Changing my mind about birth and faith (an #OutofSortsBook post)

{Okay, so I’m going to admit that this post means a whole lot to me. I’ve spent an entire week writing and re-writing it. (Imagine 100 *virtual* scrunched up sheets of paper and empty coffee mugs all around me.) I think it’s because I’m sharing some vulnerable details about myself, about my last birth and my own faith journey. But it’s also because I want to give my best to help Sarah Bessey get the word out about her upcoming book “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith”. (I got onto the launch team. And, I literally jumped into my husband’s arms when I found out! Phew.) Oh, it’s a precious jewel of a book! Here goes, you guys. <3}

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With my last pregnancy, I finally got the opportunity to plan a YouTube-esque home water-birth. It was going to be all candles, playlists, total surrender and calm. It’s a real thing, I promise. (There are actual videos on YouTube!) After the birth, I was going to snuggle and nurse and marvel at how beautiful our baby was. I was going to cry tears of joy and kiss my husband and thank God. I had that scene all worked out. I’ve been a birth professional for 17 years so really, with all my service to birth, I kind of felt like birth owed me this one. I mean, I’d been so faithful. I’d spent so many hours learning its ways and respecting its power and holding space for it at all hours of the day and night.

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I honestly couldn’t believe it when this thing I’d devoted my life to let me down. 

It was a hard birth with lots of despairing (and possibly some yelling). Labour was stop and go all day. I had to walk the nearby trails to coax my body into having more contractions. I laboured a lot outside, as people passed by, feeling a bit vulnerable and exposed. Some of the older women stopped to talk to us and offered up empathy and motherly advice. (Thank God for little old ladies.) It was late in the day when I hit transition: that magical time when you feel like you want to run away and bail out. I should confess that, yes, there were candles and music and water at this birth. But there was also my body closing up instead of opening and position challenges-Estelle was born with a nuchal hand (one hand up against her face)- and a haemorrhage which left me wrapped up in a blanket, shaking like a leaf in my husband’s arms for the ENTIRE first hour after the birth. I’ll never forget how I was pulled out of the red-tinged bath water (and yanked out of my dream). 

Who were these women on YouTube anyways?

As a birth professional, I knew birth is often unpredictable and has its own power. You can’t tame birth or squeeze it into a box. But, dude, I had studied this thing inside and out for the last 2 decades. I was a faithful disciple of birth. Even more importantly, I had followed ALL the instructions and all the wisdom I had soaked up over the years. I felt disillusioned and betrayed.

I never saw birth the same way after that.

The thing is, what was really yanked out of me that day were all the ideals I’d held about birth, especially natural birth. What a relief it was to finally admit the complexities of those ideals and let go of my pre-conceived expectations.

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Birth is a lot like faith. It takes us places we never expected to go. As I’ve shifted in my understanding of birth, I’ve also experienced a parallel shift in my understanding of faith.

When our sweet Estelle was born in the water that night with her hand up against her face, I was starting to feel squeezed by my own positions on things like family size and gender roles. I had embraced a thing called the Quiverfull Movement, where it’s taught that because God values children and procreation, Christians should not take any measures to prevent pregnancies. Women as (super-amazing) homemakers was the theology that came with it, hand-in-hand.

I was lonely, burned-out, anxious, agoraphobic and generally a broken mess. It was too much to carry. And, I was ready to lay down that load. But, I didn’t really know how to walk away from a theology I had been living out wholeheartedly for years now. I was a faithful disciple of the Quiverfull Movement. Then one day I was making soup and God’s spirit showed up. I know, it sounds a bit self-serving. But, it was one of the most profound moments I’ve ever experienced in my faith. And, it turned my faith upside down (or right side up). I sensed it so strongly as I held onto my wooden spoon: I was being released from all that DOING and PERFORMING. I didn’t have to do so much. Maybe I didn’t even have to do any of it to please God. I stood there, stirring soup, in awe at what the Spirit was stirring inside my heart.

I never saw faith the same way after that. 

Like my birth preparation for my 7th baby, I had tried to dutifully follow all the instructions and study this theology I had lovingly devoted myself to. I watched videos and read blogs, magazines and books. I had big plans for our Quiverfull life. We were going to have all our ducks (kids) lined up in a row and there were going to be candles in this one too. Instead I ended up wrapped in a blanket (again), trembling from exhaustion. It was a relief to finally let go of ideals I couldn’t keep up with anymore. I felt out of sorts but also more in step with God’s heart for me.

It was the beginning of some important shifting in my faith. Even though I felt like a lone explorer at times, the truth is others have sojourned this way too.  Their stories, words and vulnerability have been my companions in these wide open spaces. Sarah Bessey is one of them. And, this fall, I have the incredible privilege of previewing her new book “Out of Sorts” which is set to release November 3rd, 2015. It’s incredibly insightful, authentic and full of comfort for anyone who’s ever shifted or felt out of sorts in their faith journey or whose ideals suddenly didn’t fit or seem to make sense anymore. You can pre-order here! Perhaps what I’m loving the most in this book so far is Sarah’s big, generous heart and how she makes room for all of us: the wanderers, the seekers, the know-it-alls. I have to think that “us” includes the YouTube birth goddesses and the Quiverfull moms too, even if (for me) trying on the ideals represented by those personas ended up feeling like putting on a tight, itchy woollen sweater on a hot July day. I can’t wait to share more about Sarah’s book and how it relates to my own story! Stay tuned <3

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Can you relate to being a wanderer and feeling out of sorts? I’d love to hear about your story in the comments below!