The call finally came. My daughter Janelle was in labor! Because her mother and sister’s first labors were comparatively short and Janelle’s membranes ruptured, her plan to do as much of her labor as possible at home wouldn’t happen. After a Chickfila breakfast we made our way to the hospital hoping that Silas would be born on his Papa’s birthday.
However, her labor was long.
Watching my daughters experience the pain of childbirth tears at this mom’s heart. Yet there is something so deeply rewarding that melts the sympathy into wonder. I have been blessed beyond words at the invitation to watch each of my twelve grandchildren come into the world — and each time I’m filled with awe at the miracle of watching my legacy put into the eager arms of exhausted mothers.
Janelle’s labor progressed for hours in the form of a gentle “slow dance” (as one friend called it) with her husband Eric. Watching my son-in-law tenderly care for his wife with his reminders to relax and breathe while she rested in his arms warmed my heart.
After hours of exhausting labor Janelle decided on an epidural, which she says is the best thing ever invented. She was able to rest through several hours of labor while family came and went. Little Silas was eagerly anticipated by family from both sides: grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles…and friends who joined the celebration. When it became clear labor would continue through the night several went home to wait for the call while others remained to watch the miracle.
At about 3 AM when everyone was exhausted and several were sleeping, Janelle’s oldest brother Josh returned — in a doctor’s hat and gloves. Laughter was exactly what Janelle needed. He proceeded to check her dilation by sticking his finger up her nose and the room filled with life again.
Soon it was time for her to push her newborn out. The scene is etched in my mind. Josh took on the role of catching his sister’s late-labor vomit in the provided container while her dad, husband and sister helped position her for pushing. I assumed the role of pushing coach while my 12-year-old granddaughter and Eric’s mom cheered her on. The nurse and midwife were kind enough to watch our family support Janelle — and actually seemed pretty fine with their less hands-on roles.
Then it happened: Silas Joshua Garrett was born! I wanted everything to pause and then proceed in slow motion. I wanted to capture Eric’s expression when he saw his son for the first time. To enjoy a lingering gaze at the tears streaming down my daughter’s face when the little man she had been carrying for months was finally safe in her arms. To embrace the moments of watching my son catch his sister’s throw up as she birthed his namesake. To rejoice with another grandmother who was just as caught up in the wonder as me. To cherish watching Janelle’s older sister, herself pregnant, sacrifice a night’s sleep to support the little sister who used to get on her nerves as she welcomed her firstborn. To enjoy the sweet embrace of my Benny after watching him help his little girl birth a baby who will someday father our great-grandchild.
And so the dance continues. Eric and Janelle have begun the exhausting and thrilling and frightening and life changing partnership of parenthood. They have prepared well through discussions with seasoned parents, face to face and through reading good books. (P.S. not all books about parenting are good ones!) They have walked through long months of pregnancy where Janelle left nursing patients to run to the bathroom to deal with nausea and Eric blessed her with take out for dinner. And they worked well together through the difficult hours of labor to finally see their little son’s face and tenderly cuddle his wrinkled body.
They will dance sometimes fitfully threw the terrible two’s, and seasons when their training and encouragement doesn’t seem to be producing fruit. And, yes, they’ll step on each other’s toes when the dance takes them into adolescent years when Silas is convinced he knows far more than they. Just as in their labor dance, they will sometimes be exhausted; they’ll look at each other and brace for the next difficult conversation or decision or “no, Son” that will test their relationship with him.
But then he will come and say he’s in love. By God’s grace, he will choose wisely and before they know it Silas will reach for Mom’s hand to share their special mother-son dance at his wedding reception. Oh, and then there will be the announcement and they will take Benny’s and my place cheering their man child into fatherhood. They now think that’s a lifetime away, but I know better. As the dance continues they will have numerous moments where they look at their little boy and wonder where the time has gone.
As I type, my newborn grandson is sleeping contentedly in my lap swaddled in a white blanket that only shows his tiny blonde head. My heart is squeezing with love. Hope. Eagerness for the first time he reaches chubby little arms out to Granma. But mostly heartfelt prayers that he will grow to love, respect and appreciate the sacrifices his amazing parents have made and will continue to make as they dance through the coming years.
Dance on, Janelle and Eric. God will be there for every step.