We Can’t Meme Our Way Through the Roe v. Wade Debate

Hi. Hello. So, here we are again. We’re in a moment here in the U.S. Another moment of things being exposed, shaken, upended. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard the news that the Supreme Court of the U.S. allegedly sits poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and rescind a federally protected, constitutional right to abortion.

And of course, as we should expect, the internet is on fire. Because, honestly, when is it not?

There’s much to be said, but I’ve seen a few arguments, statements and narratives floating around that I believe are unfair comparisons, logical fallacies, and just plain false. I’d like to address them, and take a deeper look.

I’ll come right out and state that I am openly pro-life, and under that large umbrella of life issues, I am anti-abortion. Burn me at the stake if you will, but I ask that you would just entertain my thought process and a few of my questions for a bit. I still am holding out hope for our society that we can civilly disagree instead of wage civil war, that we can dialogue instead of demonize, and that viewpoints can change when presented with new information.

Before we dive in, a few disclaimers: this blog does not address every aspect of the abortion debate. This blog is not about anecdotal stories of women in complex situations regarding abortion. My goal is not to disregard the complexities of life and unplanned pregnancy for many many women, including women of color. My goal is instead to shed deeper light on the truth behind some of the slogans and catch-phrases we are seeing shaping the cultural narrative at present. If you are a post-abortive woman, my goal is not to demonize or shame you. But I believe women are strong enough to handle this conversation.

So, here we go.

You may have heard…

…That instead of banning abortion we should have legally required paid maternity leave.

First of all, we should have paid parental leave–and guess what? The majority of American’s agree. The BBC reported that 82% of American’s are in support of paid parental leave. Turns out that this is one of few bipartisan issues that most of us actually agree on. So, for what its worth, memes and infographics equating those who support limiting or banning abortions with those who would deny women paid maternal leave is a false dilemma–that’s a logical fallacy intentionally designed to create a divided, polarized audience.

Interestingly, paid maternity leave is not a one-for-one indicator for a reduction in abortion. While it is true that a general increase in social welfare programs and support does correlate with a decrease in the rate of abortion, many European nations that have better–if not excellent–paid parental leave programs also maintain abortion rates similar to the United States. France, for example, which legally requires 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, has in recent years had a higher abortion rate than the U.S. I will add that France also offers free contraception to women under 25, as well as government-funded early child care and education.

Take it or leave it, but this line of thought doesn’t hold true when faced with the statistics–even domestic statistics in U.S. States where paid parental leave is legally required. A lack of paid parental leave is a problem, but it is not a logical or scientific reason to protect or promote the right to abortion.

…That abortion restriction or criminalization is about men controlling women’s bodies.

The argument here is that women should have bodily autonomy; men shouldn’t be trying to control women’s bodies. And I absolutely agree. Every human being should be constitutionally protected from physical violation or forced medical procedures, etc. Bodily autonomy is a human right.

The problem with this arguement is that abortion is not a procedure solely done to a woman’s body. While you may disagree on principle, scientifically speaking the fetus (from conception) has a unique set of human DNA, making a separate and unique (though newly formed, and dependent) body from the mother. Bodily autonomy involves decisions and control over one’s own body, and simply put, there are two uniquely different bodies involved in abortion. Those bodies may not be the same in development, ability, viability, etc, but it is scientifically false and just oversimplistic to reduce the abortion discussion to bodily autonomy. And while men currently poll as more conservative on abortion, it is logically distracting (hello, Red Herring) and socially divisive to pit the genders against one another.

…That banning abortion is based on religious beliefs, and we should keep religion out of politics.

Welp, I will come right out and say it: keeping religion out of politics is actually impossible. Hang with me for a minute. Today, when we say let’s keep religion out of politics, we’re giving the proverbial nod to the idea of separation of Church and State. While most of us would say we support the separation of Church and State, we don’t actually know or understand what that means. The concept (in the Bill of Rights) actually refers to keeping the government from interfering with religion, not to keeping religiously informed ethics or morals out of lawmaking. In other words, our country is founded on a principle that religious freedom and diversity is a protected right–I think we can all agree this is a good thing. No lawmaker or official can make you go to church, mosque or temple, nor can they keep you from it.

The reality is that we all hold a belief system, a worldview if you will–a way of interpreting and understanding what we see around us, what holds meaning and value, and what determines right from wrong, or if right and wrong even exist. While it is possible to form laws and policies that do not explicitly draw from or endorse formal religious beliefs, it is foolish to think that our belief systems don’t impact how we vote, and therefore how lawmakers legislate.

If we wanted to keep religion out of politics, we have to deal with the fact that many of the social justice movements of the last 150 years found their roots in Judeo-Christian principles and practices. From the abolition of slavery, to the children’s rights movements, to women’s rights and suffrage, you will find appeals to moral and ethical ideas derived from religious belief systems. While heinous acts have been committed and permitted in the name of religion, it has also fueled reform in nearly ever aspect of society. The abortion debate is and will be no different.

…That you can only ban safe abortions, so we should keep it legal to keep it safe.

This is a half-truth. Yes, keeping abortion legal means that we can legally regulate it, make sure its done by qualified professionals, in sterile environments, etc. But, here’s the half-lie: abortion is a medical procedure that can be induced medically or surgically. While there are many factors that go into its safety for the pregnant person, the reality is that there are always risks to any medication or surgical procedure. Currently, there is no federal provision for states to report to the CDC on abortion–which means that national abortion statistics are estimates, and that negative side effects, or complications are not required to be reported to the federal level. In other words, federally we protect a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, but we do not federally protect her right to a complete picture of the risks.

In 2019, about 57% of abortions were surgical, utilizing a procedure known as Dilation & Curettage, suctioning out the fetus from the uterus, or removing it with forceps and other instruments. This comes with risks of bleeding, infection, and damage to the uterus and pelvic region–while the majority of abortions are performed without major complications, it is a false assumption to equate legality to safety. It is legal to smoke cigarettes, but it is not without health risks.

Statistics that point to women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions are alarming and do need to be grappled with, but all of these statistics assume a lack of personhood and convey zero rights to the human fetus that is terminated.

…That access to abortion is a women’s rights issue.

First, I’ve seen some tweets and memes that go as far as comparing abortion bans and restrictions to Sharia law–I think we can all agree that this is entirely unfair to both practicing Muslims and deeply disrespectful to women living under actually oppressive enactments of Sharia law. I have personally met women’s rights activists who have been thrown out of Middle Eastern countries and have a price on their head because they dared to pursue education for girls past the eighth-grade level. The U.S. is not Saudi Arabia or Iran in the 80’s and 90’s, and if Roe is overturned, it would be good for us to remember that women in this country are still afforded all the same legal rights and social privileges as men.

Is there work to be done for women’s rights? Yes. Is there a gender pay gap in the U.S.? Yes. Are many industries dominated by good ol’ boy clubs? Yes. But will I be stoned for walking down the street in a tank top to take classes for my Master’s Degree? No. No, I won’t. And that’s the kind of stuff that can happen under certain applications of Sharia law. Abortion, of course, uniquely involves women and so is a women’s issue. But if Roe is overturned, this will simply place the abortion regulation back into the hands of the states–it does not mean that abortion will automatically become illegal throughout the United States.

My beef with abortion being framed as a women’s rights issue is that abortion is a huge ethical and moral question that scientifically involves more than just the woman. Like it or not, it ultimately comes down to the question of when a human person’s rights begin. Roe ruled that a woman’s right to abortion superseded the right of a human fetus up until the point of viability (now somewhere around 23 weeks), after which it was in the States’ hands to regulate.

If you are pro-choice and wish to remain so, and wish to protect access to abortion, then you must accept that you believe it is morally and ethically acceptable for a person to choose to end a unique human life. But you cannot simply frame this as a women’s rights issue. Because it is more than that.

….That Pro-life people should care about black lives, LGBTQ lives, immigrant lives, indigenous lives, imprisoned lives, health care, etc.

Yes. We. Should.

I’m thankful for the clarion call to care about all of life. I believe deep in my bones that fighting for racial equality is holy work. I believe that the hungry should be fed, prison should be reformed, and so much more. And I believe the conservative Christian world has not done good enough in many of these arenas. But I want to echo this call to a consistent life ethic right back. The fact that we should work for more just laws regarding these issues and people groups, does not mean that we shouldn’t also pursue just laws regarding the life of the preborn. Human lives matter.

At the end of the day, I am asking for a bit more honesty in this discussion. This blog barely scratches the surface of some of the factors that go into the abortion debate. But I’m asking a generation to base their morals and their politics on more than memes and Instagram posts, to dive deeper and ask why they believe what they believe about abortion, and if it really holds true. It is okay to change your mind when presented with new information. It is okay to differ from your political party on certain issues. Our today does affect our tomorrow. We are being fed soundbytes that divide, and if we don’t do the work of really wading through this stuff, there are serious implications.

Motherhood

Motherhood. It is unlike any journey I’ve been on. Unlike any position, responsibility or relationship I’ve invested in. It’s the most crushing and the most rewarding. And—I think it really matters in God’s value system.

While “Go, Dog, Go!” plays in the background, a tiny person wiggles beside me and I am turning over in my mind the mothers of Scripture. I think of Eve, called the mother of all living—not the queen of earth or the wife of Adam or the cause of the fall, but the mother of all living. I think of Sara—barren and cynical, whose journey to motherhood contained the promise of God for the nations. I think of Hagar—a mother of human striving, met by and cared for by God in her desperation. I think of Rachel and Leah, who found motherhood their status and ranking, yet were blessed by God with the desires of their heart and whose children saved and raised and governed nations. I think of Hannah, whose travail and longing was mocked by man but brought forth a son who carried the word of the Lord for a people lost and wandering from their purpose. I think of Elizabeth, who defied cultural tradition to honor the identity the Lord had given her son, by naming him John. I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose womb not only carried the Savior of the world but whose heart saw and knew the greatness in her child.

In a time and culture where there was no “women’s movement” or “Mother’s Day” traditions, God saw fit to remember these mothers, to entrust and accomplish the promises and purposes of God for all the earth through them and to cover their weaknesses and unbelief. They weren’t goddesses—their failures and striving and misplaced identities scream throughout these ancient pages. But they were chosen, honored, remembered and used by God in their motherhood for purposes of global proportion. They faltered in their faith at times, led nations, worshipped, cried, nursed babies, fought with each other and their husbands, knew loss and longing, and were absolutely not a side note in the story of God.

So, mama—and mamas yet to be—this is your lineage and your calling. It’s not glamorous—there are way too many bodily fluids involved in motherhood to call it that. But it is eternally significant. More that we know. It’s not to be idolized or resented. It’s not to despised or worshipped. It is to be carried out to the full—even in your unique weaknesses. Even there, you image God to the world and you reveal the mother-heart of God. And that’s not just some American hallmark commercialism, it’s truth.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The Spiritual Diet of a Generation

It’s December.

I finally feel justified in my cozy sweatshirts, endless hot beverages and constant barrage of Christmas tunes I’ve been running since early November.

But it’s also a time of year that I try to seriously zero in on Old Testament promises about Christ. This blog however, isn’t about Old Testament prophecies.

It’s about Instagram.

Not really, but kind of.

My study of OT Messianic promises always lands me in Isaiah. I joked with my husband the other day that Isaiah is actually a gospel. Isaiah seems to talk about Jesus and his kingdom almost as much as the four gospels in the New Testament do. And it’s beautiful.

But I was struck recently by part of Isaiah 8. The book of Isaiah is a prophetic book–meaning it is written to God’s people or to nations to communicate the heart and mind of God. Isaiah is specially written to Judah, who was facing several external threats to their safety and security. Imagine if literal physical enemies were encroaching on your land, and you knew your strength and numbers paled in comparison to theirs. Well, because of Judah’s idolatry and injustice (which always always always go together in Scripture and human history), this was the situation into which the prophet Isaiah spoke. Frantically, the people of God turned to every possible human resource they could think of–making agreements with other nations, magic, prayer to idols, and inquiring of pagan holy men. Yet in the midst of this, God was calling His people to find their source in Him–exclusively.

Isaiah 8:19-20 says, “When [the people] say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony!”

And this is the point at which I thought of Instagram.

Stay with me.

When you zoom out on this passage and look at the context of Isaiah, God is actually slamming his people for their reliance on cheap imitations of relationship with Him. For their dependance on quick, human-centered substitutions for Divine wisdom and revelation. For their idolatrous hope in false sources of strength and protection.

I couldn’t help but think of how so many of us–myself included–find these cheap imitations, these human sources of strength and wisdom, and idolatrous hope in our use of the Internet and social media. Notice, that the problem is our use–and not these things as they exist.

How many of us have substituted time in prayer for a quick scroll through a Christian IG account or blog?

Following a prayer account is not the same thing as having a prayer life. Pretty script is not the same thing as Scripture. Wading through the Christian blogosphere is not the same thing as dialing down and meditating on the Word yourself or actually studying the Bible with brothers and sisters. Prophetic words on a Facebook status does not a prophet make. And as exciting as Christian conversations on Twitter or Facebook may be, conversation is not the same thing as conversion.

These things are not bad in and of themselves but they cannot be the spiritual diet of a generation.

Here’s the deal: like the nation of Judah, we have our own ways of drinking from broken cisterns, looking to dumb idols, sipping on shallow spirituality, and drawing from empty wells.

There’s a simple solution: draw from the right Source. The real Source. The only Source. There is actually a feast prepared for us, and there is actually good wine poured, if we would simply turn. The teaching and the testimony are there. The Word and the Spirit and the family of God. The very person of Jesus, the very heart of the Father.

We have access. If we want it.

ICYMI: No Matter What’s Up With Wayfair, Here’s What You Need to Know About Child Trafficking

In case you missed it, the multi-million dollar online home furnishing site, Wayfair was accused over the weekend of human trafficking. Stemming from a suspicion posted on Reddit, internet users and conspiracy theorists far and wide quickly began linking overpriced utility cabinets and pillows to missing children. Combined with Wayfair’s business connections to ICE and Gislaine Maxwell’s past rapport with certain stakeholders, there is cause for suspicion. But regardless of these allegations, human trafficking is a much more widespread and “ordinary” evil than you might imagine. In may people’s minds, human trafficking conjures up scenes from the movie Taken, or images of foreign children in cages arriving in shipping containers on the coast. Rather than focusing on high level organized crime or one very public and powerful possible perpetrator, I’d like to draw attention to some facts about human trafficking. This knowledge can empower us to spot and interrupt trafficking in our own communities. 

First, human trafficking in the United States is not limited to organized crime or to any political party. While conservative news stories seem to be focused on Wayfair’s possible connection to “elite” members of the Left, it is imperative that we understand trafficking is happening at every level of society, irregardless of political or religious affiliations. While organized crime is absolutely real, many trafficking cases simply begin with the vulnerability of an ordinary American child.

So, what makes a child in the U.S. vulnerable? Research presents several factors. First, children trafficked for sexual exploitation usually enter “the trade” between the ages of 11-16 years old. By and large, it is adolescent girls who are the target of traffickers, although there is a reported rise in demand for boys as well. This age span is important information because this also when young people are being given greater and greater levels of independence and autonomy, they are searching for belonging, affirmation and identity, and developing sexually. And traffickers know this.

After age and gender, the highest indicator for vulnerability to being trafficked is homelessness, running away from home and past abuse. Current estimates state that an adolescent who runs away from home will be approached for sex within 48 hours of being on the streets. Often coinciding with running away from home is a history of being sexually abused. Research over the past four decades has consistently found that children and adults who are being trafficked for sex almost always have been sexually abused from a young age. Kids being abused often want to escape their circumstances, but when they run away from home they are almost immediately preyed upon by traffickers and pimps who know that these kids have already been victimized. 

Another huge factor in the United States is race and ethnicity. In the midst of national discourse on racial injustice and disparities, it is key that we understand that human trafficking disproportionately affects girls and women of color. This is important, because once again we find ourselves wanting to solve a social ill that has often been white-washed. While trafficking can affect and happen to anyone, of any age, gender, race, or religion, it is typically perpetrated against girls and women of color simply because of the effects of systemic racism. Economic disadvantage puts any young person at a greater risk for being trafficked, and we know that this is one of the effects of historic racism in the United States. Racism also limits educational and career options for black girls and women, further increasing their vulnerability to being preyed on by traffickers. 

So let me paint a picture. There’s a young girl in your church’s youth group. You know she lives only with her mom, who has a substance abuse problem. This girl stands out because she’s not as well-off as the rest of your youth group, you know she’s getting into trouble or struggling at school, and you can tell that with her current life trajectory, she has few viable options for pursuing a career and seeing her financial needs met. Traffickers see all of this vulnerability and they see a target. They see prey. 

But traffickers don’t step in and introduce themselves as pimps. After vulnerability, the most important thing you need to know about trafficking is how it happens. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t usually happen through abduction. Let me repeat, the movie Taken is not an accurate picture of most instances of human trafficking. Trafficking in the U.S. often happens through what is called “Romeo” or “boyfriend” pimping. Romeo or boyfriend pimping is a process by which young girls are befriended and groomed for sexual exploitation. This is usually a gradual process of gaining a young girl’s trust, entangling her in secretive or even criminal activity, and then gradually increasing the level of manipulation, coercion and threats needed to force her into full-on prostitution. It begins with special attention, small gifts, compliments, games of truth or dare, secret cell-phones, and sexting and morphs into manipulation and control that make young women feel trapped and powerless in getting out of a dangerous relationship. There are other ways that girls and women are slowly lured and coerced into the sex trade, but that’s for another post

So let’s revisit our young girl in the youth group. With all her vulnerabilities, she’s caught the eye of an extended family member who is involved with some low-level crime. He bargains with her addicted parent to get some alone time with her, and over a few months, he gains her trust, makes her feel special and valuable, and before you know it, she feels like she can’t say “no” when he asks for sexual favors first for himself and then for his “friends.” He’s making money while her life is being destroyed. For a short while, you notice a change in attitude and maybe dress. Maybe she suddenly has cash to throw around. Maybe she’s become difficult and withdrawn. Or maybe she’s become overtly sexually forward with kids in the youth group, and now she’s a “problem.” Before you know it, she’s stopped showing up for youth group–one of her few life-lines. And you never see her again. This is trafficking and it happens every day in our own backyards

Why do you need to know all this information? You need to know this, because you need to learn to look out for the youth in your community, church, classroom or neighborhood who are potentially vulnerable to being trafficked. Stopping human trafficking doesn’t happen through hashtags and emotional instagram posts, it happens through living with your eyes wide open to the kids, families and situations right around you. It happens through learning the signs, the process and the prevalence. It happens through loving and caring about your community. It happens through sacrificially giving to organizations like International Justice Mission and Exodus Cry, who are fighting day and night for victims. And it happens through fighting for your church or your place of employment to get educated on the signs of trafficking and create policies on how to report and handle it. If you suspect trafficking for sexual exploitation in your community, contact the National Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 as well as local authorities in your area.


Author’s Note: This short piece is a compilation and short expansion on information I shared via social media. This information pertains to child trafficking for sexual exploitation in the United States.  This is not a global picture of trafficking, by any means.


SOURCES

  1. A National Overview of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Efforts, Final Report. By Michael Shively, Ph.D., Kristina Kliorys, Kristin Wheeler, Dana Hunt, Ph.D. 2012. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/238796.pdf
  2. Farley, Melissa. Prostitution: An Extreme Form of Girls’ Sexualization. Oxford University Press. P. 169. https://prostitutionresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Sexualization-of-GirlsProstitution2013.pdf
  3. U.S. Department of Justice. Special Report: Characteristics of Human Trafficking Incidents. April 2011. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cshti0810.pdf
  4. Vednita Nelson, “Prostitution: Where Racism & Sexism Intersect,” 1 MICH. J. GENDER & L. 81 (1993). Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjgl/vol1/iss1/6
  5. “Facts You Didn’t Know About Human Trafficking.” Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC. 2018. https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/news/7-facts-you-didnt-know-about-human-trafficking%3Futm_source%3Dtest

Panic & Perspective: What the poor teach us about responding to #Covid19

When I was 20 years old, I spent time in Haiti after the massive earthquake of 2010. The destruction to the bustling, densely populated city of Port-au-Prince was immense, and you could feel in the air the absence of tens of thousands of lives. It felt like their souls hung in the air, frozen by the abruptness of their exit. I watched families fill water jugs with dirty water from broken gutters, and US and foreign aid sold on the streets at blackmarket rates. And I looked out and walked through so many rows of tents. You don’t know what a million people in tents looks like until you see it.

In my first twenty-four hours, our car of two Americans and two Haitians was ambushed by a motorcycle gang. They bashed in the front of our window as I looked behind us to see that we were surrounded. I screamed to our driver to “Just drive!” Even though he couldn’t open his eyes because shards of glass were littered across his face. In an uncanny moment of the miraculous, we floored it to the end of the road just as a UN patrol turned onto the street and our attackers fled.

In shock and confusion, we found ourselves recounting what happened at a UN station shortly thereafter. The officers informed us that just hours earlier, an American had been shot right on that road, and that we most likely were followed from the airport, targeted for the possibility of stealing gear and holding us for ransom.

That night, staying at a local Haitian friend’s home, I experienced real PTSD for the first time. Flashbacks I couldn’t control. Trying to sleep but my senses highjacked by hyper-vigilance. And all I could think of was the American who had been shot hours prior.

Life is short.

When I came home a month later, I printed this photo of part of our windshield and pinned it on my wall. Life is short. I don’t want to forget it.

I say all this, now, in the midst of the West’s crisis mode, to perhaps remind us that the fragility, and intensity we feel right now might be good to carry with us for all of our days. #covid_19 or not, none of us are guaranteed anything about tomorrow, except that God is good, that his love is enduring, his mercies new every morning, his leadership is perfect, and his justice is unwavering.

But I also say this, not to dismiss any fears and anxieties, but to bring a small amount of perspective. For many folks, lack and not enough and no toilet paper are actually a way of life. If it freaks you out, middle-class America, then you are wildly out of touch with how hundreds of millions of people around the world experience life. And these people who live on in the face of extreme poverty, often do so with a striking resilience and selflessness. In the villages of the poor, in the gates yards of overcrowded and unhygienic children’s homes, I have seen joy and hospitality and spirit of generosity that would shame the pretentious giving campaigns of the privileged.

So, I challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to walk through this moment in confidence, resilience, calm and generosity. Not hoarding for yourselves, but extending and offering. If we never give God the chance to meet our needs, how would we ever see Heavenly provision? Who knows what miracles of multiplication await us?

Keep perspective and refuse panic. Live from Promise. Life is short. But it always has been. Trust Your Maker. He is a way maker and a miracle worker as so many of us have been singing. In moments like these, you get to sing with your life.

B I R T H S T O R Y

I’ll take nothing for granted.

It’s November now, the month of Thanksgiving and my little human is almost 2 months old. It hasn’t been easy, and his birth wasn’t easy, but words aren’t quite adequate to express how sacred it is. How fragile and precious and profound it is–to bring him into this world and to care for him now. I know so many people who struggle to become pregnant, lose their babies, or end up having to grieve a loss upon the day of their child’s birth. I know women and their babies die in childbirth around the world. I know that nothing is ever guaranteed except God’s faithfulness. So I won’t take any of this for granted. I am in awe and I am so thankful. Here’s the story of Emerson Wilde’s entrance into this world.


When I found out we were pregnant back in December, I began to devour birth stories online. I found such comfort, hope, and inspiration as I read stories of what women could survive, how they succeeded, how they bent and surrendered to changes and the unplanned. So here’s mine. It’s a bit stream of consciousness, because it’s how I remember my thoughts and my emotions.

I chose to pursue an all-natural labor, and being almost two weeks late, I didn’t care how difficult labor would be–I wanted this baby out.

September 8th.

It was 1 am. I was awake. Because who can sleep when they are nearly 42 weeks pregnant? I felt a gush. “I think my water just broke.” I was afraid to believe it because I had been faked out by prodromal labor for weeks. But this time it was real.  I had prayed that my water would break so that I would know it was really labor. Weeks of consistent contractions had worn me out, and I had all but resigned myself to being induced. I went to the bathroom to assess. It was really happening.

Contractions started out about 3-3 & 1/2 minutes apart and a minute long always. They were intensifying but I did my best to rest on the couch. My husband napped in the same room just in case I needed him. By 4 am, things were strong, 1-2 minutes apart, so close together, and I burst into tears as I started to feel the urge to push. I almost felt panicky.

I will never forget my husband putting his hands on my shoulders, rubbing my arms, embracing my whole body as I was doubled over on my knees, and in the most calming but strong voice telling me it would be okay.

We headed into the birthing center as dawn was peaking its eyes open. I couldn’t talk or move through contractions anymore and I was overwhelmed with the pushy feeling I was having. “I don’t want to have this baby in the car!” I cried. 

Josh drove like mad.

All for us to be sent back home because I was barely dilated. 

My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t dilate. That was what happened when my mom gave birth to me. 

How could these contractions be so close and so strong and I still have so far to go?

At home, I got in the shower with the yoga ball. I breathed and rocked and prayed. I tried to trust my body and surrender to the process.

It didn’t take long at home for things to ramp up even more and at 8 am I knew we needed to go back. I was at a 5, my hands were numb and stiff and my legs were shaking uncontrollably. Hormones. They really are in charge.  My midwife got me into a room and into the tub. The tub was heaven.

I almost feel like from this point on, I was only partly conscious. There’s this place inside that a woman can go to get through things, and I just lived there through each contraction. I squeezed my husband’s hands so hard. I vomited. I bit towels. I breathed. I groaned. I growled. I prayed. I doubted. I believed.

By noon, we were dilated and ready to push. I couldn’t believe I made it through transition. I was so encouraged. I was so ready to meet my son. It was go time. 

I wrapped my arms around my husband’s neck and he held me in the shower as I squatted and swayed and pushed when my body said to push. 

And I pushed.

And I pushed.

And I pushed.

I pushed on the toilet. On the bed. On my side. In a squat. On hands and knees. Back in the tub. 

The baby wasn’t coming.

After 3 pm the midwives checked me again and said part of my cervix was interfering and that they needed me to stop pushing so I didn’t damage anything. 

It’s very hard to not push when your body wants to push. Groaning and crying—I had to let the force out somehow. 

“You’re doing so good, Hannah.” I heard from every midwife, nurse, my husband and my mom. 

But where was my baby? 

They decided to manually slip part of my cervix over the baby’s head. I won’t describe that to you. I breathed through everything. 

After a little more time in the tub we were ready to push again. 

So we did. 

I could feel Emerson hitting my pelvis again and again but not making any progress.

5 pm. Another check. My second biggest fear. Posterior baby. They tried to manually turn him but he kept slipping back to posterior.

“He’s sunny side up and can’t get under your pubic bone. You’re going to have to push on your back so he can try to get under.” Pushing on my back was the one position I didn’t want to push in.

So we pushed. And pushed.

Meconium in the amniotic fluid now. 

But baby’s heart beat was still strong.

We needed to take a break to see if baby could flip on his own. Nitrous oxide helped me fight the urge to push as I lay in certain positions to encourage him to move.

I was so tired and so confused. And I cried. Why wasn’t he coming? How long could I keep going? 

7:00 pm. The meconium was getting thicker and we were approaching 24 hours from my water breaking. The midwives suggested moving upstairs to L & D in case the baby needed anything. I wasn’t disappointed, because I wanted the best for Emerson. It wasn’t about my birth plan or birth place, it was about the person I was going to birth. 

Upstairs. New nurses and L & D team plus my midwives. Baby’s heartbeat on the speaker. More pushing. More positions. More trying. 

And then bearing down on my knees, I felt fire and pain spread through the left side of my back and I started vomiting uncontrollably.

“I can’t. I can’t push anymore. My back. Something just happened.” I said. I was so shocked by the pain in my back.

8:30 pm. My midwife suggested an epidural, and more repositioning attempts. I looked at my husband and we both shared our disappointments and concerns with our eyes. This wasn’t in the plan. But I had given my everything. My EVERYTHING. We knew we needed to get this baby out soon. The epidural was administered quickly and the pain in my back eased so I could breath again. I could still feel my contractions and move my legs but I wasn’t in pain. I waited in different positions and different midwives tried flipping him again. 

9:30 pm. We pushed again. Nurses, my husband, my mom, and I took turns holding back my legs and I gave it all the rest that I had. Every fiber of me tried to make way for him. My pelvis was so sore from the pushing—even with the epidural.

Still no baby. 

I wondered when they would call it. Were they waiting for me to call it? 

I was quieter through out my whole labor than I thought I would be. I was just laboring. I was in it, you know? 

The OB doctor came in and assessed the situation and gave us two options: a vacuum extraction or a C-section. A part of my heart sank as I hated both options. But the other part of my heart knew this baby needed to be born, and clearly needed help. 

At some point I asked, “Am I doing something wrong? Am I not pushing good enough?”

No, he was just stuck. My body was doing its best. And it needed help. I generally hate needing help.

I talked with my husband, my mom, and the head midwife. We chose the vacuum. A flurry of people came in. Josh held my right hand and I could see his nerves. He kept it together for me.

 After 3 contractions, 3 pushes with everything I had left each time, my baby came bursting out, sunny side up, screaming to high heavens and was plopped onto my chest and into my shaking hands in all of his beautiful baby slime. “Hi baby! Hi!”

11:35 pm. Here he was. Here he was. Here was his face. And his back and feet and hands and his little butt.

Josh cut the cord and blood splattered across his face. We looked at each other in tears and smiles. 

Here he was. Strong as an ox. And big as one too. No wonder he couldn’t quite fit without help.

Skin to skin. First latch. I was amazed. How could he do that already? Skin to skin with dad. My husband looked so beautiful holding our son. Why did he look so different now? Weight and fingerprints and swaddled. 9 lbs, 5 oz. 21 1/2 inches long. I kept my mind and heart with my baby  while the doctor worked on the lower half of me. 3rd degree. Recovery would take a while. Fevers for baby and me. Antibiotics. We would be fine. My parents came in. They rejoiced. We rejoiced. He was finally here.

Recovery room. It was finally just us. My child was finally earthside. We were so stunned. So in love. 

Josh wanted to nickname him Sunny from the time we had chosen Emerson. He was born Sunny Side Up. Emerson “Sunny” Wilde living up to his name from birth. We are so honored to have you. And I will never take you for granted. 6CA2296B-2AE5-4346-A8B7-D911A4DD9117.jpg


A huge thank you to my husband, my mom, my Mercy midwives–Marsha, Elizabeth and Claire, the OB doc, and the incredible amount of nurses who assisted throughout the labor.

5 Things I’d Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

1. Less Is More 

When I was 20, I felt the frantic urge to do everything. I lived with a giant YES to everything—all the time. I led worship four nights a week, served the homeless, took classes full-time, worked part-time, traveled every chance I could, and said yes to every freaking social event that came my way. I don’t regret the passion with which I lived, but I wish I knew that life isn’t about doing everything. I also wish I knew that doing everything does not instill more significance into life. 

In my doing of everything, I missed vital moments of connection and care for my friends. I missed moments of their lives and failed to see what was going on with them. I did a lot of things half-heartedly, or frantically, instead of with meaning and presence. I wish I knew to slow down and see the people and situations right in front of me.

Proverbs 15:17 (ESV)–Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

2. You’re Not Invincible

Looking back, I see now that I took poor care of myself in many aspects. And I thought I could get away with it. From junk food, to over-caffeination, to lack of sleep, to lack of personal boundaries, zero financial planning and more, I often lived life as a complete reaction to everything else around me. And sometimes that was fun! But I gave very little mental space to thinking about the consequences. Like everyone else in their early twenties, I spent a lot of late nights stressing about relationships, over-drafting my bank account, and drowning my mostly self-imposed sorrows in wine, ice cream and tacos. 

I wish I knew that I wasn’t invincible. In reality, we are all just one tragedy away from our lives being derailed. As humans, we are inherently fragile, weak, cracked little creatures.  Deeply loved by God, but mere dust. Living with a gratitude and awareness for my health, friends, family, job, school, and time comes from a recognition that none of those things are to be taken for granted. 

Psalm 103:14 (NLT)–For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. 

3. God Doesn’t Waste Your Time

It’s easy to be frustrated with where we are in life. In fact, discontent and frustration are so common that our culture and economy are now inundated with self-help and motivational material. Every other influencer on Instagram is trying to help you “get to where you want to be.” While there’s wisdom to be found there, I wish my twenty-year-old self knew that God was good enough, strong enough, and wise enough to use every season, every class, every job, every interaction, every failure for His glory and my good. 

God wasn’t wasting my time, and He isn’t wasting yours. I wish I trusted His process more, and leaned on His promises to be faithful. Doing so allows us to live in rest—no matter how busy or full our lives are. It allows us to see difficult and confusing seasons, tasks, and people through a lens of contentment, hope, and faith. 

Isaiah 46:3 (NLT)–I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. 

4. Relationships Will Change

This one’s tricky. I wish I could tell my twenty-year-old-self that while the people around you are so valuable, only a few of them will be life-long friends. People change. People move. People’s careers, pursuits, ideologies, belief systems, and even their hearts change. Instead of being friends with everyone, or feeling pressure to be friends with everyone, I wish I had found some boundaries, been a little more discerning, invested more deeply into a few, held everyone with an open hand, and valued the time that they were in my life. 

No one can be the constant that only God was meant to be. While we were created for community, community and relationships are oftentimes not ideal. They are imperfect, uncomfortable, sometimes boring and disappointing. But true community is actually enabled by individuals who find their truest and deepest companionship in God first.

Proverbs 18:24 (ESV)–A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

5. You’re Going to Make Mistakes & It’s Going to Be OK

Someone once described to me the idea of pre-emptive forgiveness. It’s the idea that because everyone is broken in their own ways, we have to walk into relationships ready to forgive. I wish I realized that this applied to myself. I remember feeling so much pressure, as a twenty-year-old and even now, to get everything right, understand every situation, and always have the right response. I constantly feared disappointing people. I wish I could tell myself that mistakes are part of life, and that they are not the end of the story. I wish I could tell myself that coloring outside the lines is not failure, but a necessary part of growth. 

Working so hard to prevent mistakes is a mental and emotional energy vacuum that will suck the joy out of life. Life is not made up of perfection, but of messes quite often. I know now that mistakes are actually a necessary part of the learning process. Educators call it “disequilibration.” You have to be thrown off a bit in order to learn something new. Our mistakes usually aren’t the end of the world, they are often our best teachers. And at the end of the day, it’s God’s kindness that defines my life, not my failures. 

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)–And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.