(This is part one of a two-part series and I’m long-winded. You have been warned.)
I’ve written this first sentence a handful of times, only to delete and rewrite. Again, again and again, two days in a row. We want to open our hearts to others and be authentic but sometimes even those who identify themselves as “open books” still have a hard time explaining how they really feel about the struggles we face.
Lord knows that I am no stranger to struggles. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a dark chapter, or two or three, in their story. Those darker chapters make the lighter ones more meaningful. Oftentimes, however, the chapters of our life carry both dark and light; only light can drive out darkness and we need the darkness to see the light. Our lives are bittersweet and a good portion of our chapters are spent in this limbo of waiting.
Waiting to get married, waiting for your baby to arrive, waiting for the test results to come back. We wait, wait and wait some more. Waiting is the in between, where we mentally sit with our hands in our lap and breathe deeply,absorbing the sights and smells around us perfecting our patience. Sounds dreamy right? I don’t know about you but waiting for me isn’t dreamy. It’s hard and it makes the most patient people on Earth itchy.
When our blue-eyed boy, our second son, came into the world it was winter, just shortly after the New Year. It was a smooth pregnancy, in fact, much more so compared to my first. Then I hit 34 weeks.
Considering I was on bed rest for two months due to early dilation and the fact that our oldest was born at 35 weeks, I was no stranger to the precautions doctors put in place, such as a weekly hormone shot to keep my uterus from contracting. I had been down the preemie road before and felt like a pro. I knew the big medical terms for certain tests and the extra steps you take before leaving the hospital. However, my arrogance got the best of me with our blue-eyed boy. I see that now.
Our oldest only had to spend some a few days “tanning” under a blue light and we were on our merry way. I knew I was lucky but I didn’t know that I basically hit the jackpot when it comes to preemies with our oldest.
At 34 weeks with our blue-eyed, I found out not only did I have a high fluid leak causing low amniotic fluid but our boy was frank breech. His head was up toward my ribs and his legs are at the bottom, sprawled out, basically frog-like.
Instead of taking our blue-eyed boy immediately via c-section, I was pumped with fluids and multiple ultrasounds later I was told my fluid measurement was high enough to go home. I would come in every so often for the fluid to be measured. For the next two weeks, I went from my body being 80 percent water to 95 percent, or at least that’s how I felt. I pushed the fluids diligently, researching every technique out there (standing on my head, turning my body into a human pretzel, Chinese herbs) to get our boy to turn.
And so I waited, my fluid slowly measured lower and lower and I did my best to keep a positive attitude about it all. Being an optimist is choosing to focus on the good, it doesn’t, however, mean we don’t see the negative. And sometimes it takes more energy to be positive than a Negative Nancy. But you push back the worry and smile through it.
I just had to make it to 37 weeks. I was so close and he just needed to turn. Turn, baby, turn. I knew God would take care of us and He did … He just took down a different path.
At 36 weeks and five days, I went in for my usual fluid check and soon found out it was dangerously low. I had researched c sections but was still holding on strong to the idea of a natural birth. Our final ultrasound before delivery showed that our boy was still impersonating a frog. My best friend was with me, thank God, as my mother was watching our oldest. My husband was two hours away at drill; I knew we were having a baby that day. We were told to go into an examination room and to wait. More waiting.
How ridiculous, I thought. I was told anything under 5 cm of fluid and they would be taking our boy. I was at 3 cm. It was time. And now a nurse is taking my blood pressure!? I could feel irritation bubbling to the surface. The doctor came in after what felt like an hour (actually five minutes) and I was told what I already knew. I had eight doctors and it was a roll of the dice who would be working the day I delivered. One of the male doctors would be performing the c-section. He was waiting for me as I waddled out of the examination room.
“Are we ready to do this?” he said followed by a wide smile that allowed his mustache to cover up most of his upper lip. After a deep breath I told him I was ready. I hadn’t had time to process that my dream of another natural birth was just tossed out the window.
I had heard of c-sections moms experiencing a sense of grief,their dream of having a natural birth dying, causing mixed emotions about it all. There is no way to sugar coat it, it’s an awful feeling and it took me months to move pass it.
But at this moment, I just wanted my family to arrive and my husband to show up.And he did, right as they were wheeling me back to the operating room. I always think he’s handsome, well … most of the time (when’s not being a jerk) but when he’s in his Army uniform, it bumps him up the scale … you know what I mean, what guy doesn’t look good in a uniform? Am I right?
My soldier walked through the door, scrubbed up, and was massaging my forehead with his hand just as they made the incision. The doctor said that I had nice skin as he started the procedure.
“Ha, you mean I did.” I wasn’t in the best moods for his humor. But in fairness, he did do a great job.
Tears started to stream down my face as tugging and a sharp pain in my abdomen grew stronger. It was as if I had done a thousand sit ups and my muscles were quivering. I finally spoke up about the pain right as my soldier caught one of my tears before it spilled down my face. I was told that I shouldn’t be in any pain and a few pushes of a red button I was back at ease. It’s one of the my moments in my life where I should have spoken up but didn’t because I assumed a little pain was normal. Tugging, yes, discomfort, sure, but stabbing pains, no.
Sometimes I wish I was a tad more forward. Can’t I just be a raging rip? I’ve attempted it and I never feel good afterward. I just feel fake. It’s just not me and I’m okay with it but that doesn’t mean I still don’t think about it. This was one of those times when I should have spoken up about my well-being, put myself first.I would later learn the importance about speaking up for myself the hard way.
Seconds turned into minutes and I began to wonder if something was wrong. And then I heard it. The cry came and it was weak. People began to appear from the left corner of the room, carrying our blue-eyed boy to a station where they could clean him up and clear out his lungs. His second cry was cut short by something in his throat.And he then I saw the oxygen mask put over his tiny face.
All I could see was my soldier’s back as he watched the nurses closely. No one was reassuring me, all eyes were on our blue-eyed boy.
“Is he okay?” I said. “What’s going on? Someone answer me!”
A nurse rushed over to me and my soldier turned around to face me, both assured me that he was fine. My husband has a tendency to down play things, which is a blessing because I have a tendency to overthink. But this was one of those times where I needed every single detail not just the “he’s fine, just a little oxygen.” response I was getting.
Stable under the oxygen mask, our boy made his way to the NICU, where he would stay for the next 13 days. Jokes and laughter followed between my soldier and doctor as I was stitched back up, moved to a bed and pushed back into my room.
More assurance came from family and friends and I could feel myself easing into my bed. He’s okay, he’s stable. It’s normal to be under oxygen. A nurse knocked on my door, entered the room and with a tone in her voice gave me the worse case scenario. It wasn’t as if to prepare me for the possibility, she had sentenced my son to a month in the NICU, hooked up to as many monitors as he has fingers — talk about a sucker punch to the gut.
The next 13 days were a lesson on the art of waiting; we rush, rush, rush and have to know right this second what is wrong at this moment. And when the experts can’t we are confused and scared. We forget those experts are human in white coats and aren’t really experts. They may know a lot more than the average person but they don’t know all and they can’t explain all.
Test after tests, prick after prick of his tiny little fingers showed that he was healthy, but his lungs were just not quite where they should be. I had the steroid shot to help speed up the development of his lungs two and a half weeks ago. I can only imagine now if I didn’t have the shot how much longer we would have lived at the hospital.
He would get choked drinking a bottle, even using the smallest nipple they had. So mama stayed in an empty room down the hall and nursed her baby every four hours, pumping every two hours, to build up that supply of life-saving miracle milk. Thanks to family and my best friend’s family, I was able to stay at the hospital and be with him anytime I wanted. The nurses had to tell me to go back to my room some days to sleep or at least try.
Born seven pounds, 13 ounces, he was a big boy (and still is) and his lungs just weren’t expanding fully when he breathed. He needed time with a little oxygen help to strengthen his lungs (FYI, he has some strong pipes now.) And so we waited and gave him time. He handled it way better than I did. It was one of my first real tests of faith and though I think I didn’t handle it well (crying, barely eating, just bone tired), God knew I would come out stronger when I didn’t know my heart would heal. Maybe I was supposed to be a puddle of tears on the floor, crying out to God in the shower demanding why.
Maybe my heart was supposed to break so it could grow and heal more open to the love our blue-eyed boy was meant to give us. I believe God used the waiting time to prepare us for another journey we would embark on three years, almost to the day, later. The journey we are on now with our blue-eye boy. The waiting to see if our boy has a Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Waiting is an art form I’m not sure we will ever master, but there’s a reason why we need to be still from time to time. It’s God working behind the scenes to turn our ashes into something beautiful and, yes, he can turn things around in a second, but there is always a reason why we are waiting. He’s widening our hearts for more love to flow through — to overflow, we just have to let him in.