*Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that I wholely believe that one of the reasons that I have suffered in my life has been to be able to love others better who have or are currently going through painful situations and to be an encourager. Sometimes just knowing that someone else had already "made it to the other side" was what kept me going. Also, some of this is graffic, so don't keep reading if you don't want to read about birth or any other real life stuff. *
Today I took a heart monitor off of my son for what I hope is the last time. I morbidly thought of how much he looked like a suicide bomber with it strapped to his chest with an ace bandage. There seems to be nothing more vulnerable than the unknown well-being of your child. Sitting on the edge of a helpless situation is not my cup of tea. I am a fighter. There's a reason the boys in elementary and middle school called me "Xena" and "Amazon Woman "...poor adolescent boys. Anyways, it is at that very place that I found myself when I was 30 weeks pregnant with Zeke. Before this time I was just so grateful to be pregnant. I had had three miscarriages in the first year of our marriage. "Unofficially" the fertility specialist, after multiple tests, said that the birth control I had taken had destroyed the lining of my uterus. Whether or not we could have children was unknown. The fear and guilt that I had in this time was insurmountable. My husband's one dream in life was to have children and here I potentially ruined it by following modern culture. I never even asked him about birth control. I just went and had an IUD put in, because who wants kids when you're young, poor and still in school. I remember asking him to pick me up from the clinic because I could hardly undouble from the pain. The procedure that was suppose to take 20 minutes had taken over 2 hours and left me crying, curled up in pain for over a day. But I had done it. I had single-handedly "protected" us from children. What a horrible lie.
At 30 weeks pregnant I sat listening to the heartbeat of our unborn child. The little baby I had thrown up in my muck boot on my way to work for. The little baby that I had quit my job and sold my truck for. The child I had already taken loads of progresterone for, as a precaution against miscarriage. The progesterone which made my all-day/all-night sickness even worse, the injections making my thighs swell to triple their size in revolt. The midwife lingered. Something was wrong. It's in those moments that all the air leaves the room and you forget that breathing is suppose to be an automatic. A routine checkup turned into a visit to the hospital, which turned into not leaving the hospital. My most feared of places on earth. A place of death and suffering. A place of loss and pain. That was not where I wanted to take my child, to be poked and prodded, speculated and theorized over. But there wasn't a choice, so we went and we stayed. Our normal, uncomplicated pregnancy had just become high-risk. Zeke had SVT and his heart was beating at double the normal rate. We stayed in the hospital as multiple doctors tried to figure out how much medication I could handle that would have the desired effect of slowing Zeke's heart down. The best case scenario was that slowing his heart down would not only allow him proper oxygenation but potentially would allow his heart to heal. Doctors get concerned when a baby's heart rate stays elevated for 24 hours. Zeke's had been double the norm for over a week. The major concern was that his heart would just stop. I was put on continuous fetal monitoring. I lay there listening to his heart beat, praying it would slow but not stop, praying against an emergency c-section and having a premature baby, and praying that my heart could withstand however much medication Zeke needed. Having a normal pregnancy taken from you feels so unfair. It was during that time when I was laying there feeling my own heart slow that I thought about the people in my life. Those who were loving us well, that knew what was going on and actually cared. I thought of those friends that had been lost along the way, those that gave up caring about us. Then there were the strangers that became friends. The amazing nurses. I thought about my past sins, of how undeserving I was to even be pregnant at all. Years of misusing sex, being sexually abused and assaulted, and using morning after pills (all before meeting and marrying my husband) still tormented my soul. Who was I to deserve something so precious and pure as a baby? Maybe this was justice? Or punishment? If you didn't know this about me then you wouldn't understand why I feel so strongly about motherhood and that it is a GIFT. Children are a GIFT. I felt this when my sister visited with my nieces. It was as if tangible joy walked in the room, covered in pink tutus and ribbons. My sweet sister brought lotion to rub my feet and as she did one on my nieces, who was about 3 years old and being unprompted, did the same and began to rub my swollen feet and ankles. Have you ever been served by a three year old? It's humbling. It's pure. And I was absolutely undeserving of it. It was a tangible reminder that though I didn't deserve love that God was going to love me anyways. In came PEACE. Ten days later we went home. I spent the rest of the pregnancy way drugged on heart medication. When I went to fill my prescription the Pharmacist wanted to personally call the Cardiologist to makes sure there wasn't a mistake on the dosage. It was three times the normal amount. Then came delivery. We had been told that if we could have Zeke vaginally that there was a high chance of his SVT being corrected and him not having to go into the NICU. In my heart I was determined to do everything possible to make that happen. Then the concerns started to come from the doctors. He's too big. His torso and stomach are larger than normal. Induction at 38 weeks. I refused. Induction at 39 weeks. Please just let me wait. Why are you guys trying to rush this? My body was made to do this. Why do I have to convince you of this? I am not a statistic and they do not soothe a pregnant mama's mind. Finally I consented to an induction at 39 weeks 4 days. It was my husband that had peace about it, not me, but I trust my husband. After 24 hours of induction and labor I finally asked for an epidural. I hated oxytocin/pit before labor and I hate it to this day. I had reached the point of being consumed by pain and knew that I could not do it on my own any more. I felt defeated. Defeated by modern medicine and longing for "regular pain". It's hard when your birth plan goes exactly the opposite of how you want it to. But I was still avoiding a c-section. Another 10 hours of contractions and strange sleep. Numbness. One large strange blow-up peanut. At one point one of my legs fell off the bed/table. I had to call the nurse to put it back on for me. Thank you. Then it was time. Because I was "doing so well", the intern let the midwifes continue my labor. Shift change came right before pushing time. In walked my favorite midwife. Thank you, Jesus. Only a few pushed they told me, any minute now. Two hours later my son was born. But it was silent. As he lay across my stomach my first words to him were, "You need to breathe now, ok? I love you." Those were the longest moments as I watched from the table and no one said a word. I went from everyone pushing and pulling and cutting to one person left cleaning up the mess. And there was no comfort for me until I heard that sound. It's the sweetest sound I've ever heard. His cry. The cry of my son. He's breathing. He's living. I could've happily died in that moment. But I didn't. The sweetest gift was placed in my arms, in my protection, in my trust and in my love. The midwife stayed on to help teach me how to nurse him and to monitor him so he wouldn't have to go to the NICU. Little do they know they would've had to knock me unconscious to take him from me. Luckily no one had to experience that. The next few days were full of immense pain and immense joy. Our little guy was strong. His heart was strong. Weeks and and months of checkups and Cardiologist visits have come and gone. A year has past. They still can not find anything wrong. The last 24 hour halter will be our last test. If all goes well, never again will I have to strap a heart monitor to my child's chest. We can just enjoy Zeke's LIFE and be grateful for the lesson I learned before he was even born; that he is an undeserved gift from God.