Sometimes traffic—the maddeningly unpredictable flow of that greatest annoyance, other cars–can tell important stories. I like to think I’m in control of a great many details regarding my life. Of course I know, in a proper Christ-following way, that God is in control, but lately it’s Seattle traffic that reminds me that sometimes I’m quite literally along for the ride.
So Tuesday starts with traffic. We leave the house at 8:15 AM, confident that an hour is a sufficient buffer to buoy us through downtown to our church in time. We were wrong, and complete our daring ten-mile journey a bit late and frazzled.
Today is the first meeting of Mothers of Preschoolers, known by its less-sexist-than-it-sounds acronym, MOPS. Today is also my due date, something I’m wildly self-conscious about as I fill a paper plate with tasty breakfast potluck treats and sit down at my table, wishing I knew someone. It’s like the cafeteria on first day of school, if on the first day you were as pregnant as it’s possible to be. After a bit of chatting, today’s speakers, my mom and one of her best friends, introduce the theme for the year, “Find Your Fire.”
Confession: I’m suspicious of large-scale Christian curricula. Home schooled with A Beka Academy and Christian schooled with Bob Jones University Press, I’ve experienced serious misinformation and bias, leading me to broadly raise my eyebrows at mass-produced Christian materials. Sometimes this isn’t fair, and sometimes it is, but either way I rolled my eyes at this theme a month ago, when I received a flowery MOPS packet in the mail that included various trinkets that I didn’t need.
Today, though, a well-produced video and the miracle of parallel grammatical structure overcome even my objections. The video features women holding signs with phrases like “You’re a good mom” and “It will be alright,” and I’m perfectly comfortable blaming my tears on pregnancy. The year’s theme also comes with three well-worded exhortations:
- Live Expectantly
- Surrender Daringly
- Breathe Freely
My frown untangles as I realize that these three commands are precisely what I need to hear today, and do pretty much every day. Under “Live Expectantly,” the explanation reminds me to “think about what can go right.” Looking back at the last few weeks, complete with a smashed car and injured husband, and ahead at the many variables of labor in front of me, I haven’t been thinking in terms of what could go right. There are a million ways for it all to go so wrong; what would it mean for me to consider how it could be excellent?
When asked for a prayer request towards the end of our time together, the first thing that comes to mind is “Traffic.” There are bad times to get from our house to our hospital, and I’ve spent a month cataloguing them, obsessively checking Google Maps and adding entries to my mental “When NOT To Go Into Labor” log. I joked with a friend earlier this week that I could easily be one of those women who has a baby on a bridge, stuck in traffic. Sitting with the women at my table, I try to consider what could go right. The perfect time for it all to happen.
And 17 hours later, we discover all that can go right.
Wednesday starts with no traffic. The perfect time to travel from West Seattle and Issaquah is 4:45 AM, a silent hour when the miles melt away between contractions, when the bridges are well-lit paths across still, inky waters and the stoplights always seem to go in our favor.
It’s tempting and popular to retell birth stories in terms of what went wrong, as the anxiety, pain and uncertainty of the experience tend to leave deep impressions, impossible to forget. My second child’s birth wasn’t as textbook as my first, but it still went mostly right. And in the end, that’s what I want to remember.
I want to remember how my water broke in the car, but we just laughed, because of course it wasn’t our car. Our car was still being repaired from the accident, weeks before, and we were driving a rental.
I want to remember how I’d wanted my mother to stay with us during labor, but because of a variety of other family members’ commitments she needed to be with Luci. And she was the perfect person to introduce my firstborn to her sister, providing gentle confidence and strength when Luci woke up to find both her parents gone.
I want to remember how “surrender daringly” got stuck in my head like a line of a song, along with my daughter’s middle name, Joy. With each contraction, I reminded myself to surrender, and thought about the joy waiting on the far side. Leaning into this hard work, this good work, I want to keep surrendering daringly to the joy of being her mother, as I did in those predawn hours.
I want to remember how my favorite midwife, the same one who delivered Luci almost three years ago, started her shift just in time to guide me through the last stage of our baby’s birth. Familiar, calm and confident, its her voice I’ll hear counting as I remember push after breathless push, trying to bring my daughter face-up into the world.
I want to remember how quickly our silent, slightly blue baby began to cry, how her heart kept beating and how she came back to me after a towel rub and a heat lamp, alert and irate and ready for the world. I’ll see her dark-blue eyes, feel her warmth, look with her at the orange and red splendor of an autumn morning just beginning outside.
I want to remember, always, the overwhelming feeling of working very hard for something very good, something costly and precious. And I want to remember with gratitude, all that could—and did—go right.