Learning God's Plan for Our Lives - A Birth Doula's Story by Austin Johnson

As Christians I’ve noticed we can do a lot of freaking out about deciphering the will of God for our lives.  Before I sound irreverent and as if God’s will is unimportant to me, maybe I should first declare that God is mightier, wiser, greater and stronger than we can comprehend.  He abounds in perfection, love, insight, provisions, the knowledge of this earth and of ourselves. 

He    knows    us. 

Though I don’t believe we should be hasty in our decisions or irresponsible, I also don’t feel like God is always looking to make us struggle in understanding what He wants for us.  Losing sleep.  The constant wrestling match taking place in our minds.  The obsessive thought life that overcomes us about His plan.  His Word says that because of the Good News of Jesus, those who have made Him their Lord can approach Him boldly and with confidence in their time of need (Hebrews 4:13-16).  Because of the Gospel, we can celebrate in the assurance of having peace with God’s will when we are following Him out of devotion.  We have direct access to the all-knowing God.  So why are we so often paralyzed as if there is a dilemma to be solved with God?  Let’s calm down...and remember the peace that God gives, found nowhere else.

God is clear about some things and His will (1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.)  But when the answers aren't as blatant as that, God makes His plan knowable (Romans 12:3).  And whoa, am I thankful for that.  I have walked through decisions have led me to prayer and fasting.  I needed to.  That's done out of a motive to give God all of my attention.  When we fast and pray, it's done not reluctantly or as a last, desperate effort, but rather out of the expectation of impending peace.  But other times while we are second-guessing the obvious, God would love it if we would just get doing what He's asking of us.  For me that was to go all-in and become a Professional Birth Doula.  

Most of us have found what it means to be passionate about something.  For me, I had always had a strong tug but didn’t know where I was being pulled.  Ambitious to do whatever God would have for me, I graduated high school with an excitement to one day help mothers in their pregnancies and births - not in a medical aspect such as nursing, but in education, support and informed choices.  No direct influence in my upbringing led me to this desire.  It was as if it was simply decided for me.  I wanted nothing else.  I began pursuing different degrees that I thought would land me somewhere in the region of this resting passion.  But as I would learn later...God had plans for me first.  I got married, had our first baby, became pregnant with our second and in the meantime while staying at a hotel in Wichita, Kansas stumbled upon a documentary about women in prison who are pregnant and expecting to labor virtually alone in the hospital while serving their sentence.  My heart collapsed.  I wanted to hold their hand.  I wanted to guide them through and alleviate their pain and their fear.  Though what they did was wrong, the health of their baby and the mother’s long-lasting memory of childbirth is worth preserving and supporting.

As I continued through my second pregnancy I started hearing more of this new buzz word: doula.  I kept coming back to it and eventually gained an accurate understanding of what a doula is.

A doula is:

a non-medically trained birth professional who provides continuous emotional, physical and informational support for a mom throughout pregnancy and labor.

And then this crazy question entered my mind:  “I wonder what is required to become one of those?”  I refrained from even looking until...I just did it.  And had another crazy thought: “I could do that.”  Did I just say that?!?  All the circuits in my head and my heart were saying this has been your desire this whole time!

Something to know about me and about God’s will:

1)    Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.”  This became a key verse for me throughout my adolescence and into adulthood.  I’ve prayed this over myself perhaps a thousand times.  When we find our deepest fulfillment in Jesus, our desires begin to parallel.  I can now recognize a calling then that was beyond a personal interest; a strategic divine preparation as God made His desire for me my desire for me.

2)    Matthew 6:34 reminds us to “Seek first His Kingdom.”  Be seeking the things of God first - loving Him and loving others.  Love who and what God loves and hate what is evil.  When we’re seeking His Kingdom first, every other concern is, as this verse says, secondary.

3)    God sometimes waits...because there is more He wishes to teach us.  God has waited to bring me to different points in my life because He has used that time to teach me things I would not have otherwise been in a position to learn.  It’s all part of fitting into the shape of the unique puzzle He has designed my life to be.  Be patient if He says “Wait.” 

4)    When considering God’s will, it’s important to remember that it:

○     be affirmed by other believers who are actively pursuing God - listening to others counsel

○     be in accordance with God’s Word

○     does not lead you or others into sin

I get giddy to look back and recognize how God has orchestrated His plan.  I share a similar excitement as I invest my time into women and their support people as they prepare for the births of their babies.  I’m not currently helping mothers in prison, but rather serving moms and dads across Des Moines.  In either case, they are all people experiencing a very life-forming event and all desire a baby born safely and a mom with a positive memory of her birth.  A doula is an incredible resource to expectant parents in any and all situations, no matter their preferences.  Non-medicated or medicated - even planned C-sections.  A doula is invested in helping parents to enter birth confidently, formulate good questions throughout the process and be a constant presence and support for the laboring mom.  This is what God has called me to do.  It’s the desire of His that He’s given to me.  I trust for Him to humbly use me in this capacity in the intimate memories that families create in birth.  Turns out my crazy thought wasn’t so crazy.  It was the gentle prompting of my all-knowing God and the response of my ripened heart.

Austin and her husband live in West Des Moines with their 3 young kids (5, 3 and 1.) Her husband, Andy, is the Children’s Ministry Associate for 4-6th grade at Valley church. Austin works with a group of Doulas through the Iowa Doula Agency. If you are interested in finding out more about Doulas and the work that Austin does, you can visit www.iowadoulas.com to see profiles and videos of each of the Doulas who work through the Agency or visit www.facebook.com/IowaDoulaAgency. You can contact Austin via email at autsin@iowadoulas.com.