When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (John 16:21)
I don’t know if sorrow is the right word, I certainly wasn’t too sad about giving up being the size of a minibus, but joy, joy is perfect. As I prepared for the journey to hospital at 4am that winter morning, I took one last look at my enormous belly in the mirror and muttered ‘See you in a bit’ to the little miracle that had blossomed inside me for the last nine months.
Neither my husband nor I remember much about the journey to the hospital, we were both incredibly nervous and locked in our own private conversations with God. We’d marked the evening before by going to watch the sunset on Signal Hill trusting that, by the time the sun rose again, we’d be parents. It was a deeply meditative and introspective time, neither of us entirely sure about what was about to happen, how it would change things, and whether everything would go as we hoped. We really had to give all our unspoken fears over to the Lord as we’re told to do in 1 Peter 5.
Nothing prepares you for the birth of your first child. No antenatal classes that we so diligently attended, none of the numerous blog articles I spent nine months pouring over and none of the anecdotes from all the other mothers who had been there before. That is because each of us, from our birth to our final moments have been individually and intricately knitted together by God’s own hand. And, as it says in 1 Corinthians, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. How. Incredible. Is. That? We are each of us a living breathing piece of God’s own art!
Although I was doubtless one of many women who lay on the hospital theatre bed that day, my little delivery was an individual miracle and unique blessing, each of her downy little hairs numbered (Luke 12:7). And as I peered under the folds of countless blankets at her little button nose, I sighed, made in God’s own image, He must indeed be perfect.
When I say nothing prepares you for the birth of your first child, I’m not talking about the sleepless nights or the sudden demand to be able to change a nappy while disposing of the last at breakneck speed, often in the back of a (moving) car, I’m talking about the emotions that pour forth from every inch of your being the single moment you hear their first gasp for breath. I thought I’d experienced joy before and, happily married, I was pretty sure I knew what unconditional love felt like, but the love you feel for your children is the sort of perfect love described in 1 Corinthians 134-7.
My husband was a different man, transformed by love, his face shone with pride and adoration as if it was the Lord’s own face shining upon him (Numbers 6:25). Seeing this love, it is remarkable and reassuring that our Heavenly Father loves us in the same way, He is delighted by our every triumph and shoulders every one of our sorrows. Watching our little girl, cradled in her Father’s arms, safe from the world, I was reminded of the scripture that says, ‘He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for His children it will be a refuge’. Proverb 14:26
Over the first few days, as we welcomed friends and family, I noticed how our precious, perfect gift from above (James 1:17), brought similar joy to all who held her. I feel so privileged to have been able to give my Mum her first grandchild; the Bible says that Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, (Proverbs 17:6). When I first saw my Mum hold her granddaughter when she was just a few hours old, it was a truly beautiful moment. When my husband’s parents joined us to meet their seventh grandchild I realised how infinite love really is, they immediately fell in love with her as if she was their first grandchild all over again.
One thing is for sure; babies bring out the best in people. Remembering the love and tenderness everyone showed her, from hospital staff to grandparents, and seeing how strangers soften when they see her 18 months later, it makes me wonder at what age do we stop loving other people like this. We are all somebody’s son or daughter, each of us has been that little child, and in the Lord’s eyes we are still as precious and certainly as vulnerable. Perhaps we should look upon each other as the children we all still are and afford everyone the same unquestioning love and affection we so naturally bestow upon the young. Surely the perfect unconditional love we have for our children is too good to be limited to them alone, in fact we are instructed to, ‘love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.’ (John 13:34-35) So my challenge today is to try to see other people as our Heavenly Father sees them, as His children, who He loves like a father loves his flesh and blood, for ‘so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.’ Romans 12:5