If you’ve spent much time around my blog and Instagram, you know that there are a couple of songs that have been a source of comfort and hope for me over the past year–both written by a long-time friend, and part of her latest album that released last year not long after our second miscarriage.
I haven’t talked much about a third song that held a deep meaning for me. I don’t really have a reason, just that the need to mention it never really came up.
The first track on the second disc of the album, “Sunset”, takes its lyrics from a fourth-century hymn to be sung at Vespers:
O lux beata Trinitas,
et principalis Unitas,
iam sol recedit igneus,
infunde lumen cordibus.
(Oh Trinity, blessed light
And principal Unity,
Now as the sun sets
Pour Thy light into our hearts.)
The song itself is a depiction of a sunset, the colors and phases, and it’s simply breathtaking. And quite honestly, it always reminded me a little of a death–the end of the day, the end of a life.
I’ve talked a lot about Elvie Kate’s middle-namesake, the timing of the discovery that we were pregnant with her, and how much it meant to learn we were expecting a girl. In my mind, the passing of Grandma and the forming and knitting together of Elvie Kate are irrevocably connected–I will probably always think of one when I think of the other, I guess.
I had not intended to play any kind of music during my labor. I just never have–not in three natural births–I had considered it for this time around, but let it fall by the wayside as superfluous. I tend to just like things to be quiet–sitting still, not moving around, not a bunch of distractions.
But when my water was broken, I immediately felt a panic begin to rise. I am always convinced that every labor will finally be “the long one”, the one that lasts hours and hours, and it’s honestly really frightening. Combined with the fact that my platelets were too low for an epidural to be an option, I felt genuinely afraid that I would not be able to handle the pain for the amount of time the labor process could go on. I’ve never screamed, yelled or cried out during labor, and the possibility of not being able to control myself or keep myself collected and focused is something I find deeply unsettling.
(In hindsight, I probably went into transition the moment my water broke. Afterwards I remembered that I felt that same panicked feeling in the final moments before Anselm was born. I will try my best to remember that should we ever have a fifth child.)
As soon as I felt this panic, I asked Jeremy to pray, and then I turned on this song–for calm, for focus, but also for remembering, for reflection on the path that brought us here and the significance of the moment. All that morning I had been reflecting on the Spanish idiom for giving birth, dar a luz, which literally means “to give light”. And to lie there on the hospital bed, hearing the choir sing about blessed light while I am giving light…it was overwhelming.
There is something about the process of childbirth that is completely and totally transcendent. It’s difficult to explain, but in the moment, there is something that happens, and it’s like a veil between the physical and the spiritual is, for a moment, pulled aside.
We believe that the family is a mirror of the Trinity, and as we sat together in a recovery room the next day, Jeremy shared that during Elvie’s birth he felt sharply aware of the parallels: that we were united in purpose and volition, that our joint wills had brought about that moment, the pain of which would be totally overshadowed by the good that would come to fruition. That the second Person was the one that bore the pain of the process, submitting to it, knowing it was not suffered in vain. That the first Person was ever present, supporting, guiding, leading, but not partaking in the physical task. And there was a moment where we were present, together, but silent, all communication ceasing.
During my labor with Ephraim, Jeremy told me that it would be the closest I would get to enduring the pain Christ felt on the cross. I have never forgotten that. In the New Testament, Paul says to Timothy that women will be saved through childbearing, and while there are many opinions and arguments as to what exactly that means, there is something that happens each time I’m in that delivery room that is indescribable. I am doing a very poor job describing it at the moment, I feel.
That long labor I feared couldn’t have been further from what actually happened. Elvie Kathryn was born at 6:51 p.m., some forty-one minutes after my water broke and fifteen minutes after the sun set.
One song, two sets of photos taken in a hospital room, bookends to a nine-month process of redemption, death and life, sunrise, sunset.
Welcome, Elvie Kate. We’ve been waiting for you.