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Sacrificial Labor: Life’s Little Ironies

Two days ago, I was privileged to attend the birth of the 4th son of a homeschooling friend. She had requested an epidural sometime midway through the morning, but the anesthesiologist was tied up in the operating room, so my friend was already 9 centimeters dilated before relief came. She did an amazing job of handling Herculean pain–a sacrificial gift she has given all her sons long before they can comprehend her selflessness.

It made me think of all 4 of my births and the uniqueness of each one. For our first son, we had imagined a rather textbook natural childbirth—yeah, right! What really happened was that after about 17 hours of labor (including 2 hours of pushing), I delivered a 9 and 1/2 pound baby by emergency C-section. The recovery was torture; I felt like I was recovering from both kinds of birth.

Two years later, there were only 4 doctors in our city who were willing to attempt a vaginal delivery after a C-section. I chose as my OB the director of high-risk obstetrics at a well-known teaching hospital who assured me that he would let me deliver however I wanted as long as I was wiling to forego anesthesia of any kind.

So, my next three babies were of the “natural childbirth” variety even though 2 of them were 10 pounders! I am not writing this to brag or to put myself out there as any sort of superwoman, but only to tell you some ironic twists that God has brought out of my experience.

The first irony is that other young moms who knew of my experience began to ask me to “coach” them through their births. If they chose to go natural, then I was there to pray, breathe, help relieve the husband, and look the mom in the eye and assure her that she could do this. If they chose anesthesia, they knew I too, had experienced that. I have since been invited to be present at around 26 births—a “doula” of sorts.

The second irony is that my first child, the only child who ever received anesthesia, is now an anesthesiologist at that same teaching hospital where he and his brother and sister (my second and third children) were born and where that OB still works! Our son jokingly said the other day that I must have been right about drugs affecting a baby’s brain because now he believes that “drugs are awesome” (meaning anesthetic drugs, of course).

Another interesting chapter of my childbirth history came to light recently at my nephew’s homeschool graduation. His graduating class had invited a young father of four to give the commencement address, and I knew this speaker had the same distinctive last name as my OB from 28 years ago.

Before I go on, let me give a little background about that OB – the obstetrician who delivered my first child and also delivered two of my next three babies. He was from a prominent Jewish family and over the course of the years I was with him, I told him I was praying for him, and that I believed he was God’s instrument of healing and life. He said he appreciated my prayers, and I felt that we had a very amicable and trusting relationship.

Later on, he remarried and started becoming a very vocal proponent of abortion; he even became the local medical spokesman for Planned Parenthood, and wrote frequent articles for the city paper in favor of abortion. It was then that I gave him Dr. Yancey’s book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and then regretfully and respectfully told him that although he had been used greatly by God to bring such joy to my life, hands that were used to murder could not be used for my future children’s births. He actually wrote me a thank you letter praising me for my forthrightness and saying that he had been convicted lately to perform abortions only when he truly believed the mother’s life was in jeopardy.

Since then I have prayed for him to know Jesus as Messiah, but have not kept up with him more than taking note of when he is quoted in the media. But at my nephew’s commencement, the speaker with the same last name as my former OB was indeed his son, and this son told the incredible story of how he himself had come to believe in Jesus Christ. He told of God using an Old Testament passage (Psalm 86:11) to birth in him a hunger to know all about God. In spite of intense family and friend opposition, he surrendered to Jesus, and he is now one of the most effective ministers of the good news of Jesus I have ever heard!

When I went up to meet him afterward and ask how his father is now, he said that after many years, they now have a very close and transparent relationship, and he believes God is wooing his dad, albeit a long, slow process. As I related my history with his dad, he said, “I guess my life is the firstfruit of some of your prayers.”

What an amazing God we serve! He can use the smallest of encounters to bring about His plan for His people. As you homeschool, know that He sees your “sacrificial labor,” and that He rewards those who truly seek Him. Be watching for Him to work in the most surprising and unexpected places!