This post is part of a series about suffering. If you did not see the initial posts, you can find them here and here.
I thought ahead for months. With three labors past, I was more confident in what labor would be like. I remembered my mom saying how I (her fourth) was her easiest labor. I also let my doctor know my labors were typically fast and how I lost my calm when the doctor in my third labor said it was not time but then my baby was born immediately once the nurse told me to push. My doctor let me know to go in sooner rather than later and to make sure the nurses called her. One of my friends let me know there was a note on my chart telling them to call her as soon as they saw me.
My personal journey had led me to almost a full year of regularly attending daily Mass for the first time ever in my life, I had been investing in my personal faith formation, and had been going to a weekly Adoration for some months (something I had not done since my oldest was 1). As part of those experiences, I had heard about Blessed Chiara Badano from Chris Stefanick and Saint Alphonsa from my priest, which in combination with other readings and faith formation resources, helped me to consider the concept of uniting suffering to Christ's for the Salvation of Souls or the concept of offering it up. I recognized that was a vital piece that I wanted to keep in mind during labor. During Holy Week, I thought about Jesus' Agony in the Garden and the deeper understanding I had about that strengthened me.
I knew labor was approaching. I thought I was in labor on a Friday night but then the contractions went away and I waited and waited. I knew it was getting closer and made a prediction that it would happen by a certain time. Then it didn't. That point in time came and went without any regular contractions. But there was peace. I was able to have a patient mindset and inner dialogue with God that I trusted it would happen when and as it should, even if it was much different than my other labors for which I had a great sense of gratitude.
Sunday night, I woke with the familiar feeling. As soon as I had barely enough contractions to feel like they were regular, my husband and I once again headed to the hospital in the middle of the night. I let him know I just needed to focus and didn't want to be carrying on a conversation, so he stretched out on the bed for dads and rested. I set into my prayers within intermittent interruptions from the nurse. I rotated the Rosary ring on my finger as I went through the decades. When the IV was inserted making that painful, I counted on my fingers. I prayed and prayed. I wondered if I would make it through the Rosary before labor but ended up praying all four sets of Mysteries.
Jesus, I trust in You, I thought as the pain increased rather than yelling out as I had the previous labor. "For You, Jesus," I thought inspired by Blessed Chiara Badano's words. When it got harder, I imagined Jesus as the Good Shepherd, as it was not too long after Good Shepherd Sunday and my priest had talked about an image he has of Jesus carrying the lamb over His shoulders. I was calm and collected, yet ready to have my baby in my arms and the relief of knowing labor was over. I was impatient. "Remember, my babies are small," I said to my doctor when I heard those familiar words, "Not yet" a couple of times.
When I did have the go ahead to push, there was another surprise in store for me - it was not immediate and effortless. I actually had to get coaching from the nurses and my doctor on how to focus my energy while pushing. What? I thought. I needed to lean into the pain more, rather than on shifting too deeply into prayer. "Keep your eyes open. Stay with us," they said.
After my longest labor pushing (unless my first labor is too blurry with time), she was there and I was in awe. It wasn't what I had expected. I wasn't expecting it to be more effort than before. My four labors came into focus; I saw them from a new angle.