Listen to this blog, read by Rayo Adegoke, Content Specialist:
“Whenever a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.”
– John 16:21
Any mother will tell you: motherhood is both a hard and joyful road—but both roads meet on another called: amazing grace. As mamas, we are never left without the enabling power of God.
Whether a mama of one or ten, the sleepless nights are a constant, the tears are a given and the weariness is sure. But what every mother comes to know is that motherhood is a calling. The journey from conception to birth and to diligently raising our babies, motherhood is a call to dwell on our knees before God and to cling to the cross that’ll carry us through.
Because who can lay down “self” to live out the very story of the gospel? “Lose your life for my sake,” Jesus says (Matthew 16:25). He calls us to lay down our own comfort, our own dreams, our own desires, our own plans, our own will so that we might reach for something greater, something higher. Who can do these things except the Lord be with her and teach her?
As mamas, we are not called to a road our heavenly Father hasn’t walked Himself. Love led Him to lay down His majesty in heaven to come into the world, endured the shame and scorn for the joy that was set before Him, and that same love kept Him on the cross until He died. Motherhood is a call to death. But not as the world knows death. We lay down our lives so that we can pick it up again (John 10:17). This kind of death is a doorway to life. Abundant life.
This is the joy that God sets before us mamas. The life that we birth as we push through the inexplainable pain and miracle of labour. The giggles and snuggles we get from our little ones on the hardest of days. The dreaming and praying over the wonderful possibilities of who they’ll become. He never leaves us without these moments of delight. This is the joy that keeps us going. This is what keeps us laying it all down.
The calm before the storm
The day your child will come always begins like any normal day until the birth pangs begin.
Twenty-one-year-old Nopolo was heavily pregnant with her second child and was preparing for her due date when the unexpected happened. That evening she had just gathered her family for a simple dinner in their home by the river when the clouds began to darken, and the wind got stronger. Parents hurried their children inside and in just moments, a rainstorm began.
Water means so much to Nopolo and her family. They love living by the river because they can do some food gardening and her husband can fish for their meals. They also don’t have a water system close to their home, but they are able to fetch water every day from the river as well as shower in the river. “We don’t have anything, as we are poor, but at least we have the river and it is significant for our lives,” shares Nopolo.
Nopolo’s family live on the banks of the Moei River, which forms the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Her husband works as a daily laborer, relying on nearby jobs. But as a stateless worker, he earns much less than the minimum wage. Some months, the family have a maximum of $40. During the pandemic, they often earned less than $20 per month.
But the hardships have not discouraged Nopolo. As a wife and mum to a four-year-old girl and another on the way, she cherishes the moments she gets to laugh with her husband and daughter in their home. And this night began no differently. Then suddenly, she felt the sharp and sudden pain of a contraction and immediately, she knew this night would be different. Her baby was on the way.
With the thunderous outpour, Nopolo and her husband knew it was impossible to reach the hospital at that time of the night. Travel on the river was restricted, boats only operated between 6 – 10 a.m. and 4 – 6 p.m.
In the dark deluge of the night, they were faced with only one option: give birth at home.
Born by the river
In the treacherous rain, Nopolo’s husband ran to their neighbour’s home for help. They knew if they could reach the closest Compassion Survival staff, they would also be able to find the nearest doula (a trained labour support person).
Nopolo had enrolled with the Survival program when she was pregnant with her first born. The Compassion Survival program ensures that mums like Nopolo receive the support and medical treatment they need during pregnancy. Through individual and group trainings and counselling sessions, Nopolo knew how to take care of herself and her pregnancy. She received timely antenatal care from the hospital. She learned to trust the staff at the Survival program and she had also become part of a supportive community of mums in the program.
“My second pregnancy was during COVID-19, and the centre helped my family a lot with food supplies because my husband couldn’t find any work in the area. We were almost losing hope, but the staff came to visit us regularly. Especially when I needed to go to the hospital for check-ups, they helped me for the transportation and always gave me encouragement,” she says.
This gave her confidence for the delivery of her second child. Though afraid as she cried out in pain that night, Nopolo believed help would come.
Then came a knock at their door. The Compassion Survival staff arrived with an elder and a doula to help with her delivery. Nopolo’s face lit up in relief.
As she progressed through the pain and stages of labour and delivery, finally the loud cry of Nopolo’s baby boy was heard on the banks of the Moei River. She laughed through her tears. She named him Krittamet, which means “a wise man who is honorable.”
Outside, the rain thundered down, but this family was beholding a joy that no storm could disrupt.
Nopolo is a second time mum, but most of the things that come with motherhood often remain the same. But sometimes, it can feel like you’ve never walked that road before. For every time we birth a newborn, God makes all things new. The sweet baby smell, their cute little toes, and those giggles gives every mama-heart a joy like she’s never known before. Such is the joy of Nopolo as she cuddles her baby boy, Krittamet. “He is a very happy baby and he loves to talk and laugh with me. This is what always puts a smile on my face. He is such a joyful baby to me,” Nopolo shares.
In that precious moment, as she snuggles her baby, if you asked Nopolo about the pains of labour, she’d tell you that it all pales in the face of the joy her heart now knows with the birth of her son whom she calls a gift from God.
And on the days Nopolo finds motherhood difficult, she says she simply looks forward to their future and this gives her the hope she needs to carry on.
Every mama needs a community
Through Compassion’s Child Survival Program, our church partners give pregnant women and new mothers like Nopolo, the knowledge and resources they need to ensure their children not only survive but thrive in these most critical years of life. Nopolo shares that the Survival Program was truly a lifeline for her during her two pregnancies and even today as a new mother a second time around.
“I always talk with the other mothers at the centre and share how blessed I am to be in the program. Most of the mothers at the project are older than me but I like to talk to them about the knowledge that we’ve learned,” Nopolo mentions.
There’s no mama out there who wouldn’t give anything to be upheld in prayer, held in an embrace, or just simply know that there’s someone who’s a phone call or a door knock away. We all need each other. Mary went and stayed with Elizabeth until John the Baptist was born, because both women were pregnant under unusual circumstances. Beyond being cousins, and the prophecy that would be fulfilled through this relationship, both mothers simply connected over their circumstances at that moment. Mary’s visit was a gift to Elizabeth. Sometimes, our presence is the gift another mama desperately needs.
“It is very important to me as a young mother to feel supported by my community, because I could have done many wrong things as a mother. Without my neighbour and the staff around, I may have had some difficulty in labor. I was 17 when I had my first child and now, I’m 21 with my second child. I felt so comfortable to have people around me who understood what motherhood would be like and the mothers in the program helped me to understand,” Nopolo adds.
A mother’s prayer
God links arms with every mother over the destiny of her child. He beckons us to prayer and invites us into bold faith for our children, standing strong in the knowledge that His promises never fail (Romans 4:17). So, when we are asked what we hope for our children? We say it with an assurance that it will be as He has said and revealed to us throughout scripture.
“I have a hope that my children will have good health and a better future in their generation. I can’t create the world for them but I can teach them the Bible’s words and pray for them to walk in God’s way,” Nopolo declares.
When they were desperate for help, God showed His faithfulness to Nopolo and Krittamet through their neighbour and the Survival Program. Would you consider giving to the Survival Program today and be a hand of God’s love and faithfulness to mums and babies like Nopolo and Krittamet?
Your generosity has the power to change lives for generations to come.
Photos and field reporting by Piyamary Shinoda.