Two years ago, when Julianna was born, I wrote an essay reflecting on the lessons God has taught us through our experience of childbearing. I wondered…apprehensively…what the lesson was going to be the next time around.
With Alex, the lesson was: God’s time, not ours. The years of infertility culminated in a long, beautiful, but difficult stay with my grandmother waiting for labor to begin. I will always treasure those weeks, the time I got to spend with this marvelous woman, but there’s no denying the fact that those weeks were also very difficult. My body just would not go into labor. A week past the last possible due date, we induced. Still, my body didn’t want to give up its prize. Twenty-four hours after Cervidil, and sixteen after the onset of labor, we had our first C-section.
With Julianna, the lesson was: accept God’s gifts. The experience of coming to terms with Julianna’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was, again, beautiful, though difficult. I remember vividly the moment when things began to turn for me. It was Sunday morning and no one, even the nursing staff, had yet come into my room. I began to pull the writing desk over to work on something when a still, small voice said, No, Kate. And I knew I needed some time just to sit and allow myself to feel, to grieve. I had about half an hour that morning in which God and I said everything that needed to be said. I cried. I prayed. I cried some more. And by the time the nurse came to take vitals and flush my heplock, I had begun to heal.
The lesson this time around? Total dependence. Weeks of low-grade nausea, and then a cold with a nasty cough. I couldn’t even take a Benadryl last night to help me sleep, because we weren’t sure about mixing it with Z-pac. In the end, though, that was for the best. Scarcely two hours into the night, I woke to the sound of Christian moaning and crying for my help. He was in agony, rolling around on the floor. And so, instead of him babying me through the last night of a difficult pregnancy, I was flying around my grandmother’s house, calling the ambulance, throwing things into bags and following the ambulance to the emergency room, my mind a blur of terror, thinking of what life would be like without him.
Thank God, it turned out to be nothing, but the four hours we spent in the ER left me feeling even more queasy and cough-y than ever. 35 minutes before I was due upstairs for surgery prep, we were discharged from the ER. I felt as bad as I had felt at any point in the last two months., and I was about to have a spinal, which last time around was a long, horrible flirtation with nausea and hot flashes. And I knew that I couldn’t get through this myself, with or without help. The only thing I could do was throw myself on the mercy of God: Carry me, God. Just get me through this.
Naturally, God provided far more than mere survival. After all the prep work, we had some time to rest. And then there was the truly amazing anesthesiology team, who listened to my previous experience and prepared so well that this time, the spinal was, if not a pleasant experience, certainly not the nightmare I’ve been dreading since Feb. of 2007.
Yes, God continues to use childbearing to teach me. But just because God’s lessons build upon each other does not mean that they must grow more traumatic every time. Perhaps the ultimate lesson I learned from the birth of my beautiful son Nicholas is that “God does not always chide,” as Godspell says.
God is good. All the time.