Approaching Labor and Delivery: What My Five-Year-Old Goddaughter Is Teaching Me About Redemptive Suffering

We heard sobering news about our young goddaughter, who suffers from a sub-functioning kidney and reflux issues.  She has been having severe pain attacks, agonizing pain that keeps her screaming for hours.  Our friends and the doctors thought it was passing kidney stones.  It’s not.  Further tests are needed.

blessed-virgin-mary-3Our goddaughter nearly died from complications following surgery when she was barely three.   But God, in His mercy, gave her a great gift: she experienced a powerful vision of the Blessed Mother during the second (emergency) surgery to save her life.   A month after her surgery she spontaneously told her mother, in her three-year-old way, about Mary holding her in her arms, reassuring her, when she was at the hospital.

Her story confirmed her parents’ own moment of miraculous grace.  They, along with the group of praying family and friends in the hospital lounge, smelled an overwhelming scent of roses wafting down the hospital hall during that emergency surgery.  (Click here to read their story.)

More than two years later, our goddaughter’s kidney story continues.   When she suffers, she suffers tremendously.  And yet what does she say to it?  Says her mom:

In the meantime, she sees this opportunity to suffer as a gift from God….Love that girl!

I love that girl, too.

And… she also puts this pregnant lady to shame.   I’ve been laboring on and off for about a week, and with the exception of praying for my grandfathers, both having been recently hospitalized, I’ve done little more than whine and wallow in selfish myopia.  When… is… this… stupid… pregnancy… going… to… end… I’m… tired… of… the… pre-labor… contractions… this… sucks… back… groin… intestinal… leg… acid-reflux… pain… (and so on).

Meanwhile, my five-year-old goddaughter, who technically hasn’t even reached the age of reason, lives deep in the heart of Christ’s redemptive suffering.  She gets it!  She understands it as gift!  She’s ready to see her suffering transformed, to be transformed by it, and to transform the world through it!

“Unless you become like little children…”

“And a child will lead them…”

Nothing quite like getting schooled by your pipsqueak goddaughter.  Who’s guiding who here, again?

Pregnancy comes with certain knowledge:  I will suffer.  I have grown heavy and slow.  I will contract.  I will endure pain.  The baby will come and there will be more pain as I recover and as I adjust again to nursing and nights of interrupted sleep.  My hormones will ricochet up and down. The baby will need me.  My three-year-old will want me.  My husband will be stretched thin and I will feel bad about the help I will not yet be able to offer.

These are givens.  This is what happens.

Let’s be honest:  Suffering sucks.  But it’s worth it.  Not just because of the gift of a child, as amazing as that is.   Suffering is worth it because Christ took our sufferings upon Himself and elevated it, changing it into something radically different.  Suffering becomes grace.  The source of healing.  Of holiness.  Of radical joy.  Of abundant life.

If we’re willing to stand our ground, resist fleeing, and embrace suffering out of love, our lives and the lives of others will be filled with the same abundance.  Any suffering united to Christ’s becomes His suffering.

(That’s not to say I think that people who get an epidural are somehow shirking in their Christian duty.  Whatever, people:  From beginning to end, parenting is chalk full of opportunities to unite to Christ on the cross.  I hate the stupid Mommy-Wars, mud-slinging, guilt-wrangling in Catholic/Christian circles over that one line of St. Paul’s about child bearing, mud which invariably whacks an undeserving someone. Let’s not lay undue burdens on each other, ‘kay?)

Friends of ours made a list of prayer intentions in preparation for labor with their eldest (and Katie had horrific back labor, so she had plenty to offer up).  We followed their example by making a list of our own when our time came with Ben.  As each contraction rose, I would offer it up for a particular person or intention, until the pain of labor became too great for me to think anything except, “PLEASE GOD I THINK THIS IS WHY PEOPLE GET PAIN MEDICATION PLEASE GOD PLEASE GOD PLEASE” (and then I transitioned and fell asleep on the bed for ten solid, blissfully unconscious minutes before the pushing began, amen, alleluia).

Though I can’t remember too terribly much of that night, I do know that the prayer intentions list was a great gift to myself as much as it was a spiritual gift to those on the list.  Thinking about others while hurting is what made my having a natural, non-medicated labor possible.  Thinking about others kept the focus off myself (a focus that, under normal circumstances, I maintain, oh, 99.99999999% of the time) and on the bigger picture.  Labor pains became a path of solidarity with others.

And that’s good for a soul.  You know?

Thanks to my goddaughter, I’m reminded that I want to make a list for this labor and delivery.

If she can offer up her suffering, then so can I.



Picture of the picture of our marriage being blessed by Blessed-soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II. Taken just four months before his death in April 2005.

Today, October 22, is the feast of Blessed John Paul II, that willing sufferer and joyous man of God,   Nothing could therefore be more appropriate than making my list of prayer intentions for labor and following.  Do you have a need for which you’d like prayer?  If so, leave a comment below -OR- email me privately at thenaptimenovelist “at” gmail “dot” com.

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6 thoughts on “Approaching Labor and Delivery: What My Five-Year-Old Goddaughter Is Teaching Me About Redemptive Suffering

  1. This is beautiful, Rhonda! And so true. When I wallow in the pain instead of actively “offering it up”, I’m so miserable. But if I can find some way to meaningfully think of others, the suffering isn’t as bad. It’s still suffering…but it’s suffering with meaning.

    I’m emailing you with some intentions. I’ve done this before during l & d and it’s so, so good. :) Thanks for praying.

    PS. I love that picture of you guys with JP II. You look so beautiful! You are a secondary relic. :) Isn’t that the term?


  2. Wow, your goddaughter sounds like an inspiration, and thank God that she is blessed with a faith that inspires. How many adults need a lesson from her…I know I do.
    Thinking of you and looking forward to seeing pix of your dear little girl (and secretly hoping she makes her appearance on her due date of Nov. 1st, which is my birthday!) Judging by my FB friends it seems as though there is a mini baby boom between the months of September and November!


    • Re: Baby boom – I know! And congrats on your new little bundle.o’joy, yourself!

      While my goddaughter is of course not “perfect” (I’ve seen her fight with her younger sister!), I’m convinced in my bones that she’s something special. You know what I mean? Sometimes I wonder what we did to be her godparents. :-)


  3. I will pray for your safe delivery and healthy baby. Epidurals are not for wimps! Thank for your story of your Goddaughter. I hope you feel Our Lady’s presence also.

    Chris, God’s Embrace, 2nd year, Muskegon


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