Our Undoing is Our Becoming

c-section like Christ

This is my body, broken for you.

This is my blood, shed for you.

How many times had I heard these words at Mass, even though I had converted only in young adulthood?

The passion narrative punched me in the gut every Palm Sunday with the retelling of Jesus’s suffering and death.1 The same crowds that glorified Him turned so quickly to a mob shouting, “Crucify him!”

I could never utter the words.

The Stations of the Cross, recounting the journey of Jesus to the crucifixion, brought me to tears every Lent.2 

How? How does one willingly go, arms outstretched?

Yet this was how I found myself that October afternoon: arms outstretched after twelve hours of unproductive, mostly unmedicated labor.

It turned out to be providential that just a few short hours earlier my doctor had gently suggested I reconsider my desire to suffer through labor without an epidural. She reminded me there was no shame in helping my body find a little relief through a difficult and painful process. There was no trophy waiting at the end for suffering the most. The goal was to give birth to this baby the best way possible. Her reassurance and encouragement helped me surrender to the moment. I needed to respond to the way things were unfolding at present and not the way I had hoped they would.

This little shift in plans helped things move quickly when labor took a concerning turn and we had to pivot toward a c-section delivery. Within minutes I was being prepped for surgery.

I had no idea what to expect. 

What I certainly didn’t expect was to be splayed out on the operating table, arms outstretched, unable to feel my lower body but awake while being cut open to bring forth new life. I also didn’t understand how this would be the most symbolic image for what was to come next. 

That moment was my undoing—physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is no small thing to bring a life into the world. While I picked up the pieces and kept moving forward because we must, the magnitude of the moment caught up with me. Between the postpartum hormones, the gravity of having been cut open while awake, and the bewilderment of holding this new life in my hands with no instruction manual, all that had been held in the fortress of my heart had nowhere left to hide. 

I had been pierced.

Blood and water gushed forth, and the floodgates were opened. 

The tears that poured out began the long and slow work of deep cleansing. Fragments of pain from the past I had been holding so very close—the grief, the hurt, the anger, the fear—escaped with every shaking sob. The walls I had built so skillfully around me began to crack, and with every sniff of this sweet baby’s head, every cuddle, and every lullaby, little tendrils of new life began to break through into the light. 

In motherhood, I was being made new.

In motherhood, I was being asked to surrender.

In motherhood, I was being softened and molded more closely into myself.

Until I was on the other side, I could never imagine this undoing would lead to my becoming. Those first moments of motherhood, arms outstretched on an operating table in imitation of Christ’s arms outstretched on the cross, were symbolic in every way of what would be demanded of me in every future moment. No one could have adequately prepared me for this radical yet slow transformation over the minutes, hours, and days to come. 

Motherhood has stretched me beyond my capabilities in more ways than I can count. It has led me to my breaking point even more often. There are days I question whether I am strong enough, or if God made a mistake in choosing me for this task. Yet in each of those breakdowns, what is shattered opens the way for something new to be born in me. 

This is my body, broken for you…

Those first moments on the delivery table are an echo of the years that lie ahead. Constantly pushing. Laboring. Allowing ourselves to be cut open, bleeding. The details might be different as our children grow, but the motions remain familiar. In our sacrifices for them, we find freedom and life for us all.

Even when I arrive kicking and screaming, much like the baby that was pulled from me on that first day, a little bit of the facade falls away. Letting go of the false images, the veneer, the masks we wear to begin to see just who it is we truly are—it is terrifying. It is also wondrous. Just as thrilling as it is to watch our children discover the world around them, to unearth pieces of ourselves that have been buried under years of rubble from the trials of life can be equally exhilarating, even through the fear. 

I could never have known, heading into labor for the first time, how that unexpected moment on the delivery table would sear itself into my soul permanently. My imagination was not wild enough to envision how its repetition three times—with slight variations on the theme—would not only give life to our children, but rekindle dreams I thought were long gone.

It is true that motherhood has been a death to myself in many ways. Yet in the same breath, it has brought a discovery of a self that had yet to fully blossom. Even the pain has been a pathway to encounter more tenderly the intricacy of my own creation. By allowing myself to be broken open and poured out for these children of mine, I have unwittingly made room for the Spirit to shed His light into the dark corners of my own heart. 

Our becoming—theirs and mine—is forever intimately united.

c-section surrender in faith


1 See Matthew 26:14—27:66
2 Stations of the Cross

Rakhi McCormick is a first-generation Indian-American and convert from Hinduism who found her way into the Church and a career in ministry through a series of invitations, and more than a few leaps of faith – sometimes kicking and screaming. Having worked in a variety of ministries at the national, diocesan, and local level, Rakhi has discovered that her greatest passion is speaking light into darkness, wherever that might be found, and however the Holy Spirit leads. She has a heart for the underdog, the overlooked, and the broken. A devoted advocate for God’s mercy and justice, Rakhi uses these inspirations to shape her writing, speaking, and artwork. She is the owner of Rakstar Designs and currently resides in the Metro Detroit area with her husband and three children. When not playing wife, mother, or minister, you can find Rakhi singing, reading, scrolling Instagram, and making beautiful things (and messes) with coffee in hand.

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1 Comment

  1. jenni ho-huan on 4 April 2023 at 4:11 am

    What a poetic and meaningful piece. Thank you!

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