[The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Exodus from Zion. Once the manuscript is completed, I'll be making an announcement if anyone would like to purchase a copy of the published book.]

Each birth was different, but births were always the same. A phone call. A scramble to pack up Bible, oils, and grandkids. My older brother and sister were attending public school the year the baby ministry was at its zenith. So I would go with Giggy, with my coloring book and an old five-gallon ice cream bucket used for crayons. We would arrive to be greeted by female relatives of the birthing woman. They would be looking at Gig with hunger in their eyes. She was here. She could make it better: less scary, less painful, more exciting, more holy, more miraculous. This wasn't just going to be a birth - it was going to be a zion birth!

By pretending humility - "giving the Glory to God" - and by casting doubts and slanders on hospital births, Gig managed to instill a sense of superiority to home birth. She wrote about only the medical failures - unnecessary episiotomies, elective cesareans, and malpractice suits - and never the medical triumphs - a stillborn baby resuscitated, a premie kept safe and warm in a NICU incubator. She presented her hatred of doctors and men as a protective warning to pregnant mothers. Now, if a woman had birth complications, it wasn't a physical challenge, it was spiritual warfare. There was something wrong with the mother. To my grandmother, a woman who had an uncomplicated, safe home birth was not just more natural, more maternal, and more womanly - she was holier.

So, there I would sit, with my coloring book and my crayons. Sometimes for only a few minutes, more often for several hours, and once for two days. Occasionally someone would think to bring me food or drink, but the real drama was happening in the bedroom. From my perspective, births were largely boring. I couldn't watch TV or talk or sing, and no one encouraged me to go out to the yard to play. On the way home after a long labor, my grandmother would tell me I was "good as gold" and I warmed when I heard the praise. I remember the one birth my sister attended with us. She was the novice and I was an old pro at waiting for a baby to arrive. I taught her to pace the hall and told her that's what men did. For the most part, I was on the edge of the action, and not in the middle of it.

One birth stands out in my mind more than other. The active labor had been going on for quite a while when Giggy came out of the bedroom to interrupt me from my coloring. "We need you," she said. We walked together into the bedroom. There were four or five adults already in the room, including the new parents. The mother was exhausted and crying. The father sat cross-legged near the foot of the bed, huddled over their baby. She couldn't have weighed more than five pounds. I remember thinking she looked smaller than the plastic baby doll I had at home, and also bluer. She had been born breathing but stopped. Instead of calling for an ambulance, rushing the baby to the ER, or giving her mouth-to-mouth, the parents decided to pray. When that didn't work right away, Gig decided that God would listen and do what she wanted if I prayed. "Let the little children come unto me" and all that.

Trembling, I placed my hand on her tiny infant chest and prayed that God would save her, that he would raise her from the dead like Elisha. She breathed. We cheered. I was elated and stunned. Shortly after, we went home. Looking back, that family had exactly the kind of faith-walk Gig glamorized. For them, prayer was the only way. Not prayer first. Not prayer and. Prayer instead. They were lucky. Some of Gig's other disciples were not.

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Tags: birth, children, cult, faith, healing, prayer

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