You Can And You Must

woman in childbirth 2

She was born on a Sunday and turned twenty-four on a Tuesday.

Tuesday was a much milder day than the day she broke through the womb. That day was a hard-as-blue steel day, the ground under two feet of snow.

Tall grass poked through the snow in the fields off Old Chadbourne Road. Every now and then the copper colored stalks would vibrate in the wind that blew off the back field giving the landscape the feel of an Arctic plain; flat, desolate and so cold.

I’d gone for a walk when early labor injected its first pulse of pain. If all went like the four others, I had plenty of time before heading to the hospital. When I turned the corner onto Old Chadbourne, I let the cold air assail my nostrils. I felt alive and clean. I thought about the baby. I thought about becoming a mother for the fifth time. The twinge of what was to come splayed across my belly. I prayed in the cold. I knew what I was in for.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

At first, everything was the same as the others. The pain level, the intervals, the breathing. The walk around the nurses’ station over and over and over again. The moment I stopped talking and crawled into the bed. It was just a matter of time.

But this is where the youngest stopped birthing according to plan. This is where she quit flowing with my natural rhythms. Everything came to a stop and I lay there in a vise grip of pain with nothing to show for it. The end was such a long way off and I was in too deep to turn back. My body. My baby. All had gone silent except for the pain.

It suddenly became all about endurance.


Nothing changed for a very long time. This middle place where nothing appeared to be happening kept taking from me. It took my strength. It took my courage. It took my resolve. I was done in. I quit.

I lay my head on the pillow and whispered, “I can’t do anymore.”

A warm breath in my face. My husband’s words coming through a veil. Yes. Yes you can.

Sweat drenched hair stuck to my cheek, my head a slow motion side to side shake.

I closed my eyes wanting some place real quiet.
I never, ever want to work this hard again.

A woman’s voice.
“You can do it.”
She poked. She prodded. Her eyes found mine.
“You can. And you must.”

It is not at the starting line where we choose to keep going. It’s not even the the finish line. It’s somewhere in the middle when the distance ahead of us is still so far away and the distance behind us is too. It is in the middle of nowhere that we decide if we’re going to keep going. To keep trying. Keep believing.

Do I keep moving forward even though I cannot see the outcome anywhere in sight?      Do I keep believing when all around me say I’m a fool?
Do I keep trusting when the odds are stacked against me?                                                      Do I lean into the pain and make it work for me?


I remember standing in a classroom watching a child hell-bent on destruction, tearing things apart, tearing himself apart.

What am I doing here? In the middle of chaos and human fracturing, watching a child shatter in pieces, I was tempted to walk out of the classroom. To not look or hear or feel. What difference could I possibly make in this life? The writing was clearly on the wall for this kid.

A psych ward.
A medicated brain.
Statistically speaking, a jail cell.

Can’t I just go someplace real quiet?

Except I don’t get to walk away.

See, I follow Jesus and he never walked away. He leaned into the hard thing.

Somewhere in the middle of a garden he leaned in.  He leaned in the middle of an interrogation and the lash. He leaned in the middle of thorns and in the middle of a stumble in the street.  His father’s voice coming through the haze. You can. You must.

He walked a calvary road right into the jaws of pain and death and for what?
Just the joy of heaven and the whole wide world.


The nudge to stay put in the classroom was real, so I did. I prayed for God to intervene, intercept, to do whatever he needed to do to rescue in that moment and in all the other moments to come. I walked toward the broken child and embraced all the pieces.

You can. You must.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s the only way to keep moving forward.

Minutes before midnight the Pixie Girl finally emerged from my spent body; the last baby for me because of the difficulty and the blood spill afterward.

This last one who laughs loud and sparkles fierce showed me when I find myself somewhere in the middle where all is hard to the point of quitting, I can and must remember if I lean into the pain and make it work for me I will keep moving forward.

O’ the joy!

woman in childbirth

You can and you must.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.-Galatians 6:9

Photos of mothers courtesy of google images.


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