Our son Nathan was born on December 23, 1982 at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland, California. He was a good two weeks overdue, at least. Both of our children were late and had to be induced; there didn’t seem to be any way they wanted to come out of there on their own.
For us (at least for Darlene), this first experience of being induced was difficult. Her labor was long and hard, probably 20 hours, half of it hard labor. The doctor used Pitosin, a hormone which causes contractions but didn’t seem to help make much progress in terms of movement out of there.
I had gone through all the Lamaze classes and so forth, and so I was at Darlene’s side the entire time. (Well, almost. More on that later.)
The first half of the night we spent playing cards. We’re not huge card-players, so “Uno” was about it for us, and we must have played 50 games. If you know anything about Uno, it really is just a game of chance, not skill. Which is good because neither of us are skilled. This should (theoretically) give two people each about a 50% chance of winning. But that night, I won something like 45 games, and I think Darlene won no more than five. She was getting discouraged, so after awhile I was actually TRYING to lose, but to no avail.
One other thing sort of set the mood for the evening … there was a good winter storm brewing outside. At one point, a tree apparently fell somewhere and all of the power in the birthing center went out. It was pitch black, no windows. Now the center had been full of the sound of women in labor, but the moment the power went out it went dead silent in there. You could hear a pin drop. Actually, the only thing I heard was the head nurse in the unit say in a quiet voice of desperation, “Oh, crap.”
Then, remembering her training, she raised her voice in forced cheerfulness: “Don’t panic, anyone! I’m sure it’s just temporary. The generators should kick in at any moment.”
And kick in they did, fortunately, about 20 long seconds later. So the cacophany of sounds in that labor and delivery unit picked up and continued, slightly louder than they were before the blackout.
There’s Something You Don’t See Everyday
The other thing that’s very clear in my mind (but fortunately not in my wife’s), happened maybe four hours before she actually delivered. I hadn’t had a bathroom break in a LONG time and suddenly this fact had become very apparent to me. But contractions were fast and furious, and Darlene had my hand clenched tight in hers and didn’t want me going anywhere. There was a bathroom adjoining her labor room, only about 8 feet away, and I told her, “Honey, I really need to go pee, I’ll be right back,” but she objected with an amazing degree of certitude, and so I hung in there for as long as I could.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. In what seemed like something of a transitional moment, I told her, “I have GOT to go, now!” and whirled around and headed into the bathroom over her objections. I got in there and dropped my drawers, and was just experiencing that flood of relief when she emitted a piercing scream from where she lay in the delivery room.
Out of reflex, I whirled, grasping at my pants and trying to pull them up as I ran out the door. At that very moment, a nurse came running into the room from the hall, and we collided. My pants went back down around my knees and I went down on top of her. The next moment after that, the head nurse came running in after her, only to see my derrier sitting there like the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room, on top of her hapless nurse. “Now, THERE’s something you don’t see every day,” she said calmly, as she stepped over us to attend to my wife.
This was all significantly more embarrassing due to the fact that my wife worked at that hospital. But fortunately, in the state that she was in, she doesn’t remember any of it, and I think the nurses were gracious enough not to tell her horror stories about her poor husband’s mishaps.
Shortly after this, they began encouraging her to push, and she pushed so long and so hard (about three hours) that many of the small blood vessels in her face burst and her eyes were swollen shut. She really couldn’t even see Nathan immediately after he was born, early that December morning.
(By the way, despite the fact that Mandy also was induced, her birth went much easier for Darlene. The only real hiccup that night was on the news. That was the night the U.S. bombed Libya. Depressing. We turned it off, and also vowed we wouldn’t play a single game of Uno. I also made sure and took lots of bathroom breaks.)
The truly amazing thing about having kids, as difficult as it is (easy for me to talk, eh?) is what happens immediately after they’re born. All of a sudden you have this little person, who is frightened, then curious, and looking all around at the world, and then looking at you when you speak. They are alert (at least for awhile), and you can see recognition in his or her eyes; yours is the voice they have been hearing for months. It’s absolutely an amazing moment, and it makes all the work and all the pain immediately worth it. There’s no other joy like it. Then everyone goes to sleep, exhausted.
Except Dad, whose brain is full of miracles.
How Is It That Children Are a Blessing, Exactly?
But there’s no getting around the fact that having kids is a lot of work, a lot of risk, and a lot of expense. There’s long, sleepless nights, and worry, and heartbreak, and frustration, in addition to the joy and the enjoyment of being a family together.
About 15 years ago I was teaching a Sunday School class at our church on the Psalms with another gentleman in the church. One Sunday we came to Psalm 127 and read together verses 3-5:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
We asked each other, “In light of the challenges that all parents face, how and why is it, exactly, that children are a blessing?” The conclusion we came to, in that discussion, is that having children gives us a taste of what it’s like to truly love unconditionally. Unless you are a truly terrible parent (and unfortunately, yes, those exist), you will love your kids and put their best above your own. And this is what God does for us, as His children, loves us unconditionally and sacrifices Himself for our sake.
Having children is transformative, it gives us a taste of the most crucial way that God desires us to be like Himself.
I’ll probably spend a lot of time talking about what it’s like to be a parent (and now a grandparent). I fully realize this is not a unique experience, but one I share with most of the rest of the human race! So in one sense, it feels weird even talking about it. But my two kids, despite all the ups and downs, truly have been a huge blessing in my own life, and a key part of my transformative experience, so I’m hopeful that the things I have to share may hit a chord and be helpful to someone else reading!