A little over a month ago, I gave birth to my daughter.
(Trigger warning: I share some of the traumatic events after my delivery. If you are sensitive to this or are expecting and already anxious, please be warned. I don’t give a ton of details, but still want you to be aware. xo)
This time, my labor was short and intense. Three hours from start to finish. I had no time for pain relief, and I struggled to stay on top of the contractions.
When it was time to push, this fourth-timer remembered the rush when the baby leaves your body and is laid on your chest for the first time. I focused everything on that moment and had her out in two pushes.
For the first three hours of Junie’s life, we might as well have been bathed in a golden glow. She latched well. She cooed. She nuzzled right onto our chests and let out precious sighs while drifting off to sleep.
We fell in love.
It was glorious… until it wasn’t.
I mentioned to Mike that I felt like I was bleeding more than usual. “Isn’t bleeding normal after you have a baby?” he asked.
“Yeah, it is. This just seems like a lot.”
We shrugged it off.
When the nurse came to check on me, she was concerned. My blood loss was weighed, tests were called for, and a catheter was inserted along with medicine in IV’s.
The bleeding only got worse.
Four hours post-delivery, my room was full of hospital staff, and I started to feel the world go gray. I heard the doctor call out, “We have to get her to the OR now. She cannot wait. Right now.”
I looked back as they wheeled me away—the gravity of the situation starting to register. My baby was sleeping peaceful in her bassinet. My husband was looking at me—concern etched into the lines of his face. I whispered, “I love you.”
I wondered if those three words were my last and if they were enough to cover my life and the ones I’ve loved with every breath of it.
As they hurried me thru the halls to the operating room, I called out, voice-weak, for Jesus. Jesus over and over again.
And guys? He was there.
Peace hovered around me, tangible enough that though I was too weak to reach out and grab it, it touched me. I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew I was with Jesus. Wherever He was going, whatever He had in mind, I was with Him.
The bright lights and the medical terminology bouncing around the white walls of the OR made me feel like I was in a different world, one I wasn’t quite apart of. So I sang.
Great is Thy Faithfulness. O God my Father/ There is no shadow of turning with Thee/ Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not/ As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
I sang till the mask was placed over my face and the white room went dark.
I hemorrhaged more than three-fifths the blood in my body because of what is called uterine atony (basically, the top part of my uterus contracted like it should meanwhile the middle part was too stretched out—ie 4 kids and a really fast labor—to contract. Instead it filled with blood.)
The recovery was rough because my legs filled up with gallons of fluid. I couldn’t walk and my nerves were shot from the trauma of the whole thing. They kept me four days and three nights.
Three days after I got home, I didn’t feel quite right, and my lungs were burning. So I made an appointment for that day at a clinic. When I got to the clinic, they sent me straight to the emergency room and urged me to travel by ambulance because my blood pressure was so high I was in danger of seizing. I spent another two nights in the hospital getting a 24-hour line of magnesium for post partum pre-eclampsia.
When my discharge papers were signed, my blood pressure was low again so they didn’t send me home with medicine. But right before I left, I could feel it going back up. I asked the nurse to take my blood pressure again. It was in fact up, but not high enough to be dangerous. So they sent me home anyways.
It was dangerous by the time I got home.
I had to go straight back to the ER. (I cried. Then I laughed. Then I cried again.) Fortunately, this time they gave me blood pressure medicine, monitored me for a few hours, and then sent me home.
I’m still unpacking all that happened in the first few weeks of Juniper’s life. Some of it, I still can’t touch. It’s too raw. But here’s why I am telling you this story now:
Because God is faithful.
It’s not the story I would have asked for. Ever. It was awful and painful and terrifying. I certainly didn’t feel strong enough to face the recovery of it. Post-traumatic stress is not fun. And I am tired of anxiety.
But God is faithful.
So, while I continue to heal and recover, let me tell you what God did in the midst of all of this. Because, guys, while parts of this are hard, these parts are good. And I will tell them over and over again.
God is good. Even in the middle of your hardest, darkest night—He is still good.
The doctor who worked to save me told me she had never seen blood results come back like mine after losing so much blood. She was baffled and had no explanation because my numbers were as though I had never even lost blood. (I do have an explanation: Jesus.)
My nurse told me that the day before my delivery they had done scenario training for my exact condition. I laughed it off at the time and said “You’re welcome for providing you with the real-life experience.” And then it hit me: If there was a best hospital to be at, a good day to bleed out, it was there, and it was then. I wasn’t even planning on delivering at that hospital—I switched last minute because it was closer and I had a feeling the baby was going to come fast.
Truly, I don’t understand how God works. But I do know He provided. Like Psalm 139 says, “He hemmed me in behind and before.” He sees all my days. He knows the ones appointed for me to live. And He has provided for each one of those days.
The revelation that God is in control is a paradox. It comes with both a terror and a peace. On the one hand, I am not in control. But on the other hand, He is.
I had the best labor and delivery nurse come on shift right before I delivered. She was older, a mother of nine, and a traveling nurse. She coached me, breathed with me, reminded me to relax and lift my eyebrows, and held my hand when the pain was unbearable. When she heard I was in the OR, she left her post so she could be there to hold my hand when I went under and when I woke up. I can’t tell you how much it meant to have a familiar face with me.
Juniper means evergreen—and let me tell you, we might have faced a bleak winter, but still she’s thrived. She’s been a source of joy and calm when it felt everything was crumbling. I can’t put into words the heart-busting love.
We mamas, we lay down our lives for our children, wrestle in a place where life and death can both feel so close—but I look at Junie’s sweet face and I begrudge her nothing. She was worth it, her life so precious.
This last Sunday when I received communion and the deacons said the words “This is Christ’s body broken for you. This is Christ’s blood shed for you,” I wept. I now know more fully what that kind of sacrifice means.
My own body broke; my own blood shed. I love my kids knowing exactly how far I’d go for them because I almost went there—and yet, guys, Christ went even further for me. (For you too.)
Each day, I’d look at what recovery I still needed to get to and felt overwhelmed. And somehow, each day, God would meet the needs for that day, and by the next day I was crossing another milestone in recovery—the one that seemed impossible the day before. I will forever remember pushing the bassinet cart into the hallway, weak and short of breath, lifting my heavy legs one at a time, slower than I ever thought would feel miraculous. But I raised my arm and declared, “I am an overcomer!” And everyone in the nursing station cheered.
The song, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” has been an anchor for me. I sang it to my belly as I learned to trust God and fall in love with the surprise He gave me. I sang it through the last weeks of pregnancy when I was miserable with pre-labor symptoms. I sang it through the hardest contractions, when the low notes and the words helped loosen and relax. I sang it in the OR, wondering if this was the end for me, feeling such a peace over me that it could only be Jesus—Immanuel—God with me. I sang it in the ambulance when my blood pressure soared. And I’m still singing it when I look upon the face of my Junie-girl.
Sometimes it takes going through something hard to see the community you have around you. I have been overwhelmed in the best way by the number of people who prayed over us—who were like the friends in the Bible story lowering their suffering friend down through the ceiling to put right in front of Jesus. I have friends and saints in my life who carried me by their prayers when I was too unwell to get there myself. I am so grateful. Our kids were well-loved while we were in the hospital. We had 3 weeks’ worth of meals delivered—and what a blessing they were. Seeing our tangible needs met by our community has been humbling but also makes me feel so very rich.
His blessings all mine, with 10,000 beside.
Last week, Mike and I were listening to the new Switchfoot album. (Native Tongue—It’s super good, y’all.) One of the songs is called, “Joy Invincible.” The lyrics talked about hospitals and hard news. It just seemed like an appropriate way to end this post.
If only life didn’t need us to be this brave/ But we don’t live in a world of if only’s/ Stretched tight in between our birth and our graves/ Hallelujah nevertheless, was the song pain couldn’t destroy/ Hallelujah nevertheless, You’re my joy invincible.
As it turns out, we can face the darkest night and find God still there. Our lives can feel like they are crumbling, yet there is a joy invincible that cannot be demolished.
These are not Christian platitudes. This isn’t me making less of hardship. This is me making much of God. Because He really can be our strength. Our peace. Our joy. Our present help in times of trouble.
(And some more pictures because I know you all are eager for some baby spam. Okay, maybe not. But this mama needs to share, because, I mean… Gah!! So much cute!)
I’d love to hear from you: have you had a traumatic experience? How did you see God’s faithfulness through it? (Share with me in the comments.)
Photo Credit: The 1st picture of Juniper and the last 4 pictures were taken by Katie Fewell Photography and are used with permission.