As the chaplain for Women and Children’s Services at my hospital, I visit a lot of women after they’ve given birth. Although I’ve never asked them, I often wonder whether Caesarean sections or vaginal births are easier.

I do know that with most Caesareans, a woman can plan and manage her pain. In natural birth, the woman has to steel herself for the experience. But since I’m not a woman, that’s about all I do know about postpartum stuff.

As a dad, I do know a bit more about the departing stuff — this is about 20 or so years after the postpartum stuff.

I’ve had two daughters depart the nest, and like the birthing experience, I have a few viewpoints to compare. Hard to say which departure was easier.

Our first daughter left in a planned pursuit of a college degree. And like a Caesarean, college was a departure that we’d always anticipated.

In December, our second daughter made a rather hasty and unscheduled departure — all in the pursuit of love and independence. But with her departure, we felt all of the pain of a birth without the anesthetic. This time, our tears are more about the pain we anticipate for her as she’s going down a path we’ve never been.

The whole thing puts a big question mark on the future and question marks are much harder to live with than periods or even exclamation marks.

Back in the hospital, when I watch parents deal with the question mark placed in their life by the birth of a premature baby, I hear them say things such as, “I wish someone would give me a crystal ball, so I’d know the future.”

I usually meet that kind of magical thinking with a question of my own: “What would you do if you knew?”

Of course the question is rhetorical, but they often get my meaning.

In the silence that normally follows, I piggyback another question — “Would you love any less, would you be present any less?”

Of course the answer naturally comes, “No, I’d still love her.”

Now, I’ll admit loving a child when he or she is acting out does not come naturally. While the love equation gets a little more complex at this point, it needn’t go algebraic.

You remember algebra, right?

As I recall, most of my algebra experience was spent at a chalkboard trying to balance things on both sides of the equal sign. I didn’t do well at algebra, but it doesn’t really matter, because scripture suggests God does math a little differently.

Romans 5:8 says “God put his love on the line for us by offering his son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”

If you go back and read the last nine words, I think you’ll see that God’s not into accounting — love will always be the trump card.

So, if you’re trying to work the love equation with your kids, or anyone else for that matter, I’d recommend nixing the algebra — unless of course, you just like spending most of your life at the chalkboard.