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And then there was pain

At some point during my pregnancy with Beatrix, I decided I would have another natural, drug-free birth.

My desire wasn’t born out of a conviction that natural is superior to what I refer to as supernatural birthing (no pain is super!).

It was because of the two pregnancy losses I had before she came along. I wanted to feel every millimeter of dilation and effacement, every fiber in my being seizing the rollicking boil of contractions.

Not sure if I would ever have that experience again, I needed to feel it all.

It didn’t work out that way. During labor, before I was in much pain, I had a strong feeling I should get the epidural. So I did. I was lying in the bed, listening to my iPod when the song “Love” by Newcomers Home came on. It was the anthem of that pregnancy. These lyrics always haunted me with what I felt was a promise:

Cast a shadow on the life behind me,
Cast the burden to the wind,
So I can see the line for you
To hold on to,
I’ll pull you close to me
And the rest is history.

And love won’t get away this time.

I felt tremendous peace about my decision at that moment. My love for our baby could not be deepened by a particularly fiery moment of crowning. Something big was coming, beyond the bigness of having a new life to love. I felt it in the air.

A few hours later, the umbilical cord prolapsed. The epidural allowed me to be awake during the emergency (and I mean emergency) c-section.

There is no such thing as a pain-free delivery of a child. It catches up with you eventually. My daughter was pulled out of a gash seven-layers deep into my body. I guarantee you feel each of those layers healing even though you don’t feel them being made.

Archie was lifted through the same curved red line.

24 hours after he was born, his life was in grave danger. When he was admitted to the NICU, his pulse oximetry reading was 67. His heart was in the center of his chest, displaced by oxygen that was leaking from a lung. He was a very sick baby boy. I have never been more terrified.

In the early hours of January 7, 2009, I was in my room trying to sleep. I kept dreaming a nurse opened the door to tell me he had died. I’d wake in terror, fall asleep, repeat.

When a nurse really did walk through the door, my heart thought about stopping. But she didn’t come to tell me Archie was gone. She came to tell me she had decided to let me sleep instead of giving me my pain medication. Would I like it now?

I said yes, of course, and noted I had to go to the bathroom. My husband, who was sleeping in a cot next to me got up to help me ease out of bed.

The moment I stood upright was the moment I experienced the most physical pain I have felt in my life. I cannot describe how horrendous the pain was, other than it felt like I had been cut in half. Seven layers deep, you know. I screamed.

All my worry about Archie, the pain I felt at the mere idea of losing him, was equal to the volcanic searing I felt at that moment. In a strange way, I felt like the physical pain was a gift because it gave me an outlet to explode all that was building inside me.

I felt utterly alone in that pain. I felt like God put me on a jagged, craggy rock in the middle of a churning, angry sea. Pain like that is the riptide. It grabbed me and pulled me under and there is nothing I could do but succumb.

It was the worst moment of my life and I am blessed that was the worst moment of my life. I do not care to repeat it.

Archie recovered. He exceeded the expectations of everyone. I like to give credit to God, awesome nurses and doctors, and all the prayers that flew up on Archie’s behalf. Prayer works.

But what about all the babies and moms who do not get their miracle, despite fervent prayers?

I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t know the purpose of shaking faith until the membranes of the heart are separated forever into a life of Before and After. How do you go on?

The pain from my c-section incision was eventually eased by strong drugs. Then I healed. I have a scar that is completely numb. It’s a dead line, smooth and silvery pink.

I like it. The source of so much pain has become a symbol.

Without that line, there would be no little daughter and perhaps no little son.

Today, I am thinking about a mother named Natalie and her family who lost their two month old son, Gavin, to Pertussis. PERTUSSIS, something that could have been wiped out long ago. But.

I think of Arianne who went to her big ultrasound only to hear the horrible news her baby was gone.

My heart goes out to both of them.

It pains.

20 comments to And then there was pain

  • Whew……on this first anniversary of the birth of my sweet girl, I’m particularly susceptible to a message like this one. I’m beginning to cry. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Happy (couple of days after your) first birthday, Archie! You and little Leah would be great friends if given the chance to meet…I’m sure of it!

    Blessings to you.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Sleep Lady Shuffle: Night #8 =-.

  • Crushing.

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Snow Day =-.

  • Heavy with pain.
    .-= Kristin´s last blog .. =-.

  • Oof, that is hard. I didn’t blog about it, but we visited the maternity ward to be monitored last Friday. I couldn’t get Baby to move, neither could Husband, and I was FREAKING OUT. Turns out he/she was just inactive during a normally active time, and they monitored me for 1 1/2 hours to get kick counts and things seemed to be fine, but it was an awful, heart-wrenching, sob-inducing feeling just to even consider the possibility that I’d made it 37 1/2 weeks to have my baby gone.

    My heart goes out to all families who have experienced such a loss.
    .-= Minnesotamom´s last blog ..Christmas-y Craft #2 =-.

  • I needed this today and you knew it. Thank you for writing it.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..After four years, it has come to this =-.

  • Mom

    I am praying for both of those families.

  • “I don’t know the purpose of shaking faith until the membranes of the heart are separated forever into a life of Before and After.” Me neither. I think to myself that it would help if I knew the “why”, the “to what end”…but really, it only helps if I know Him, and learn to trust and rest in the fact that He knows.
    .-= Jo@Mylestones´s last blog ..Footprints in the Snow =-.

  • I can’t imagine after everything you went through before those births, to then experience difficulties and total fear during and after them. That’ a heck of a lot of emotion to experience. It all weighs heavy on the heart doesn’t it?
    .-= Sarah@Clover Lane´s last blog ..A Bunch of Nothing =-.

  • edj

    Wow. Gorgeous writing Gretchen. I’m so glad for Archie and Beatrix, and so very sorry for those other two mothers, facing such pain.
    .-= edj´s last blog ..The Tale of Two Parcels =-.

  • God, no. Just no.
    .-= jenni´s last blog ..Kitchen Sink Saturday =-.

  • Beautifully written. I too have a numb line across my tummy. Six years later still numb. The post-op, for me, was a whip.

  • I absolutely, positively, heart you.

    I am crying my eyes out.

  • Yep, still here…can’t stop reading this post.

  • Speechless. This was beautiful and heart wrenching all at once.
    .-= Heth´s last blog ..Fit Baby =-.

  • amy

    As always, beautifully said. I don’t even know these women, but I feel so very sorry for their losses. I remember being in the NICU with Henry and hearing the doctors say words like heart, lungs, wrong direction, hole and it was as if my brain could not process the words because I could not believe this bad news was for me, about my baby. We are so grateful that we left the hospital with a healthy baby, but that moment was the darkest of my life and I’m afraid to even write that knowing what darkness lurkes at the edges of everyone’s life.

  • Beckie

    You have a very real gift with words. Thank you for the beautiful post. I will pray for the two families you mentioned. So much hurt in this world!

  • I am so glad Archie and Beatrix are ok. Really I am, and your perspective here is so beautiful, and so incredibly similar to mine. A friend of mine endured a pitocin induction for over 30 hours with no pain relief during the birth of her daughter. She said that nothing could even come close to touching the pain of the death of her son nearly two years before. How could anything hurt me nearly as much? She asked. It’s amazing how you made the choice that ultimately ended being the best, even though it wasn’t what you’d planned. A mother’s heart knows…
    .-= Sara Joy´s last blog ..Duty =-.

  • I loved this post.

    I, too, struggle to understand the purpose of suffering, or why I feel like I’ve been so blessed, when so many around me have endured such tragedy.

    One of my OB patients came in today. She is having a hard time as she nears the end of her pregnancy. Two or three years ago, her little girl suffocated in her sleep. Then just this past year she had a miscarriage. She has had a great pregnancy so far, and her baby has been very healthy, but I could definitely identify with her feelings of anxiety, and feeling like the other shoe is hovering, waiting to drop. So I gave her some medicine, and prayed for her, that God would give her peace. Because I know I can’t guarantee perfection.

    My heart breaks for these families. But I do know that just like your scar – God uses the sorrows and pains in this life to bring about beautiful things. Yours enabled you to have two beautiful children. My struggles with infertility and miscarriage have made me a better doctor, and have enabled me to encourage people in ways that I never could have foreseen. I will pray that God will comfort these families and use their trials to do something lovely.

  • I somehow missed this last week.

    I’m glad something in my browser redirected me, because this is powerful, Gretchen.

    I haven’t lost a child, but I have walked some incredibly painful roads that have marked my life into an irrevocable Before and After. All I can say is — God’s grace is sufficent to turn even those scars into mementos of his love and caring. I don’t understand it. But I am so thankful for my scars.
    .-= Kelly @ Love Well´s last blog ..Two More Places to Give to Help Haiti =-.

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