Monday, May 9, 2011

A Joyful Admonition and An Answer

I have had a prayer answered in a definite way as an adult, despite my lack of confidence in myself and in God's desire to answer. But it was before I knew God would answer my urgent request that a revelation, a communication, came.

I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was praying for her to come safely into the world, yes, but I was also praying that my husband and I would have a safe place to leave our toddler son while I gave birth. We were newly settled in a city where we had no family nearby. Our neighbor, whom we had gotten to know over a few months, grudgingly agreed to watch our son while we were at the hospital, but she had vacation plans during the first part of the month in which our daughter was due. My husband asked his mother if she could cover the week our neighbor would be gone. My parents said they could come just around my due date.

A woman, unfortunately, does not have a sixth sense about the day and hour she will give birth. I was nervous. First, because I did not want to leave our son with our neighbor who seemed so reluctant to watch him and who also did not seem to care about his nut allergies, and second but most relevant: our son, while very attached to me and his Papa, was extremely anxious, fearful really, around almost everyone else (as I said, we had no special people who lived near us then - no family or friends to whom he became accustomed). I desperately wanted one of his grandparents, someone who loved our son, to watch over him.

The particular prayer I was reciting night after night over my son while he slept was becoming more desperate, even angry, as my due date approached. I was losing confidence that God would heed my request. Because of this, my thoughts began to plague me, and I mean that quite literally; I am obsessive-compulsive, and it grows considerably worse when I am worried or weary. I was both exhausted and anxious when I attempted to pray over my little boy one night. I had to begin again and again - my OCD raging, pernicious thoughts riddling my mind. Finally, I gave up in despair. I deserted my sleeping child and went and wallowed in my misery on my own bed, pressing my hands into my forehead and tossing this way and that, as if my physical resistance to the mental turmoil could rid me of cluttered thoughts and distressed feelings.

Quite suddenly, a rush of utter silence, and I heard Someone say stridently, "Stop this! Get up and go pray over your son."

It was a rebuke, a chastisement, but I sat up with a jolt of pure, electrified joy. And I obeyed immediately. Still I was given no respite; unwanted thoughts clattered and banged around with annoying persistence as I finished my prayer over my resting child, but I did what my Heavenly Father had told me to do, rejoicing that He had spoken so clearly to me for the first time in my life.

A short while later, He would answer my urgent plea.

***************     ****************

The circumstances surrounding our children's births are variable. At least this is predictable. I was eight months pregnant with Berto, our firstborn, when Matthew and I were crawling through the mountains of Arizona in a U-haul, on the way to our new home. There were no family or friends waiting for us where we were headed, and this lack of special people made it hard when our baby arrived. The fierce love I felt for my son was a shock, so overwhelming that I simply stared in awe at the red, crying creature they laid on my stomach, forgetting to even wrap my arms around him in greeting. Yet there was no one to celebrate the arrival of our first child with Matthew and me. It was lonely.

I feared that loneliness while I was down on my knees each night almost two years later, asking for our daughter to arrive when I knew there would be someone to care for Berto.

My mother-in-law came to stay in town a couple weeks before my due date on Matthew's request. I believe she had the strategy of walking the baby out of me early, because the day after her arrival we spent navigating the nearest monster mall - not shopping, just walking. Our efforts were rewarded; I began having wrenching lower back pain on top of the nagging sciatica I was already experiencing. This is labor pain, I thought. But I didn't go into labor.

It was that evening while praying that I knew for a certainty that my parents wouldn't be coming around my due date. The next day, my own mother confirmed this. My grandmother needed an operation; all my parents resources were occupied with helping her. So my prayer shifted, became more specific. My new request was that my daughter Ana would be born in the following four days, the remainder of Barbara's stay.

The week stretched out, and my hopes wore thin. Barbara, my mother-in-law, got to see a side of me she may have suspected existed but had never been privy to. On Thursday of that week, Berto had blood drawn for allergy testing. I held him, looking into his streaming toddler eyes while a blond-haired nurse attempted to draw vials of blood from his arm. Before she had finished, the chosen vein dried up.

"I'll have to try again," she said stoically.

"How many do you need?" I asked in panic.

"Three," she said bluntly, holding up one partially filled vial.

So, there, in front of my mother-in-law and that no-nonsense pediatric nurse, I had a come apart, an episode of hysterics, complete with sobbing, hyperventilation, and involuntary shaking. I was told that I should leave while they tried to draw blood without my "help", but I refused to abandon my son. So I called Matthew who left work to come supervise the blood-letting, and forthwith I was permanently blacklisted among the nurses at our pediatrician's office. With that blond-haired nurse in particular, I could never again make eye contact without acute discomfort.

Truly, it wasn't a surprise that after such an episode, I woke up at 4:30am the next morning with contractions. I shook Matthew awake, but while waiting for them to grow, I dropped back asleep and was not roused again.

On Friday, over a spaghetti dinner, a series of slight sensations washed over my abdomen like gently lapping waves. There was no pain there, however; all discomfort was concentrated in my back and legs. Acceptance had come, and I was tired of anticipating something that would not come when I desired it. Barbara was leaving the next day. Matthew and I both thanked her for coming, for supporting us by being there. She left, planning to head out early the next morning, and I went to bed.

And then God answered my prayer - in the eleventh hour, and in His way.

I awoke Saturday morning a little after 5am, and the pains were unmistakable. I told Matthew to wait on calling his mother (she probably wouldn't be up yet, I figured) as I began a frenzy of last minute activity around the house in the lapses between contractions, starting laundry, loading dishes, brushing my teeth, packing snacks for the hospital. At 6:30 am when the intense pain prevented me from concentrating on anything else, Matthew called his mom.

She was already on the road out of town. With my labor progressing rapidly, we had to wait for her to turn around.

An hour later, Matthew and I were headed for the hospital, his sporty little car's sun visor clenched in my teeth - the protruding metal from its frame a testament to the strength of a laboring woman. Matthew tried to protest my pain-management tactics, but I gave him a wild look, and the words died on his lips even as his eyes continued to plead for mercy to be shown to his beloved vehicle.

I arrived at the hospital dilated the full 10 centimeters, knowing that my son was safe in his Grandma's care. They wheeled me into delivery as I begged for last-minute intervention, Can't you start an epidural, pleeaaase?, and I got to experience natural childbirth for the first time in all its excruciating glory.

After Ana's delivery at 8:44am, I repeated the L&D nurse's words in amazement to my husband.

"We have a daughter," I said to Matthew in wonder as a rush of feel-good hormones washed over my body, uninhibited by the lingering effects of an epidural.

And there was no loneliness, for Barbara and our little Berto came to the hospital later that day to greet our precious, healthy Analisa and welcome her to the family.

*********** ***********

All these years later I still reflect with wonder on the fact that God spoke to me (He has not done so again in such a direct way since that day). For my Creator I had become like the widow who importuned the fearless judge in the parable told by Christ. It was a time in my life when I was seeking my Father's attention continually, asking Him to fulfill a need, and He did fulfill it. He blessed us with Barbara's presence. I am forever grateful for His faithfulness.

I know firsthand the power of persistent prayer.

Luke 18:1-5

And he spake a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Saying, there was judge which feared not God, neither regarded man:

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for awhile: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man:

Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

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