The worst, best days of my life

Typically, I write from the overflow of my soul: Passionate thoughts forcing their way to the surface, coming out in one big wave. But this topic, this story, I have been unable to get out. I stare at this screen now, just like I have countless times in recent weeks, and I am at a complete loss for words. So, bear with me. These emotions are so raw, that they may not come out beautifully.

I don’t like talking about the day, or week, that my son was born. I don’t like thinking about it, and I don’t want to remember it. Not only did nothing go as planned, but it went so horribly wrong that all I could do was brace myself. Just hold on. I was just hanging on, holding my breath, for the entire first week of Gatlin’s life. Not living, just merely surviving.

I wasn’t one of those moms that went into the hospital with a laminated birth plan and monogrammed birthing robe. Not that there’s anything wrong with those moms…but if I even brushed my hair in the morning while pregnant, then it was a big day. And while we’re on the subject, I was never “good” at the joyful, glowing pregnant woman role either.  My journey started with nausea, which was replaced by heartburn, which turned into swelling…and slowing morphed me into a land manatee. Finally, the entire experience was made SO much better by the arrival of PUPPPs. If you have never heard of PUPPPs, consider yourself lucky. It’s a rash that happens in one percent of pregnancies (are you surprised I am one of the one percent?), and is so itchy that you spend every waking second trying to claw your skin off. This rash is what landed me in the hospital 2.5 weeks before my son’s planned arrival.

Everything moved painfully slow from this point forward.

I was in labor for roughly 30 hours. Only 1.5 hours of this time was actually spent pushing, and for about 29 of those hours I was okay (generally speaking). Then, as fate would have it, the epidural stopped working…and not slowly either. We are talking some “light pressure” turned into a machete to the gut in a matter of minutes. I maybe could have handled it, I maybe could have pushed through the pain… but my son wasn’t budging. He was no closer to coming out than he had been 1.5 hours ago, and I was so depleted that I physically could not continue. The dominant emotion here was helplessness. Gone were the dreams of skin-to-skin time with my newborn, pictures of his dad cutting the cord, or any of the sacred first hours spent as a family of three. I was taken to an emergency c-section, where the doctors debated putting me to sleep. Here, I made an incredibly stupid decision. The anesthesiologist asked me if I was numb enough to stay awake for the procedure. I was not. But the desire to see my baby, for my husband to be able to watch our child enter the world, overshadowed any reason or rationality that I had left. So, I told them I was numb.

It only took a few minutes for the pain to become excruciating. It enveloped my entire being, and I no longer had control of my body. The rest of this nightmare is hazy at best. A flash of my baby being pulled from by stomach, lifeless. A flash of someone screaming, not even realizing it was my own mouth. A flash of my husband sobbing next to my head, desperation in his voice. And then black. Nothing.

When I woke up, I was wheeled on a hospital bed to meet my son in the NICU. It was absolutely surreal coming to the realization that I would not be able to pick my son out of the room full of babies. One second I could feel him squirming in my stomach, and the next? My womb was painfully still, and there was a baby in an incubator in front of me. To be painfully transparent: this child felt like he did not belong to me. I did not see him come out, I did not hear his first cry, and mine was not the first touch he felt.

The emotion here was rage. How could the God who claimed to love me so deeply allow this nightmare to unfold? How could he take this moment, the birth of my first child, and make it a devastating memory? It hurts my soul to admit that I did not pray during my entire week in the hospital. I tried to conjure up the words, but instead found myself clenching my jaw.

I wish I could tell you the anger was short lived, but it was not. And to be honest, some part of me is still trying to work through it;  But, I see what my Father was trying to show me. As is the theme of my life thus far, I had been leaning on my own understanding. I had tried to plan, organize, and control every aspect of the creating of this new life. I had scoured Pinterest for the perfect newborn pictures, packed and repacked bags full of perfectly coordinated outfits for my son, and promised each of our friends and family members that they could come see him the second he was born. I planned my way to peace. But this peace was so artificial, so temporary and unstable, that it crumbled at the first sign of trouble. I didn’t truly realize until I was watching my child through a hole in an incubator, that I did not form this life in my stomach. I do not know who he will be, or what his life will look like. As much as this is my son, he is ultimately someone else’s first. How could I be foolish enough to think that my hands are more capable of protecting this life than the hands that started his beating heart? I do not think that my God causes suffering. I do not believe he is malicious or enjoys the pain of his people. However, I do believe he allows our man made foundation to fall out from beneath us, in order to place us on the Rock that does not move. The Rock that will not crumble.

So yes, I got the shit end of the stick this time. (Can you say shit in a post like this?) It was hard, horrible, and it was not “fair.” You know what else I got? A HEALTHY, beautiful, wonderful baby. My health. An amazing husband and father. The best support system I could have imagined. And the Lord is still working on my heart. I don’t have any advice on how to live a life free of worry and planning, because I’m just not there yet. I still ran to blame and anger when things did not go the way I thought it should. But, I am finding my way to peace. I am allowed to tell my Father how I feel…even if that emotion is rage. I had a friend tell me this week, when I was drowning in guilt, that the Holy Spirit was interceding on my behalf. He was praying FOR me, when I couldn’t find the words. This realization shook me: Even in my human shortcoming, even when I turned to blame and doubt…He was still good. He didn’t put me in that nightmare, but he did pull me out with the same hands that are holding my child. Oh, what a Savior.

3 thoughts on “The worst, best days of my life

  1. Caroline, I had no idea you’d been through all of this. I’ve seen pictures of your precious Gatlin, but didn’t know what had transpired. I’m so proud of you for sharing in a very real and beautiful way. I hope you are feeling better each day, and I know Gatlin is as blessed to have you and your hubby as y’all are to have him. Big hugs to you!

  2. What a beautiful testimony, Caroline! Thank you for sharing! Every time I think I am in control (yes, I am Type A) God always reminds me I am not. Those trials are extremely difficult to weather but we are always better for them as they draw us closer to HIm. I am praising God for your health and that if your precious baby!

    I went to high school with your dad and was a sorority sister if your mom : )

  3. Caroline, you have so beautifully written the story of your son’s birth that I feel as though I have experienced it with you. My heart breaks for the pain you endured, but I am overjoyed that you and your son are both in good health. I have so loved seeing pictures on Facebook and various social media– you truly have a beautiful family. Yes, on the outside, but most importantly on the inside.

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