“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
As I began to process Harper’s labor and delivery, this passage came to mind. A moment. One that changes you forever. One that’s long awaited with great anticipation. One that’s over quickly. But one that’s filled with glory and life and meaning and unspeakable joy.
But I must go back.
Because moments are never separate from what comes prior.
Throughout my pregnancy, many people asked me what I thought about labor and delivery, if I was afraid and whether I would plan to go “natural” (without pain medication) or to get an epidural. And you must know me. I process and prepare for one thing at a time, aiming to be faithful in the tasks and responsibilities the Lord has right before me – knowing that these will shape and change me, and ultimately be a part of His preparation process for whatever comes next.
So I’d respond that I wasn’t super fearful (by God's grace), and in regards to medication, that my convictions were not strong enough either way, but that I trusted the Lord would prompt me in His timing to consider the answer.
And He was faithful. In the beginning of December, I sensed He desired I begin submitting my heart to this consideration. As I prayed about what He might want for me, I shared with Him that I was willing to endure labor and delivery without pain medication. I also shared my honesty – if my husband was not on board, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. I surrendered this heart-desire to the Lord and trusted He would continue to lead. About a week later, without my mentioning a word, Ben, out of the blue, says, “Babe, I think you should consider going natural.”
My jaw dropped as I sensed the Spirit was calling me to something bigger than I’d ever experienced before.
Because of the Lord’s grace in leading me through my husband, I felt freedom to place heavy responsibility on Ben. I shared that I actually desired to, that I thought the Lord desired me to, how I believed the Lord could do a work of grace and mercy in our marriage, and how I knew I would need Ben desperately if we were to go through with this.
I began reading Redeeming Childbirth by Angie Tolpin, and the Lord used her to cast a beautiful vision of what childbirth without medication could be. As she shared her heart through her writing, my heart echoed with desire to experience the Lord in deeper ways I hadn’t prior through my upcoming labor and delivery. (*Please note* neither she nor I wish to condemn pain medication! I know that some situations even require it! This is just the conviction the Lord began to develop in my own heart, and I desire to share them to testify to His faithfulness and to encourage any who find themselves in my similar situation.)
I began to spend even more lengthy time in Scripture for this very purpose, writing down passages that I believed the Lord could root in my heart and bear fruit during the hours of giving birth. I searched my heart for fears, for potential lies I believed, for areas of needed understanding regarding deliverance and redemption. I asked the Lord to do a work beyond what I could imagine.
On January 21, 2017, just one day shy of 39 weeks and five years to the day that Ben asked me to marry him, I began contracting at about 2am. By 10:00am or 11:00am, the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. They were somewhat painful, but this being my first pregnancy, I knew that if the time between contractions reduced to 3-5 minutes apart for an hour, I’d need to go to the hospital. So we did.
The doctor watched me for an hour and though my contractions continued at this rate, he concluded I was not in labor and sent me home. I continued contracting through the night at the same rate and by the next morning, they were more painful and I had become nauseous. Ben and I made our way back to the hospital, only to find out that I had made no progress since our last visit. The nurse suggested ways I could try and naturally induce labor, all of which sounded more exhausting at this point.
God’s grace met me when, after leaving the hospital (the second time), Ben said, “Babe, we could try all those things she said, or we could rest and know that God will bring our baby when it’s time.” I had asked him to pray over me at the hospital, and he honestly shared that he wasn’t sure what to pray. Neither of us felt it pressing to pray she come right then and there, so we humbly asked the Spirit to intercede for us and comfort us.
When Ben wisely led us to rest, rest we did. The Lord prepared us that weekend for what lay ahead. God graciously reminded me that when I look to self (i.e. trying to figure out if I was in labor, why I wasn’t progressing, if the contractions were painful enough, etc.), that I would always be overwhelmed and insecure. A concept He brought to mind was that of “lifting up my eyes.” This phrase and concept is in many places in Scripture, but He drew me to Psalm 121 and solidified that I wanted “The LORD is thy Keeper” in her nursery.
The Lord willed that I walk through this false alarm to expose my fear. The hospital felt almost void of the Lord’s presence, and as I met with Him each of the afternoons, He exposed how fearful I had been. We can’t experience the fullness of the Lord if we are full of fear, and I praise Him for this “trial” run that brought about repentance and desperate prayer for forsaking of fear and growing in fear of the Lord.
He also desired to inform the framework I'd been developing – I was preparing to fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, to taste a parcel of the curse from which I’ve been redeemed, but I had not considered the great love that compelled Him to endure suffering on our behalf. It seems so simple, but the Lord knew I needed this to carry me through what lay ahead, that I might not focus on the suffering itself, but on His wondrous, matchless, sacrificial love that He has for His children.
From that point on, I would experience contractions everyday until her arrival two weeks later. Hours a day, I’d contract, some more painful than others. I was told not to come back to the hospital until my water broke or until my contractions grew so painful that I couldn’t talk through them. So instead of worrying about how they felt, the contractions began to be signals to me to pray and seek the Lord to prepare for labor and delivery, knowing that He would make clear when to go back. I bless the Lord immensely for that first week after the false alarm, for He answered prayers in my marriage that I had been praying for years. I truly am not over exaggerating; I saw clear answers of the Lord’s work in my husband that I have pleaded off and on for years for Him to accomplish. Some of these details are too intimate to share, but you must hear my praise of the Lord, for He works in ways higher than ours and different than ours because He is not like us. My heart grew in humility and awe at what the Lord was doing to knit us together, even in the midst of the pain and the waiting.
Her due date came and went, and with it new lessons from the Lord. I spent everyday meditating on some passage of Scripture that I desired the Lord root deep in my heart in order to prepare me for the unknown. I truly feel as if I experienced a full portion of waiting. Longing, patience, joyful expectation, fear, tension, rest, despair, hope, crying out for the Lord to deliver while also learning to surrender to His timing. The days were long, and as I waited, the contractions grew more frequent and more painful.
February 4, 2017, two weeks after the day I began contracting, just one day shy of 41 weeks, my contractions were more painful than they’d ever been. I contracted all day at about 10 minutes apart and pleaded with the Lord that if this was labor, to decrease their time in between and if it was not, that He would give me rest.
At about 8pm, my contractions decreased to five minutes apart. We timed them for an hour, and thankfully (did I ever think I would be thankful for painful, frequent contractions??), they stayed this close together. By this time, Ben and I were pretty much pros at packing up the car. I got things together in between contractions, and we headed to the hospital.
Though I had only progressed a little, we were admitted because at some point or another, my amniotic sac had ruptured and the doctor feared for infection. They decided to give Pitocin (a medication that increases the frequency and consequently, the pain of contractions) to speed along my laboring. I fought the crouching fear of the pain that was to come with the belief that God knew and purposed things to happen in this way and that He had equipped us with strength for the battle.
I barely had the capacity at this point to send out my pre-typed text to a select group of people (I didn’t even finish my list) to ask for prayer while we labored. But this was vital to me; I knew we needed the prayers of His people to sustain us during this time. Here is the list of my prayer requests:
Ben prayed for us, and the reality sunk in that this was happening. Our hearts were wild with hope, yet also fully aware of our need for what we were about to walk through.
This part is hard to describe, for there is a certain intimacy I experienced with the Lord that seems too rich for words. But my heart is and has been to tell the glad news of His deliverance to the great congregation (Psalm 40), so faithfulness compels me to write.
The first Scripture that came to mind as I lay holding my husband’s hand, laboring, was, “The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation,” from Exodus 15. This was not one of the Scriptures I committed to mind recently, but the Spirit brought it to graciously draw up for me the promise of redemption. Exodus 15 follows the crossing of the Red Sea, where God shows the true nature of redemption – that it is His power, His purpose, His grace, His mercy, and our only part in the story is to exercise faith and walk in His way. This line is in the song of victory that the Israelites sing to the Lord, and I repeated this over and over in my mind, crying out for the Lord to save and deliver. My heart rested on both the character of the Lord and the assurance of His promises, knowing He was allowing me to experience a deeper resonance of deliverance than I had yet to experience.
As the contractions grew more painful, my husband read to me one Psalm and turned my worship playlist up. The moment honestly felt too intense for him to read any more Scripture, so I was super grateful to the Lord that He had bent my heart to Him to commit His Word to memory before the day at hand.
I didn’t want Ben to leave my side. I uttered very few words during this time. Mostly, I received his coaching through each contraction. “Deep breaths, you can do it, 1,2,3,4,5, almost there, breathe babe,” he said to me over and over as I squeezed each of his hands through the pain. I had been praying for the Lord to make this a milestone in our marriage, an experience that would grow us in dependence on each other, in love for one another, and in confidence and assurance that we were in it together as we walked into parenthood for the first time.
The Lord manifested Himself to me in Ben with this promise that rang in my ears as I contracted: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Ben was so faithful to me. He didn’t leave me. He gave me hope, and he encouraged me to press on and endure, that our girl would be here soon. He poured out his love on me by his steadfastness, kindness, strength, considerateness, sacrifice, intimacy, belief, excitement, and confidence. He became my hero even more as the Lord answered immeasurably more than I could have imagined. I don’t know that I was battling the temptation of feeling alone or forsaken. I believe this echoing promise may have been used for a time of healing and as a declaration of God’s faithfulness to work in our marriage, laying a firm foundation for us to walk into parenthood with assurance and grace for one another.
The Lord brought to mind many other Scriptures to sustain me. “You have equipped me with strength for the battle,” from Psalm 18. “As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me…be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me! ...As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” from Psalm 40. "Incline your ear to me, O LORD, for I am poor and needy...gladden the soul of your servant, for to you do I cry all the day" from Psalm 86. "In humility, count others more significant than yourselves," from Philippians 2. These and others, along with cries of, “The Lord is my strength, my deliverer, my rock, my fortress, my shepherd,” these sustained me through each contraction.
There were some contractions where I focused on the contraction itself, thinking, “When will this be over? Is it almost over?” These were the most painful to get through. It was only as I was meditating on Scripture and ultimately towards the end, on the cross itself and the wonder of Christ’s love, that He endured far more pain and suffering to redeem and save and deliver me, that the contraction seemed to pass away.
About five hours after arriving at the hospital, Ben said to me, “Babe, they brought in her baby bed! That means she’s almost here! We’re so close, don’t give up!” My heart ached with hope. Ben jokingly described this moment later – “The lights turned on and the stadium filled up.” Five or six nurses suddenly swarmed around me as I held onto Ben’s hand. The doctor arrived, and I was told to push. It was the most natural thing – to push – I marvel at how God created a woman’s body to bring forth life! I pushed three times each through only three contractions before getting to hear the glorious words, “She’s here!!! Look at that hair!” Rejoicing filled the room as I hastily asked Ben to unsnap the shoulders of my gown so I could hold my baby.
And there, that moment. That’s the moment that’s filled with glory, that reached deep into the recesses of my heart to change me forever. This moment let me experience the wonder of redemption, the jubilance of deliverance. “It is finished,” rang in my ears and I ached for the day I’d see Jesus face to face even as I stared into the bright eyes of my baby girl.
Harper Joy Weir
Born: February 5, 2017
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Brown
I’ve since had flashbacks of labor and delivery, and my eyes swell with tears every time as I bless the Lord that mercy triumphs over judgment. That His plan of salvation involved a babe being born of a woman. And because of this great plan, I have the privilege of holding my precious Harper in my arms and experiencing a deeper knowledge and relationship with the Lord than ever before.
“They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Psalm 145:7-9
grace & peace,
+especially grateful to Sara Weir for all labor & delivery pictures+