth assisted by a midwife and her helper.  There was no option for induction and no option for medicated pain relief, unless I changed my mind and went to the hospital.  I kept the doctor’s number in my phone.  I wasn’t afraid of pain.  I had taken Hypnobabies and was fully confident in my body’s ability to deliver a baby.  After all, I had already done so on five occasions.  My fear was a fear of contractions that would not progress into labor, of contractions that would last for ten or twelve hours and then just stop as quickly as they had started.  This had been my pattern with all of the previous births.  Each time the contractions came, the doctor told us to go to the hospital for monitoring.  We waited long hours while I was hooked up to monitors for the nurses to watch my contractions.  I was poked and prodded and told that I was not in labor; but, not released to go home because I was contracting regularly.  After half a day in the hospital the nurse would come in and announce–sometimes stoicly, other times filled with pity–“You are not in labor.  Go home, get rest and come back when your contractions are 3-5 minutes apart.”  It was humiliating each time.  With the home birth at least we wouldn’t be bothering family to keep the children, waking children and upsetting schedules, or causing Patrick to miss another day of work.  The midwife could come to us and she was happy to do so at any hour of the day.  It was her job, she told us with a huge smile.

My pregnancy had gone swimmingly well.  It was July 4, 2008, I had only 18 more days until my due date and not a single contraction wave to come over me.  I prayed that when the time came for baby to be born, my water would break–a clear sign of labor with no guesswork from me.  At 8 o’clock that night Patrick walked out front of our home and discovered a small river of water flowing across the driveway.  We had a leak and discovered it was in the city’s line at the corner of our drive.  The kids danced in the flowing water, splashed and played.  Patrick called the city to report the leak and at midnight giant jack hammers worked to repair it.  Me?  I was wandering the hallways with contractions 3-5 minutes apart for the next ten hours.

A few days later, the contractions returned.  This time it warranted a call to the midwife.  She and her assistant, Angela came to the house and settled themselves on the couch for a long night.  All night I contracted only to stop at six in the morning.  I was exhausted and frustrated.  My midwife reassured me that all would be fine as I cried in my frustration and thought about going in for an induction.  Patrick walked into the room and announced that we had a leak in the utility room.  There was a puddle of water on the floor and he prayed that it wasn’t a slab leak.  He would have to do some investigating.  I saw the irony.  Two water leaks, two rounds of non-progressing contractions.  At the time, I wasn’t laughing.  Patrick knew my prayers before I said a word.  He questioned me without hesitation, “Have you been praying for your water to break?!  Well, stop it!” he teasingly admonished.

A third time on July 17 the contractions began again.  This time my midwife advised a warm, relaxing bath and to call her if I noticed a change, or if I wanted her just to be there.  The change was noted, the midwife called and a healthy baby boy, weighing 8lbs was born in one of the most beautiful and intense moments of my life. Dan After sharing in the joy of the birth and the hours of fawning that followed, my husband was alerted to a third water break.  This one flooded the hall bath with sewage.  My husband said he went from one of the most beautiful moments to one of the most disgusting in a matter of minutes.  “I didn’t!” I stated defensively, “I promise, I didn’t pray for my water to break this time.”



The Road Less Traveled


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
–The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost 1920

I read a post this morning by a Catholic homeschooling mother of ten children. It was a brutally honest blog about finding herself unexpectedly pregnant and struggling to deal with a pregnancy that she does not want. I can relate to her experience on a myriad of levels. My last two pregnancies were not planned. I cried for several weeks both  of those times when I discovered I was pregnant, but not because the child was unwanted. Pregnancy is hard. If I were to become pregnant at this point in my life, it would be a crushing blow. I honestly don’t know if I could even survive it. And this is the exact point at which the road divides.

On the one road are the travelers, like Rebecca who find themselves in a situation which they don’t like, don’t enjoy and didn’t specifically choose; but who knew that pregnancy was a possibility, remained open to that possibility and will make the best of the situation as they go forward. The road appears dark and overgrown. It is scary and full of the unknown. It will test your stamina and push your limits physically and emotionally. It is very much the road less traveled. As you go along this road you will meet some amazing people who will encourage you and lift you up. You will discover strength and grace in abundance and will see amazing sights that could never before be imagined. At the end of this road are abundant blessings that cannot be counted. Sound familiar? It is the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The other road appears straight and easy. It is well-traveled. The travelers on this road are beckoning you to join them. “This could have all been avoided so easily,” they tell you. Some will encourage you to “end the pregnancy” without considering the ending of the life that will come from it. Some will be stuck in telling you that you “made your bed and now you need to lie in it” without offering encouragement or assistance. On this road will be many well-meaning people who offer advice while at the same time judge your choice of being open to life, how many children you already have, and why you even considered having another. And to sharpen the pain, many of these people will claim to be Christians or even Catholics. If you don’t choose to end the life of your child, the travelers on this road will continue to dwell on what should have and could have been done to avoid the pregnancy in the first place. Neither position dwells in accepting the reality of the circumstances, but only attempt to alter that reality.

Too many people choose the well-traveled path and it leads to more pain and suffering in the long run. I believe the choice is made far too often because we are not fully aware of where the paths ultimately lead. Too many people do not trust in the message of Christ. Maybe they have never heard it, or maybe they are deceived into denying it like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Friends, don’t let your logic and emotions deceive you from trusting God who is Truth and Love. Remember that as Christians it is our duty to get ourselves and others to heaven. This should be our first goal. How we live each moment directs us down the path of our own choosing. This is especially evident when we follow the will of God despite the fact that our weak human will desires the easier route. So, if you find yourself in the position of an unwanted pregnancy, cry. Mourn. Weep. It is okay to feel. But, then pick up your cross and go forward. The grace and strength will be supplied in abundance by our Loving Father. If your path crosses with that of an expectant mother, offer an encouraging word or two; and if it is possible, offer physical help. Whether it is her first or fifteenth, pregnancy takes a real toll and physical help with the home, cooking or other kids is one of the greatest gifts you could give her. Be her Simon of Cyrene and help carry that heavy cross without criticism. Just imagine if Simon was helping Jesus and said, “You know, man, you could have avoided this whole thing . . .”