My Birth Story: Fighting for My Life
I had taken the classes, practiced the breathing. My bag was packed and I had a well-thought out Labor & Delivery playlist on my fully-charged iPod. I had my first post-delivery meal and meal deliverer lined up, and we had our birth plan all set. Everything set us up for a successful birth of our first child.
And yet, everything we planned for, is everything that didn’t happen.
After 18 hours of labor, I called my Gram just to hear her say, “I love you, honey, and I’m praying for you. You can do it!”
At 22 hours, I had made little enough progress that a c-section was inevitable. Nurses did a shift change, G scrubbed up, and in I was wheeled. Everything would be fine. In an hour, we’d meet AB and our lives would be forever changed.
They’d change, all right. But in a vastly different way from how we had planned that change. Because fast-forward 12 hours, when I wake up in the ICU.
I woke up out of a dream that I was headed to have lunch with a friend and was grabbed by nurses in blue and white scrubs for a surgery for which I was not scheduled. “You’ve got the wrong person,” I kept trying to tell them (if only they’d take the tube out of my mouth). I was agitated, mildly thrashing in bed trying to free my hands so I could remove the tube and tell them, “I wasn't scheduled for this. I was just going to lunch with my friend.”
Well, they didn’t have the wrong person. After the c-section, I developed a life-threatening condition called DIC – disseminated intravascular coagulation – something I don’t know how to explain other than to say it causes excessive bleeding. Coupled with the fact that my uterus was doing its own thing instead of recovering like it was supposed to, and things got real, real quick. In front of my poor husband’s eyes, I went into shock from losing too much blood. This after he watched me cry out in pain as the recovery room nurses pressed on my belly, letting loose two blood clots the size of softballs and one the size of an orange. G was pushed out of the way and I was rushed back into surgery, where I received a full service oil change (a full blood transfusion), and they cut out my uterus as a last-ditch effort to save my life. All while I was taking an extended nap.
Strange and surreal are the only words to describe what it’s like to wake up to the knowledge that while you were “sleeping”, you were really fighting for your life. That while you were sleeping, people around the country were praying their hearts out for you, some of whom don’t typically keep an open line of communication with the Man upstairs. That while you were sleeping, your entire life from here on out was changed, without your knowledge and without your consent.
Talk about surreal. Talk about confusion. And talk about trauma.
The good news is I maintained my sense of humor. When G told me I had a supra-cervical hysterectomy, my first response was, “Hey, we’ll save money on monthly feminine products.” And then to the nurse, when told I wouldn’t have a normal cycle, I actually gave a thumbs-up and a smile.
I wasn’t so light-hearted when reality set in. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be pregnant again anyway, but I wanted to make that choice through conscious prayer and being open to the Holy Spirit, as I was when God gave the go-ahead to get pregnant with AB. I wanted a normal birth recovery, not the open-wound, can’t walk for three days, pill-buffet recovery I ended up with. And I would have liked to meet my daughter right away, instead of waiting 44 hours.
However. My God does not disappoint. Thanks to the music I listened to overnight while we waited for the induction to work, and the words I had been planting in my heart for years, I woke up with a refrain of “In Christ Alone” screaming from my heart:
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.
I couldn’t remember the last time I heard that song, but my heart heard it loud and clear Tuesday morning as I woke up. I knew, without a doubt, that my life was spared because God wasn’t done with me. He has things to say and do through me, and because of that, I never once throughout this whole ordeal have asked “Why me?” I don’t say this to boast; it has taken God-granted strength to stay on this side of the self-pity fence. But aside from the hymn’s refrain, all I could think of in those first hours after waking up was a line from one of our favorite television shows: “I never ask ‘why me?’ when the good things happen, why would I ask now?”
I didn’t ask “Why me?” when I got my job, when I met my amazing group of friends, when my book was accepted for publishing, or when I won $1,000 on a slot machine in Vegas (true story!). If I don’t question God’s provision in those situations, I don’t think it’s right for me to question His allowance of trials. I need to process my feelings of this trauma, sure. But I also need to focus on faith. I need to focus on the blessings. There is far more good than bad that’s come from the situation. Not the least of which is a moment-to-moment reliance on God. I was having a chat with God last week, and while it’s usually fairly one-sided, this day I heard him loud and clear:
Me: I just don’t understand. I thought I was already relying on you pretty well.
God: Sometimes. But you were getting kind of self-righteous about it.
Me: Me? I was?
I’d never been through a traumatic event like that, but I’ve had my share of struggles. And if anyone would have asked me before Tuesday, July 14, 2015, if I relied on God every moment of my life, I would’ve answered a zealous and resounding “yes!”. And now I know I would’ve been lying to you. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I needed His strength and mercy every single moment. I couldn’t get out of bed by myself, I couldn’t sit up on my own, I couldn’t go to the bathroom or reach for my food without help. I was in constant pain and a constant state of about-to-burst-into-tears. I needed that song’s refrain to repeat in my heart. I needed His promises I had been storing up for the last 14 years since the day of my salvation. I needed his unearthly peace to still my spirit when I just wanted everything to stop and/or go away. I thought I had had that attitude prior to all of this, but I obviously had not. I thought I knew how to talk to Him on a moment-by-moment basis, but I did not. And I thought I had a deep, rich relationship with Him, but oh how I was mistaken. Because now? Now that my life has been spared and I’ve experienced relying on Him and His use of others in my life for everything, I know what a deep relationship looks like. And I know how important it is to not ask, “Why me?”
If I had asked, “Why me?”, my focus would have been on an injustice. My focus would have been on what I thought my life should be, rather than what God wants it to be. He didn’t have to save my life. There was no requirement. He’s King of the Universe; He can spare or not spare any life he so chooses. But he spared mine. Why? I don’t know. But He did. So I’m not going to ask why He allowed such an event to color my life story; instead I’m going to be grateful He’s giving me a chance to raise my daughter with my Superman who stuck by me every step of the way. I’m going to be grateful He’s taught me what it really means to rely on His graces. I’m going to be grateful for quick healing, supportive and loving friends and family, and a pup that is so sweet, gentle, and patient with her new little sister.
My heart some days is like a wilted gardenia, flopped over from the summer heat and waiting for the refreshing cool of night to liven it back up. Other days, my heart is so full of gratitude I wish I could write everyone I know a Thank You card for what they’ve added to my life. You don’t realize how life-giving your friends and family are until they’ve helped breathe life back into your spirit after a near-death experience.
My God loves me. Oh, how he loves me. And how little Miss AB will know how abundantly loved she is, by me, her dad, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles – some blood, some not – and by her Heavenly Father, who spared her life and her mother’s life in a situation that could have ended very differently.
We are incredibly thankful for every day we’ve had since AB was born. We are adjusting to being a family of 4 (pup included, of course); some days are great and some days are newborn chaos. Yet regardless of how the day goes, our bedtime prayers now begin with, “Thank you for giving us today.” Because that’s what we have. We have today guaranteed and it needs to be spent to the best of our ability.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.