Pain and the Presence of God

“We specialize in pregnancy complications,” I tell the nurse with a laugh. And, truly, it often feels we do. Preeclampsia, transverse presentation, preemies, post-dates, prolapse, miscarriage, shoulder dystocia. We’ve done them all.

And with this pregnancy, we have complete previa and now preeclampsia again.

Yes, that’s right. I am back in the hospital at 33 weeks and a day, nursing a sore bottom from the corticosteroid shot meant to mature baby’s lungs in case we need to deliver in the next couple of weeks. Lord willing, no severe features of the preeclampsia will reveal themselves and I’ll head home after my second shot tomorrow.

Lord willing.

It can be such a glib phrase. Or it can be a profound one. I probably use it glibly plenty – but not when it comes to having babies.

If there’s anything specializing in pregnancy complications has taught me, it’s that God gives and takes away, he chooses and he chooses best. And he is present every step of the way.

He is present when sperm meets egg, when embryo implants, when placenta forms. He is present and working when preeclampsia is written into the vasculature of the developing placenta. Or when the placenta develops right on top of the cervix.

God was present and working when I started bleeding and our fourth baby was lost just five weeks after conception – and God was present and working when I started bleeding early on with this pregnancy and our baby survived.

God was present and working and willing when we discovered complete previa on the “routine” 20ish week ultrasound I’d declined with all my other pregnancies (providential, wouldn’t you say, that I chose not to decline this time, when it matters so much that I not go into labor or deliver vaginally?)

God was present and working and willing each time that the external signs made clear the preeclampsia that had been latent from the beginning.

None of this has ever been hidden from his sight. None of this has been outside his hand.

Lord willing.

Someone recently pointed out to Daniel that this is a part of Adam’s curse, this perpetual pain in childbirth. And so it is. But it is also God’s blessing on us fallen creatures.

For here, in the many pains of childbearing – pains we have felt most acutely – here we also experience his presence, his providence, his hand. Here we see that he is not content to let us lean on our own understanding, not willing to let us labor under delusions of our own control, not satisfied to let us remain in our fallen insistence on autonomy. Here, he calls us to rely on him, to trust him, to be conformed to his image.

For whatever God may will for the remainder of this pregnancy, I am confident in this: that God is willing and able to complete the good work that he started in us. He is present in this pain for that very purpose.

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