I blush easily, swim fully clothed, and greatly value modesty. But I love discussing childbirth and I love having friends come to my births. For my second child, my friend and her mom and another friend were there. For my third child, three friends attended too! I can’t imagine doing anything different for future births. And I will gladly watch my friends give birth as well.
In fact, this month I had the enormous privilege of speedily driving to Daytona to help one of my dearest friends give birth to her first child. When I stepped inside the birthing center and watched my friend conquer each contraction, with her husband lovingly supporting her, I immediately realized that I was participating in a really special experience. When I tried to explain to people why I went to Daytona, I think they either thought I was going to the hospital to meet the newborn or that I am an underground midwife helping a friend give birth illegally in her basement or something. I think there’s a lot of confusion and stigma about watching friends give birth and about childbirth in general, so I would love to provide some perspective because men and women who think childbirth is disgusting or taboo (as I did for the majority of my life) are missing out. Here are 3 reasons watching friends give birth is super magical:
1.) Childbirth is so intimate.
I’ll talk about the most obviously awkward aspect of this topic first: yes, the women attending a birth will probably see their friend totally naked for hours on end. Chances are good that they’ll even watch their friend have a bowel movement while trying to push out the baby, because that’s super common. But what a beautiful thing it says about friendship and unconditional love that a pregnant mother would feel comfortable inviting some of her close friends to see her in such a vulnerable state. This shows that she values their presence more than their perception of her, and that speaks loudly of the friendship’s depth. Supporting a friend in birth inevitably deepens that friendship in an extremely unique way. Plus, giggling about the awkward parts of the birth afterward can be a comforting and sweet aspect of the friendship too.
2) Labor is intense, so everyone can be useful.
Here’s what birthing with friends might look like: One friend is putting cold towels on the mama’s forehead, one friend is putting hot towels on her neck; her husband is massaging her back while another friend is rubbing her arm. (The midwife and her birth assistant and student midwife are also likely busy doing whatever’s needed.) Or, in difficult moments of pushing, there might be seven different people holding the mother’s legs back to help her push. And sometimes the smallest tokens of love mean so much: my friend brought me cookies at the perfect moment, and for her birth I gave her a slushy just when she needed it as well. Probably most encouraging are the words spoken…after every painful contraction there might be a small chorus of gentle voices saying “Good job mama!” and “Your baby can’t wait to meet you!” Chances are hefty that, especially during the transition stage, a birthing mother has to fight thoughts such as “Nothing’s happening” or “You’re being a wimp,” so the timely words of her supporting friends are invaluable in those vulnerable moments. The gifts of sympathy and empowerment, especially from people you love and trust, are huge.
3) Childbirth is a beautiful miracle.
In simple language, this is how babies are made: two small cells come together and create one cell, a very very tiny baby, who attaches to the mother’s womb. Over nine months the baby starts growing all his or her systems and organs and features. Nobody from the outside even has to do anything; DNA provides all the instructions needed and the baby just grows. Even the mother gets a new organ inside the womb that filters nutrients and feeds the baby…interestingly enough, this organ is shaped like a tree. Though, sadly, complications and tragedies can happen, typically babies continue to grow for nine months until the mother’s body decides it’s time for the baby to come out. With increasing frequency and intensity, the mother’s womb squeezes tightly, which can be very painful, but these squeezes effectively thin and open the bottom of the womb and move the baby downward. The baby is more flexible than he ever will be for the rest of his life because he’s about to do some unbelievable gymnastics and make his way out of the tunnel and into the loving arms of his mama. This doesn’t always happen ideally or as planned, and interventions sometimes do need to occur (and I’m so grateful they’re available.) But however the birth happens, it’s a miracle that a whole person with a body and soul and hopes and dreams and a future can come from two tiny cells. Attending a friend’s birth and watching the final steps of the process take place is watching a miracle, and it’s beautiful.
In conclusion, birth is great, and though I don’t ever plan to have a career as a midwife—and I doubt I have the patience to be a doula—I will forever be in awe of this miracle and consider it a blessing to experience it myself or support a friend who is doing so.
Here are some other articles I've written on birth:
Carried by the Lord (how my friends supported me so much during my 3rd child's birth)
8 Personal Reasons I Plan on Having Another Home Birth (though I used a birthing center for my third and it was an equally great experience)
There’s a peculiar and subtle trend among women of the internet the past few years, and it’s an obsession with the word “she.” It is now common to think of ourselves not only in the third person, but with a third person pronoun. You don’t believe me?
Consider these uber-popular blogs: She Reads Truth. How Does She. She Worships. In fact, just google “she blog” and you’ll find no shortage of third-person self-descriptions. Seriously, I clicked through the first six pages of results and the “She”-titled blogs were still going strong: Life As She Does It. She Quilts A Lot. She’s In Fashion.
There’s a “She Speaks” conference. A “She Is Clothed” conference. A “She Is” conference. And yep, a “She” conference.
Or you can recall that some of the most popular scriptures among women for “Bible-journaling” or word art are any and every verse that mentions feminine pronouns, even if the scripture isn’t addressed to us or even human beings at all.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45 is talking about Mary, who was just promised that she would be the mother of the Christ.
“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” Psalm 46:5 is definitely using the pronoun “her” to talk about Jerusalem, and if you were reading in the NLT you would never think to apply this verse to yourself because it says “God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.”
Now listen. I like each of the blogs I mentioned and I’m not criticizing them in any way. The verses, though not necessarily addressed to us, are still true if you simply remove them from the context…we are blessed if we believe God’s promises (Psalm 1) and God is in our midst (Zephaniah 3:17.)
But what I’m trying to figure out is why. Why are we drawn to thinking of ourselves with a third person pronoun? It can’t merely be narcissism, because then we would be using our actual names and not a pronoun.
I’m reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s description of the fictional Irene Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia, and how reading of Sherlock’s admiration for her made me feel: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind…And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”
So Sherlock didn’t necessarily love her—or he at least wouldn’t allow himself to think he did—but he viewed her so highly. Regardless of who she actually was or how many other females Sherlock had met, to him Irene Adler was the woman. And for some reason, reading that description filled me with an unhealthy sense of longing that people would see me in a similar way too. I think most of us, introverts and extroverts alike, want to be the type of person who could walk past a group of people and one of the bystanders might say to another, “That’s her.” Of course this scenario doesn’t happen in real life, but again, we’re talking about a type of person. Our mind is creating fantasy.
This makes me wonder if we like to objectify ourselves. Do we want people to build their perception of us based on knowing us or based on who we want them to think we are? Are we giving people just enough information about ourselves so they view us as a type of admirable woman but not our own individual self, flaws and all? Maybe this is also why we like pictures in which the object's face is out of frame, but I might be getting carried away.
Helen Thorne’s book Purity is Possible talks at length about how women generally tend towards fantasy…our imagination can run wild and we might not even know it’s happening. She talks about how “we daydream of a different us.”
The thing with the pronoun “she” is we can fill in the blanks with anything we want. We are able to see ourselves as insightful and disciplined philosophers or do-it-all supermoms. We can tell ourselves we are preeminently fashionable and effortlessly attractive. Other people are invited to perceive us as the type of virtuous and strong woman we desire to be, even if in reality we spend all our time on Facebook and possess the self-control of a raccoon.
So what do we do with all this?
Again I want to reiterate that the word “she” is not a bad word. The websites I mentioned are not necessarily Self-Objectifying Fantasy-Feeding Blogs and many of them are putting out content that is truly equipping women for good. Yes, it’s possible that marketing teams are aware that “she” invites consumers to indulge in their self-fantasy, but I’m not going to be a conspiracy theorist and assume that all the She brands have an agenda.
But it could be helpful for us to face the reality that we want people to perceive us in a particular way. We daydream about being an impossibly perfect woman that we are not. A major remedy is to spend time with people in real life; knowing and being known by people in face-to-face settings has this magical ability to snap us back into reality that we are not perfect but neither is anyone else, and that’s what makes love so sweet. We’re not who we want to be, but we’re not only accepted in spite of that but encouraged to grow. My friends are aware of my failures and they don’t love me less because of them, but they love me too much to continue believing lies or feeding my bad habits.
And, of course, humility frees us from thinking too much of ourselves altogether. When we don’t have to spend time and energy making other people (or ourselves) think we are a certain type of person, we are free to embrace the beautiful things and therefore become beautiful. The more we know who Christ has declared us to be, the more we actually become who we are. (But I’ll write more on that later.)
So, sweet sister, be encouraged that it doesn’t matter who you think you are, because who you are is a beautiful woman made in the image of God…but you, like everyone else, are desperately in need of a Savior, and that Savior has come. Run to the Lord because only He can make you whole.
By the way, pronouns about God are much preferable to pronouns about us. It doesn’t matter who “she” is as long as I am HIS.
As you become an adult, you realize that you’re actually not responsible for any of your problems because your issues are 100% a product of your upbringing. So thankfully, due to the the failures of your parents, you’re off the hook. Just make sure that in every single facet of parenting, you raise your children in an opposite manner than you were raised.
That’s how I feel sometimes, anyway. It’s so easy to blame other people, especially the people who raised me, for my own faults.
But then I remember some surprising things.
Even though I’m strong-willed, a free spirit, and I completely lack a sense of moderation, I was able to make it through high school without the painful smear of a “rebellious stage.” I didn’t clean my room and sometimes, horrifyingly, I ate raw cookie dough, but I never even dreamed of sneaking out or going to wild parties. I didn’t refrain from doing these things because I was afraid of my parents' punishments...in fact, as far as I remember, they never even gave me a curfew. They just made doing the right thing fun. My mom made spending time with family a truly desirable pursuit.
I think it’s pretty cool that in my young-adult years I never felt the need to get into drinking or crazy parties because I just never perceived that I was missing out on anything. My mom, my brother and I would have “tasting parties” in which we blind-tested fun flavors of soda or chocolates. We would unapologetically destroy each other in Sorry and Phase Ten. That was really fun.
My mom would call the entire week of my birthday “Hope-a-palooza” and she would throw fake flower petals on me in celebration at any random moment…even when she was picking me up from youth group, which was a tad embarrassing. But she made me feel so loved and special.
One time we chased a rainbow because my mom was certain we’d be able to go right through it and experience all the colors from inside our car. We drove all around town, trying to get to the bottom of the rainbow, and we never found it, but in that moment my mom instilled so much wonder and spontaneity in my brother and I that it fed our childlikeness in the best way possible.
In the summers, we would travel all over our county to visit the coolest libraries we could find. I also remember a time when we drove 45 minutes just to go to a Sonic Drive-in because we didn’t have one in town. My mom created adventures for us out of the most mundane things and always taught us that "Only boring people get bored."
During hurricane season, even if the electricity didn’t actually go out, my mom would occasionally designate a day or evening for a “hurricane party” and turn off all the lights. We would completely unplug from electronics and cozy up to read by lantern light.
Decorating the Christmas tree was an extremely momentous event that was always complemented with delicious snacks. I never realized how much effort my mom put into making Tree Decorating Night so sacred until I became a homemaker and had to attempt it myself. Making special traditions is a lot of work, and my mom joyfully put in that work.
Every time we go on vacation, my mom writes all the participants a very formal letter as if she were a travel agent. She plans with us in mind and she always makes sure we do the kinds of things that create the strongest memories.
Last week, my mom invited all of us over for Family Olympics. The Olympic rings, painstakingly cut out of construction paper, welcomed us at the front door, and my mom had spent a long time the day before planning out each “event”, most of them being minute-to-win-it style challenges. She even threw in some Bible trivia and speed-yoga-pose challenges for the less-physically-gifted, namely me. And there was, of course, a medal and American flag waiting for the athlete with the most points.
Even since I’ve been an adult we’ve done some crazy adventures together, including taking my kids (then 3 and 1) to Washington, D.C. by ourselves when I was seven months pregnant. We looked absolutely crazy struggling down the Metro escalator with our babies and luggage, and we definitely got glares and discouraging comments from confused passersby, but my mom showed me so much about her steadfast, sacrificial, and adventurous character by how she loved the kids and me.
Even last night I didn’t get all my cleaning done because I was texting my mom so much. “Literal lol!” is the phrase we say to each other more than anything else because far too often we find ourselves accidentally snorting in public when we read the funny thing the other person wrote.
I hope I’m not painting my mom to be a fun-crazed but shallow person. Growing up I always knew that every morning my mom would be in her prayer closet praising and begging of Jesus, and that consistent and humble reminder of her dependence on God is one of the most powerful ways I could’ve been discipled. It’s always been quite obvious to my brother and I that we need the Lord.
My mom is definitely not the spotlight-type person (and she’ll almost certainly be mad that I’m writing this; sorry Mom!) but anyone who knows her is aware of how much she wants to serve God. I love getting to watch her grow in Godliness through the years…in her teachability she is learning more about God all the time, and our conversations get richer every year as I grow too. If I tell her I read a really great chapter in a book, she will go and read the whole thing. (She’s read Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, for crying out loud. Cover to cover!)
Aside from the dreadful middle school years, my brother and I have always had healthy self-confidence and we've never felt the need to be like "everybody else." I'm convinced that this is because my mom always instilled in us the fact that we are valuable. My heart breaks when I hear moms say “I can’t wait until the summer’s over and my kids go back to school” because my mom never wanted the summers to end; she made it obvious that she enjoyed spending time with us and she missed us when we were gone. She’s always encouraged us in the areas we’ve wanted and needed encouragement. She’s shown us the emptiness of status quo survival and the fullness of pursuing a life of love. She's the most thoughtful person I've ever known and shows no signs of slowing down.
I’m not going to say that my mom and I have a Gilmore Girls relationship, or that I even want that. There have been plenty of times we’ve been frustrated with each other, and our opinions on some subjects vary greatly. We have opposite personality types, we didn’t choose the same church, and we don’t call each other every day and chat for hours. But our love for each other is real and it always has been, and there are so many ways I want to be like her.
I love you, Mom. You are steadfast and I treasure you forever. Thanks for being you.
Thanks for the idea to write this, Tim Challies! #dearmom17
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s only because you haven’t lived long enough: regardless of your religious beliefs, there will be a time (maybe for a very long season) when you find yourself in agonizing pain and you feel completely alone and helpless. Maybe you lost a child or close friend. Maybe you discovered that your husband is addicted to porn. Maybe you are weary from your work and you don’t know why the money just isn’t coming together. Or maybe you’re going through a difficulty that you wouldn’t quite classify as “suffering” but it feels pretty painful nonetheless.
If you are a Christian, you might enter your suffering with the idea that God loves you too much to let you feel pain. You might have been told this directly by your pastor or favorite author, along with talk of being “favored” or “God wants you to prosper if you only have faith.” Or you might mentally reject the health-wealth-and-prosperity theology but deep down still kind of expect it to be true. If only you read the Bible more, you wouldn’t be so sad.
To be honest, I’ve wrestled with this big-time. Here is what that often looks like:
“Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken”? I sure feel shaken.
“You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You”? I read the Bible and think about God all the time, so where’s that perfect peace? I’d even appreciate mediocre peace!
If I’m crying this hard, am I even a Christian?
I am not coming to you as an Expert on Suffering with 5 Easy Tips to Stop Feeling Abandoned by God. But I do come to you as someone who is always needing and receiving comfort and truth from God. So here are some things I try to tell myself when I’m feeling like God doesn’t hear my cries for help:
(By the way, please look up the scriptures and sermons I mentioned. And you've got to hear Andrew Peterson's song "The Silence of God"!)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today