Underneath the Everlasting Arms
By Jean Curtis
I was one of eight children born to Roman Catholic parents. As
far back as I can remember, religion was very important in our home.
My Mom made sure that we followed the rules of the Catholic faith
including infant baptism, first Holy Communion, confirmation and
My Dad was a hard worker when he was sober. Sometimes I’d hear
my Mom talking to a relative saying that many times my Dad's wages
were seized because of unpaid debts. I didn't fully understand what
that was all about until I was older. When Dad wasn’t drinking
you couldn’t ask for a nicer Dad. But when he got into the booze
it was a very scary time for our family.
We lived in fear of my Dad when he was drunk. Many times the town
Police Officer would be called to our home because Mom was terrified
of what my father would do under the influence of alcohol. Nothing
was done to my Dad. The Police Officer would talk to him and try to
get him to settle down and the Officer would leave. For some reason
we grew up believing that this was normal in certain families.
I married at 18 and left the area where I was born and raised. My
husband was from a large family as well. His mother died leaving
seven children behind. The baby was under a year old and the oldest
was two years short of being a teenager. His Dad tried his best to
raise the children on his own.
When my husband and I met, little did we realize where our
dysfunctional lives would take us. We had five children of our own. It was the unexpected pregnancy of our fifth child
that changed the course of our lives forever.
I didn't want any more babies. Four was about all that I could
handle. To my dismay I discovered I was expecting another child; for
some reason I was filled with a fear I had never experienced with
any of the other pregnancies. I had always felt my healthiest when I
was pregnant, but not this time. A fifth baby on the way should not
have turned into the tail spin it did. This fear had nothing to do with having another baby to care for. It seemed to
be directed at the actual delivery of this baby.
Emotionally I was a wreck. I couldn't understand what was
happening. I felt so alone in my fear. I was a woman, and women had
babies; it was a normal fact of life. What was there to be afraid
of? I'd already had four normal pregnancies and deliveries, but for
some reason, this time, I was overcome with fear.
I remember having thoughts like, ‘When I deliver this baby I
will either die in the delivery room, or if I survive, I would be
sent to a psychiatric hospital because I would have gone out of my
mind during the delivery.’ Where were these thoughts coming from,
and why? What was happening to me?
One time I did open up, sharing this fear with my Mom (she had
given birth to eight babies). Her answer was, ‘Women have babies
all the time, we were made to have babies.’ I never again spoke
about my fears to anyone else.
In order that no-one would see what a coward I was, I would wait
until my husband was away at work, the older children at school, and
younger ones down for a nap, then I would cry and cry till no more
tears would come. This was my daily routine throughout the duration
of my pregnancy. When I had to leave the house to do errands, on the
outside I was smiling but on the inside I was crying.
Whenever I tried to rest throughout the day or go to bed at the
end of the day, it was as if the room would turn into the hospital
delivery room. The doctors in that room looked so cold and unfeeling
in their gowns and masks, and the room appeared even colder.
One night my husband went to bed before me. He had to get up
early in the morning to go to work and I was dreading the thought of
having to go to bed and go through that experience of the room
turning into the delivery room. I couldn't confide in anyone how I
was feeling, not even my husband. Nobody would understand. I
couldn't even understand it myself. I finally did go to bed and
again the room (in my mind) began to change from a bedroom to a
My husband and I were devout Catholics. We went to Mass every
Sunday and holy days; abstained from meat on Fridays; brought up our
children in the Catholic faith and were obedient to the teachings of
the Church. The only Bible I saw was the one at church. We never
owned a Bible when we were growing up. I didn't have one in my own
home either. It was just the book the priest read from during the
We knew about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but God
was in heaven and we were down here on earth. Not only that. God had
bigger problems to deal with like wars and famines; He didn't have
time to deal with the problems of one little woman who was afraid to
have a baby.
That night as I was lying in bed and the fear was beginning to
mount, I began to pray the rosary as I had been accustomed. That was
the only way I knew how to pray. I didn't dare go directly to God
because I was a sinner, and God, from what I understood, ‘hated
sinners.’ I had also been taught that Mary was not a sinner and
she would plead our case to God because she was His mother. He would
listen to her and do whatever she asked of Him on our behalf. As I
was praying, the fear was escalating and I was praying like a
drowning man going down for the third and last time. Out of
desperation I cried, ‘God help me’.
Suddenly I was aware of arms holding me. At first I thought my
husband had wakened and that he had noticed my distress and was
comforting me. When I looked my husband was still asleep.
At that moment I felt like a small child being cradled in the
arms of a loving parent and held close to his heart. In those arms
I felt so safe. It was as though a huge weight had been pressing down
on me for such a long time and now it was gone. In those arms I
experienced the peace that passed all understanding. I didn't want
to fall asleep. I didn’t want those arms to stop holding me.
Eventually sleep did come. When I woke up in the morning to get
my husband off to work and the children up for school, I was so busy
I didn't have time to reflect on anything except the tasks before
me. Once things quieted down, I became aware that I was whistling a
happy tune while clearing away breakfast. I hadn't felt joyful in
months. I was still pregnant but something had definitely changed.
The fear that had once held me in its grip was still present, but
now it didn't take over my life or control me. Bit by bit, and piece
by piece, I found myself remembering the arms that had held me with
so much love and compassion.
I could think rationally again, whereas before fear ruled over my
thought life. I had to see my family doctor a few days later. When I
asked him what my chances were of having a short labor, he told me
that this baby was bigger than my other babies. My last baby was
nearly nine pounds. I should have felt quite fearful over this news,
but I didn’t. Was I concerned, yes; was I frightened, no. Two
weeks before the baby was due to arrive the doctor told me the baby
still hadn't turned and that if it didn't turn before my due date
they would have to do a Caesarean.
A week later the baby still hadn't turned, so I was scheduled for
surgery. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to deal with what was
going to happen in the delivery room. The big day arrived. After the
surgery and the safe arrival of our beautiful little daughter, the
doctor came to see me in my hospital room. Still a bit groggy from
the effects of the anesthetic, I asked him what the baby weighed. His
answer was six pounds three ounces. My first thought was that she
had been far tinier than all my other babies. But the
doctor began to tell me what they discovered during the Caesarean.
It wasn't until they did the surgery that they found a huge
fibroid tumour blocking the birth canal. The doctor went on to say
they missed cutting into the tumour by a fraction and that my baby
could not have been born the normal way.
All through the pregnancy my fear had been directed at the actual
delivery. It was never about my not wanting the baby once a baby was
on the way. It was about getting the baby into the world safely and
whether I would be able to look after the other children with my faculties
My thoughts went back to that night early in my pregnancy when I
had cried out to God. Something happened that night that set me on a
path to find the One whose arms had held me.
I always had head knowledge of God as a devout Catholic. I had
learned about God when I was growing up but He was distant and
uncaring, somebody who punished me whenever I messed up…and I was
always messing up.
The arms that held me that night were not the arms of an uncaring
and punishing God. These were the arms of a loving God.
As I look back over that time I see all the ways God moved in my
life. He guided me gently to a place where one day the light of the
glorious Gospel of Jesus, and what His life, death and resurrection
was really about, would take root in my heart and bring forth fruit.
He saved me, my husband, our children, and people who saw the
changes in us and wanted to know the secret to our joy.
I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and asked Him to be Lord of my
life. My life has never been the same. Has it been free of problems?
No, but now I have a relationship with my Helper, Jesus
Christ, the Son of God. I could take my problems to Him every day and
know that He would always be with me. He is able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we could ask or think according to the
power that works in us. That power had nothing to do with me. It had
everything to do with God and what happened at Calvary two thousand
For a long time, when I heard about Jesus' crucifixion, I didn't
understand what His dying on a cross had to do with me. I wasn't
even around when it happened. When I began to read the Bible, I came
to understand that Jesus' life, death, crucifixion, and resurrection
had everything to do with me. It was because of my sins -- past,
present, and future -- that Jesus went to the cross. Nobody took His
life. He willingly gave it so that I would be reconciled to God the
Father. He died on that cross in my place; He rose from
the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and because of that
sin, we were separated from God. We need a mediator between God and
us. That mediator is Jesus. There was and is no other way to come to
the Father but through the Son. I'm so thankful to God that I am
finally able to understand why Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a
sinless life, and gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin. He’s the
living God. He saved me. He can save you too if you come to Him by