You know, when you ask the Lord what he wants to talk about, you never really know exactly what he’s going to say…this morning, for example, he brought up twilight sleep. He asked me to go read about it and then get back to him, so, coffee mug in hand, I read. Here is what I learned:
In the early 20th century, Carl Gauss developed a method called Dämmerschlaf, or “twilight sleep,” for laboring mothers . Moms-to-be were drugged into a semi-narcotic but conscious state, the idea being that they would have no post-delivery memory of labor pain. It was heralded as a “new era” for women, but the side effects left something to be desired.
For one thing, twilight sleep removed the woman from the experience of childbirth. True, she had no memory of the pain, but she also couldn’t actively participate in, or remember, the delivery itself. One Nebraskan woman is on record as saying, “The next thing I knew I was awake […] and then I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how long before I shall begin to have the baby,’ and while I was still wondering a nurse came in with a pillow, and on the pillow was a baby, and they said I had had it—perhaps I had—but I certainly can never prove it in a courtroom.”
In some cases, this memory deficit affected the normal mother-infant bonding process, leading to ongoing issues. In addition, the drugs used (a cocktail of morphine and scopolamine) affected the infants’ central nervous systems, which resulted in lethargic babies with poor breathing capacity. All in all, not a great way to start out…
“Okay, I’m back,” said I. “What are you wanting me to see?”
God: Talk to me about your own experience giving birth to M.
Me: Okaaaay. I went totally natural, had a waterbirth. I felt like a mama cat who just wanted to be left alone and let the process happen. I trusted that my body would do what it needed to. I was adamant about not having an epidural or meds because I wanted to experience the process from start to finish, and because I knew it would be healthier for me and the baby.
God: What else?
Me: It hurt. It was a lot of work. I thought I might die a few times. Hubby had to keep reminding me to breathe.
God: But you were fully present in the moment, yes? You remember when they laid your baby on your chest and you got to see him the first time?
Me: Yes, I remember clearly. I was astounded at how beautiful he was.
God: Okay, so, switching gears for a minute. You’re not really one for the journey, are you?
Me: Ummm…I like road trips a lot. When I get to plan them.
God: Right, when you’re in charge. But you aren’t too fond of not knowing what’s going to happen next, are you? You’ve been learning this about yourself recently.
God: So let me talk to you about birthing a dream.
Me (starting to see where this was going): Okay.
God: What if you had been in twilight sleep while in labor with your son? You wouldn’t have memories of pain, but you wouldn’t have been able to be a part of the process. But since you were awake and aware, you got to experience it all. And you knew him the second you saw him. Now, just like your midwife knew the natural progression of birth, I know the process for birthing a dream. I don’t want you in twilight sleep as this thing unfolds. I want you to be fully present. I need you to trust me, trust that I’m monitoring your vital signs, trust that I know when to tell you to relax and when to push. I promise you that there’s a connection between the memories of the pain and the value of the dream when it comes true. And also? Dreams are healthier, fuller, when we co-labor.
Me: Okay, so all this recent frustration and not knowing what in the world is going on…what’s all that about?
God: That’s because you should be relaxing, and instead, you’re trying to push. Timing is everything, daughter o’ mine. Let me do my part so you can do yours. I’ll let you know when to push.
God is right, of course. Right now is a time that I am fully aware of a dream on the horizon, and I am completely unable to MAKE it happen sooner. This has caused me no shortage of grief as I learn to trust his process, trust him even more. I’ve spent a lot of time yelling and pushing, when what I needed to be doing was saving my strength for when it’s time. And there are always, ALWAYS clear signs of when it’s time…which I would miss if I were in Dämmerschlaf.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go rest.