Birthing Babies and Lent

It is always a good thing to be prepared. Life is filled with twists and turns so we better have contingency plans for the unexpected. Today I’m between two dates that remind me of how life comes at us in unexpected ways. February 25 and March 5 are Josh and Narcie’s birthdates respectively. On March 5, 1980 we were almost ready to have a baby. However, it was about 3 weeks before Cindy’s due date and she began having some sort of discomfort. We weren’t sure if it was labor or not, especially being so long before the due date and a first child at that.

We called Cindy’s doctor whom she had been seeing for the prenatal care and told him what was going on. He was in Florence, SC, about an hour away. It was around midnight. He asked how far apart the alleged contractions were. I replied, “Three minutes!” He also asked how long the supposed contractions had been occurring. I told him, “Maybe an hour.” He thought that wasn’t long enough to get to that 3-minute stage of labor so he surmised that it was “false labor.”

Nevertheless, the panic in my voice gave him concern enough so that he advised us to go to the local hospital in Cheraw and have Cindy examined. Then everyone could go back to bed, or so he/we thought. After arriving at the hospital, which didn’t even have a doctor on site, we were there just 17 minutes when Narcie was born. The doctor barely got there! Our best laid plans of her being born at the fancy hospital in Florence by a familiar doctor went for naught.

Two years later we were expecting our second child. We knew the drill but decided to do childbirth classes once again. We were also determined to make it to Florence and have this child in the right hospital. The person who taught the childbirth class suggested that I might read a book about emergency childbirth, given our 17 minute experience with Narcie. I read the book and finished it. The very next afternoon I came in from visiting people. Cindy was indisposed, so to speak, and Narcie was asleep in her room. Cindy firmly but with her usual sense of calm said, “I think this is it.”

I got on the phone with two important people: her doctor in Florence and Lynn Koon who was to watch Narcie while we were away. As Lynn walked in the door I urged Cindy to get ready to leave, post-haste. She said she couldn’t move, so there we were! Josh was born in the parsonage’s bathroom. The emergency childbirth book came in handy as I delivered him. I did everything I was supposed to do, even using an ear-bulb syringe from the medicine cabinet to suction out Josh’s nose and mouth so he could breathe. It was both exhilarating and overwhelming.

I was a wreck. Cindy was as calm as usual. After dialing 9-1-1, I went outside and got thoroughly sick. Cindy’s mother whose hope was to be present for at least one of her grandchildren’s birth had missed both. The unexpected happened once again.

We did learn from the experience. With Caleb’s birth we decided to forget about making it to Florence. At the first sign of labor we made it to the new Cheraw hospital, and after an hour Caleb was born. Cindy’s mother didn’t make it then either, but it was close. They lived an hour and a half away. Whew! All three children were born in Cheraw, in three different places, which is quite a feat in a small Southern town. The unexpected occurred, ready or not.

So it is with much of life’s experiences. Life comes at us full speed and there’s no stopping it. The best we can do is to get ready. Lent is the season in the church year that helps us do that. It is a time of reflection as Jesus makes his journey to the cross. It is a time of devotion and pondering, saying “No” to temptation and “Yes” to God.  Come what may this year, I want to be ready!