In a few days I’ll cross the third-trimester threshold, and my emotions are mixed. Part of me is eager for my daughter to arrive–a precious bundle of mini-me–so I can see what she looks like, so I can watch my husband and son embrace our new girl.
Another part of me is frightened. When I think about my first experience with childbirth, I shudder.
I opted to induce ahead of my son’s due date, only because I wanted my OB-GYN, who was on call then, to deliver him. Though I entered the induction already in the early stages of labor, the extra Pitocin I received was too harsh for my system. The contractions quickly progressed from manageable to heinous, so I asked for an epidural. A good move, it seemed, because I was ready to push in no time–only to find that I’d be pushing for three hours, and feeling little sensation.
At the end of the three hours, I was approaching total fatigue and the baby’s heart rate was dropping, so my doctor suggested forceps. She assured me that a simple nudge would almost surely do the trick–if not, an emergency C-section would be the last resort. Again, the forceps seemed a wise choice. A team of about seven people descended on my room, including an anesthesiologist who boosted my epidural, and several new nurses. I felt as if I were floating–highly drugged and in a dream-like state–and there was no pain. I was strangely calm, even after seeing how colossal the forceps were, and hearing them crack as they clawed at my son’s tiny head. The drug-induced high lasted for at least a day, as I celebrated Noah’s healthy-but-dramatic arrival. Family called, friends visited and our joy multiplied by the hour.
My euphoria ended when the hospital shooed me out 12 hours earlier than I had planned. On returning home, I began to have serious physical problems. My bladder and bowels shut down, and my body was swelling under the weight of fluid retention. After repeated calls to my OB, my husband, son and I headed to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Noah was only two days old, and no family had yet arrived, so we had to bring him with us. The nurse who checked me in suggested that I was compromising his life by exposing him to a germ-infested ER, a thought that sent me spinning and sobbing. She quickly moved to get us a private waiting room, though, and helped me learn how to pump milk. I can only attribute her quick change in demeanor to God’s grace grabbing me as I writhed in a morass of physical and emotional torture. My body had failed in childbirth, and now I was failing again–putting Noah’s life in danger while I resisted the urge to collapse. I felt I’d been slammed into the depths of hell.
Once the doctor arrived, she drained about two liters of urine from my bladder, manually extracted some bowel, and sent me home with orders to take two laxatives. The next day I rushed into my OB’s office, where my very apologetic doctor hooked me up to a Foley catheter. She said an enema was my best bet for loosening my bowels. Home I trudged, with a catheter bag tucked into my jeans. My husband–who should be sainted–helped administer the enema, and somehow I managed to keep nursing Noah every two hours. I had finally started down a slow path to physical healing.
This all left me reeling, and sent me into an emotional tailspin. I began exhibiting signs of post-traumatic stress, and I worried that something would happen to my son. What if he fell down the trash chute? What if a large object fell on him? I also thought that my husband would realize I was a terrible wife and mother, grow to hate me, and leave. Worst of all, I began to see myself as an utter failure. I had made bad decisions about my birth plan, I wasn’t able to give birth the “right” way, and now my thoughts were vile. If I’d experienced a glimpse of horror that night in the ER, this was the bigger picture of hell.
Fortunately, God didn’t leave me in the depths. He rescued me in every way possible. I tried anti-depressants for a few months–they didn’t work for me, since a big part of my problem was a failing thyroid gland–visited with a talk therapist, and I prayed. I sought prayers from family and friends, and I decided to give up my writing career for a while, so I could spend any free time sleeping. I promised God that if I ever got beyond the present mire, I’d turn my writing skills more in his direction. Time helped with the healing, and once my thyroid condition was diagnosed, I was fully me again, when Noah was about 16 months old.
I’m sad that the first glorious days of my son’s life were the darkest time in my life, but it’s true. The physical pain, the emotional stress, and the absurd, illogical thoughts have vanished, but I remember them well. Nowadays I worry that there’s a mysterious, bitter element in childbirth, one that will devour all I’ve regained since having Noah.
But I have only to look as far as today’s reading in “Our Daily Bread” to be reminded that worrying is folly:
Recognizing that the challenges of life can be both overwhelming and suffocating, Jesus urged us to take matters in hand by simplifying. He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). This was His wise conclusion to His teaching on the debilitating power of worry. Worry doesn’t accomplish anything positive; it just adds to the sense that we are drowning in the troubles we are facing. We must take things as they come—one day at a time—and trust Him for the wisdom to respond properly.
If you feel overwhelmed by life, do what you can today and then entrust the rest to Him. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV).
With that, I’ll turn my attention to figuring out what’s for dinner, and toss my worries about my daughter’s birth into Christ’s court. I’m quite sure he’ll do a much better job of wrestling them to the ground.