The day my oldest daughter gave birth is a day forever imprinted in my memory. Since he was the first grandchild on both sides of his family, his arrival caused quite a stir. Family members began to gather in the labor and delivery waiting room at the hospital, all grinning broadly and twittering with joy and excitement.
None of us, however, could have anticipated at that moment the wave of emotions that was ahead. The events of that day left me feeling powerless and out of control, yet as a person of faith, I learned once again that in life’s scary moments, God will provide peace if we trust him with our burdens.
Around two a.m. my youngest daughter woke my husband and me with a giddy whisper, “Mom, Dad, Emily’s water broke! They’re heading to the hospital!”
We were instantly awake and discussing plans. Though we wanted to immediately hop into the car and make the two-hour drive, we knew it was impractical. My husband, an eye surgeon, was obligated to see his post-surgical patients in clinic that morning, but would need to make arrangements for the remainder of clinic to be canceled. Besides, my daughter, a very private person, did not want anyone in the labor room with her, so while we wanted to be close by, we would, in essence only be hurrying up to wait.
“We might as well try to get some sleep,” we reasoned. Yeah, right.
Several hours later when we all finally arrived at the hospital, we found my son-in-law’s family already there. Most of us held our phones in our laps, snatching them up with each buzz, hungry for the slightest morsel of news. Though we calmly made small talk, it was quite evident that our insides were all butterflies and grasshoppers.
“It looks like delivery is a few hours away,” observed Emily’s father-in-law after reading a message from his son. “Would you all want to go grab some lunch?”
Forks clinked against plates, conversation flowed freely, and laughter filled the room as we shared not only the meal, but also a spirit of kinship and family. Just as lunch concluded, word came that my daughter was almost ready to start pushing. We quickly gathered up and hurried back to the hospital.
The news, as it turned out, belied what was to come, and as the minutes ticked into hour upon hour, anticipation turned to apprehension, joy to concern. We hung on each new bit of information.
“Her labor has stalled.”
“They are trying different labor positions and administering a drug.”
Finally, “Progress is being made!”
Then, “Actually, no, the baby’s head is too large to fit into the birth canal.”
I had so hoped and prayed that she would not have to have a C-section, but after twenty-four hours of labor, that was the only option remaining. Unable to sit, I took the elevator down to the cafeteria and absently scanned the menu. Choosing French fries for their munchable-ness, I chewed each one like a rabbit would a carrot and tried to control my nerves. Eventually, I made the trek back to the waiting room to sit on the edge of my very uncomfortable seat.
By this point, we had all been at the hospital for fourteen hours or more, and the siblings had to leave. We four parents were the only family members – in fact, the only people at all – still in the waiting room.
We began to speak of our worry, of the percentages and likelihoods (the father-in-law is a doctor too) of our kids’ exhaustion and courage. There were unspoken things as well.
I felt powerless.
I could do nothing to help.
I could not, according to my daughter’s own wishes, even see her, hold her hand, caress her face, smooth her hair.
Her husband was to be her comfort in that moment of intimacy; it was their time. Although I know her well, and I understood her need for privacy, it increased my anxiety and left me in a sort of limbo.
I could not leave the hospital.
I could not distract myself.
I could not sleep.
Ultimately, we parents joined hands and hearts in prayer for our precious treasures. We prayed for the doctor and the nurses. We did aloud what we had all been doing silently in our hearts all day, giving the matter to God yet again. In that moment of unity and agreement together in prayer, we felt peace. In that deserted, stiff, non-conducive waiting room in the hospital, our hope was renewed. Soon after, I lay down across the bench and dozed.
When I woke, news came that, after nearly twenty-six hours, the baby was finally born, and both mom and baby were fine.
While life provides us with many joyful moments, there are also many times when we may feel out of control or powerless. During the birth of my grandchild – a beautiful, perfect boy, by the way – I felt powerless to ease my daughter’s suffering or to assist in any way. I felt out of control when worry and anxiety were beginning to gain the upper hand.
When we prayed, I trusted God with my fears. Afterward, I felt God’s peace wash over me.
At that moment, I was reminded that God is available to hear prayers and will provide strength and comfort as we place our burdens on his all-powerful shoulders.