When I found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic – over joyed to be exact. But shortly after the initial high wore off I become worried, then anxious, then scared and sometimes terrified.
Was I going to miscarry? When should I tell people we’re expecting? How should I do it? What will people think? Is my husband as excited as me? Oh Gosh, what’s life going to look like?
Am I going to be a good mom? How will I know what to do? Will I ever feel ready or like I have it all together? Wait. What’s going to happen with my work? How will I manage a business and a baby? When do I take mat leave? When do I start getting the house ready?!?!?
And on and on and on and on.
I felt like the perfect storm of caffeine and adrenaline. And in my worst moments, like a crazy person content to walk down every terrible rabbit trail.
Fear and nerves consumed far too many days.
One of my biggest struggles was the fact that past 12 weeks, I could no longer walk more than a few minutes at a time, let alone run or workout. For a woman who’s struggled with body image issues and disordered eating for most of her life, this was breeding grounds for the devil to taunt me with thoughts of passing on my issues to my baby.
Measuring consistently small in the tummy and the funny looks from others when I told them how far along I was, didn’t help much either.
I battled thoughts of thinking it was my fault and that surely I was doing something wrong. Great… already I’m a bad mother!
Then come 28 weeks, I woke up to blood. Baby was safe, but from that day forward we’d endure weekly ultrasounds to check on baby’s safety and discover each week something else “was wrong.”
Did they know what? No. Could they give me anything more than guesses? No. It simply didn’t seem fair.
At 36 weeks, my water broke and we rushed quickly to the hospital. (Because they didn’t know what was wrong, I was advised to come as soon as possible.)
Everything possible raced through my mind and as I quietly clutched to my birthing plan, I had a sneaking suspicious nothing was going to go “just right.”
And boy, was I right.
Within one hour, they found the root of every problem they’d discovered along the way. And only one small thing had kept them from seeing it… Blood work. They’d never drawn it!
Why? Because they didn’t ask me if I’d had headaches (which I had) or experienced dizzy spells (again, yes. Many times over). But I’m not the doctor and I didn’t think it anything other than dehydration, anxiety or low blood sugar. Go figure.
[Friends, please take the initiative and tell your doctor every symptom you’re experiencing even if it seems perfectly normal. In pregnancy, even the smallest things can be indicators of something much bigger.]
Again, all I heard was, “my fault.”
We were rushed into critical care, assigned one to one nursing and was informed I had undiagnosed pre-eclampsia. They summoned me to labour in bed and informed me I was allowed no food or water, period, until this nightmare was all over.
I was at risk of seizures or bleeding out and the baby’s heart rate was rather low. In the nicest and calmest way possible, they shared that they needed to get baby out for both of our safety.
I don’t think at the time I quite understood the severity of my situation and I applaud my medical professionals for that. They did nothing but make me feel safe and secure, when in reality there was much at risk.
They graciously humoured me while I persisted in having a natural delivery until the very last minute. It wasn’t more than mere minutes after receiving my epidural [24 hours in] that they told me my baby was in critical condition and they rushed me in for an emergency C-section.
I woke up almost 10 hours later, completely drowsy with minimal recollection of anything. I had no idea my daughter was in the NICU and was as fragile as a china doll. And that’s exactly what she looked like.
While lengthy, she was as petite as could be with no fat to hold her heat [initially she couldn’t be out of an incubator for more than 10 minutes at a time] and features that looked far from human – almost angelic. They insisted there had to be a cause; that while in gestational age she was near-term, her body was not. And so began the gamut of tests to determine yet another “problem” without an answer.
While our daughter got passed from the NICU to paediatrics, I had my own issues to look after. My pre-eclampsia was’t getting better; ironically worse.
While I see now that it was a gift being in the hospital while my daughter was [as oppose to being discharged and having to drive back each day to be and feed her] at the time it did nothing but feed into my “bad mommy” guilt.
The baby nurses wanted me to be there around the clock to look after and feed my daughter, while my nurses insisted I stay in bed and recover or I’d never make it home to begin mothering. I felt pulled in opposing directions and shamed by the people that were supposed to be helping me.
Don’t get me wrong, my nurses were amazing and diligently advocated for both me and my baby, but I felt crushed by expectations that had me failing before I could begin.
Are we starting to see a pattern here?
At every turn in my pregnancy and delivery journey there were no answers or rule books to follow. I had zero control and nowhere to place my trust in other than God…
and even that wavered on a minute by minute basis. It looked more akin to half-hearted “Jesus” pleas beneath my breath than anything “holy” or “good Christian like!” I couldn’t remember scripture for the life of me nor could I muster the energy to read my bible. I didn’t want to talk to people, ignoring the 85 text messages from people I love.
One week later, we all left the hospital with strict orders for my [painfully slow] recovery. And despite thinking the worst was behind me, I quickly realized it was only the beginning. From the marathon of labour, I entered the bootcamp of mommy hood, which I affectionately refer to as my “dark days.”
I see now that my pregnancy was the beginning of a slow unraveling – of learning to surrender control to God one itty bitty step at a time.
And when people ask me how I managed? How I got through it with faith that’s strengthened, I can say only this:
By the Grace of God.
Because honestly, I did nothing.
Sure, I guilted myself into praying. I tried to force myself to read my bible. I used breathing exercising when I was anxious and I tried to get outside everyday. I took lots of social media breaks but the sad truth is, underneath it all, I was still striving; still trying in my own strength to “keep things together” – to save myself!
It wasn’t until I left the hospital that my faith was truly tested and every thing I knew about being a “good christian woman” shattered in a million pieces.
I went from being someone who studied diligently the bible each day to not opening it for weeks. From a woman who prided herself on prayer, to barely mustering more than single worded pleas. To keeping every sabbath holy and attending church faithfully, to disappearing from congregation until our daughter was six months old. We stopped going to small group and I hid from everyone I knew. I screamed at my husband, pushed him away and wrestled daily with this woman I hardly recognized in the mirror.
I was angry and hopeless and the only place that felt safe was alone with Jesus.
To everyone around me it looked like my world was falling apart but the truth was it was finally falling into place.
Jesus was at work refining me, stripping away the masks that were keeping me from being seen- and seeing him properly!
In those raw and vulnerable weeks of darkness, I sensed God’s presence like never before. I sensed his nearness, his forgiveness, his gentleness and most overwhelmingly, his love for me.
For the first time in my entire life, I was doing absolutely nothing and God was still delighted in me.
…completely unearned and entirely underserved.
And like a light bulb switch suddenly flipped, I believed with unwavering faith, that He actually likes me and thinks highly of me, even when I mess up or do absolutely nothing for him; even when I’m a big fat heap of ugly on the floor, who can’t get her emotional crap together!
When I least deserved his compassion, his mercy and his comfort, He lavished it upon me. He became my friend, my father and my saviour.
God took the chains of religion that I was waving high, broke them, shattered them, and taught me who He really is.
And my head knowledge of faith being about relationship, not religion, became heart knowledge for the vary first time!
When it comes to changes in my life since Eden-Elle was born, I could seriously write a novel. Nothing looks the same, including my eyes, my heart and even my head. But I can sum it up like this:
Everyones pregnancy journey looks different. Everyones labour and parenting does too. But one thing stays the same:
Motherhood changes us in ways we can’t prepare for.
Our world topples when we hold that baby in our arms and suddenly, our priorities fall into place. Our eyes are opened, unveiled as if for the first time, to what truly matter most in this world.
And friend, I believe God will do this for you too.
It does’t matter what your journey looks like, how messy or unsure you feel, lean in to Jesus and he will meet you were you’re at.
Photo Credit: Yinger Wong (Maternity), Christine Pineaar (New Born), Wakefield Productions (Final Headshot)