I don’t usually yell at my husband. I’m not a yeller. But in this instance, I was screaming my head off just inches from his ear.
“WHY IS NO ONE HELPING ME? I NEED SOME HELP!”
Daryl patted my arm and looked around in dismay.
“It’s transition,” mouthed one of the nurses. “This is totally normal.”
I’m one of those crunchy-hippie-granola folks who willingly chooses natural birth. It’s funny because I’m not that much of a hippie in real life. I wear black pencil skirts to work and I eat way more Skittles than granola.
But birth I do the natural way.
It’s intense as all-get-out, but when I go to the same mental place I do when I run long distances, I can manage it. I can’t think about every footfall or agonize over the miles yet ahead or I’ll never make it. But if I just take one step, one yard, one contraction at a time, let it pass, and then tackle the next one, I find a way through.
I’m no hero—I have relatively quick, straightforward labors, and I’m 103% sure if labor went long I’d beg for an epidural.
Yet even with an easy natural birth, there’s this pivotal point when most women stop feeling at all like themselves and start behaving like wild, cornered animals.
It’s called transition.
Transition is the worst pain ever. Evereverevereverever. I walked on a broken ankle for three months in high school. I’m not a wimp. But transition? Yeah. It’s serious.
I have usually silent friends who’ve admitted to screaming through transition; incredibly modest friends who’ve told me they ripped off every stitch of clothing. I usually pride myself on my self-control, but during transition with my firstborn, I alternated between growling, yelling “NO ONE IS HELPING ME!” at everyone within earshot (all of whom were helping me), and praying loud, charismatic prayers to Jesus at the top of my lungs. I’m not charismatic.
With my second birth, my husband could tell by the changes in my demeanor that I was entering transition. Unlike the first time, it didn’t worry, confuse, or scare him, but he definitely knew to get his ears well out of the way of my vocal chords.
“It’s super intense,” he said afterward, “but at least I recognized it. You just let your body and Jesus take over.” Pretty much.
Birth transitions are raw, visceral examples of every other kind of transition we face. Some are big and some are small, but none are easy. They’re rarely pretty. They often involve some pain, some yelling, and some gnashing of teeth. When you’re in a transition you may look, to people on the outside, like you’re losing your ever-living mind, when in reality, you’re just doing your best to push through to the other side.
My husband and I bought a house this year. Our first. Like the births of both of our children, it was a joyful, sweet, incredibly good event. We anticipated it for years and planned it for months. Yet it was still a transition, and like any other, it was hard.
For years we saved. For months we searched. For weeks we packed. No one could find their favorite books or toys or pairs of jeans. We ate In n’ Out burger more than was healthy for any humans, and at one point we owned four can openers because we kept having to buy more.
As the moving date drew near we all got snappish and inwardly focused and exhausted. And when the final days came—cleaning our old condo at odd hours of the night, packing the last of what seemed like a thousand boxes—we prayed a lot of fervent and exhausted prayers.
In the worst moments of my births, I stopped yelling and began to whisper, “Help me, Jesus. Help me, help me, help me.” (tweet this)
In the worst moments of this move, of each new job, of each new school year, of each of the transitions life has thrown my way, I’ve done the same.
Anne Lamott writes in Traveling Mercies that her two favorite prayers are “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Transition is hard. If you’re in one right now, you know what I mean. Even good transitions bring a weight, an ache, a season of deep and abiding fatigue.
But on the other side of each transition, life is made new. Jesus walks with us through the pain and waits for us on the other side making a way, a path, a road through the wilderness.
Much of my life is built on logic and reason, the study of Scripture, theology, and the ways of God throughout history.
But in the throes of transition, it is not my intellect that carries me. It is the grace and love of the God who knows suffering and promises to walk with us through the fire. (tweet this)
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Courtney Ellis is an author, speaker, and pastor in California. She’s mom to two small boys and wife to one tall man, and when she’s not at church or parked in front of her keyboard, she’s running the trails, listening to Christmas music during inappropriate seasons, or seeking out new sugary treats. She blogs about faith, parenthood, and ministry and offers free weekly 10-Minute-Devotionals at www.courtneybellis.com.
Bridging Transitions – Part One by Andrea Stunz
Bridging Transitions – Part Two by Dana Herndon