Caution: This post contains content that may be triggering if you’re sensitive to writings about birth trauma.
I recently realized how the two hardest trials of my life thus far – bringing life into this world and witnessing a life leaving this world – are intricately connected and how both have bolstered my faith in Jesus beyond my imagination. With that in mind, I am going to unfold the stories of both trials and share why I am so deeply grateful for both and the scars that came with each.
My birth plan during pregnancy with W was a single word: epidural. About two hours into blissful nothingness after the epidural was administered, my eyes sprang open. Pain was beginning to beat like a slow drum through my back, growing in intensity by the second. The sensation was similar to that of turning up the volume on a remote. Relentlessly, the pain soared and soared and soared. I remember, at first, whispering to J to get help, and quickly, just screaming uncontrollably. The epidural completely wore off just as I was hitting the peak of transitional labor so I unexpectedly went from zero pain to somewhere way beyond my threshold in the matter of about ten seconds. W was “sunny side up” so the pain was mostly focused along my lower spine. The pressure of having a skull inside me pushing with all its might against my backbone was so phenomenally intense that it felt like my spine was about to crack open at any moment and that the baby might just exit in a new fashion from my lower back. It made the actual broken bones I’d suffered in my life seem like paper cuts. Being plunged into abrupt and severe pain when you are in a place that you thought was safe and controlled is life-altering, to say the least. The anesthesiologist came back but nothing he did worked or helped. I continuously screamed and pleaded for any kind of pain relief, anything, but nothing more was offered, attempted or done. I was surrounded on the hospital bed by blank, staring eyes of a doctor, two nurses and my husband. Guttural screams that I didn’t recognize as my own were the only thing that led me through a natural birth – a style of birth I had never wanted or planned for – and I silently prayed over and over to Jesus to please take my pain away by taking me Home and away from this hell on earth in which I was trapped. I desperately wanted and desired to die. I never in my life imagined pain could be so horrific and that night left me with much more than physical scars. That experience led to PTSD, postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression that crippled me emotionally for a good two years. But I am so thankful for that trial and the emotional scars that came with it and I’m going to explain why.
I never doubted God’s authority or existence during W’s birth but I’m ashamed to say that I felt fully abandoned by God the night my child was born and I was plagued by the question “why?” for years. I found no joy in holding my baby those first few weeks because my brain was in shock mode and all it could do was replay the horror of what had just happened in the delivery room over and over and over again. I was trying to make sense of it all, and in the process, I missed out on enjoying the beautiful brand-new life God had just graciously given to me. I was so shaken and focused on the physical and emotional pain that surrounded me that I couldn’t see that I was actually surrounded by God and His unending mercy and love. And while I eventually made peace with my birth story and was able to recognize and thank God for so many other blessings that surrounded that event, I truly never understood the reason God had me endure that horrific pain until right before my Dad passed.
The day before my Dad passed, he experienced an acute attack of debilitating pain. It was his first (and we believe only) and it came out of nowhere. He could barely speak because of the pain but he was gasping out words like “why?” and “how much longer?” – two questions that I repeatedly asked God and the doctor and nurses during labor and delivery. My immediate response was to hold my Dad and start praying without end to Jesus to lift the pain and to take him home to Heaven. And at some point, the strong parallels between Dad’s questions and the way I was responding in prayer caused the memories of W’s birth to come searing to the surface of my mind. And all of a sudden, laying in bed with my arms around my Dad, I had the answer I had been waiting to understand for years … the answer to why I had to go through that birth experience that my doctor later told me was worse than 90% of the births she oversaw. It was for this moment I was living right now. It was so I would know with rock-solid certainty what I was supposed to do in this moment. And through sobs, I told my father, “God is with us right now, Dad. I know it’s hard to feel Him because I’ve been where you are. I don’t know why there has to be so much pain but one thing I am sure of is that God never leaves our sides, even if we think He has … I know because I’ve been where you are, Dad. I wanted to die so much when I was giving birth and pleaded with God to take me Home but it wasn’t my time and I wrestled with trying to understand why He would let me go through so much pain but I think it was all for this moment right now. I feel His presence and I know He is with us, Dad. Lord, please lift my Dad’s pain and give us a huge sign of Your abundant presence and light.” I prayed that over and over and within minutes, my father rolled over and sat up all on his own, devoid of pain, and told us he was getting up to go watch television. I sat there, alone in the room, dumbfounded, until it clicked. And that’s when I ran out to my Dad and praised Jesus for the answered prayer. Shortly after, I backed down the drive and saw the incredible full rainbow over my parents’ house, ending right in my Dad’s bedroom – another answer to my prayer for a sign of His presence and light and which gloriously illustrates the Biblical promise that God *never* abandons His children.
God took the two most intense trials of my life, beautifully intertwined them and created so much purpose and beauty from them both … and He will do the same in your life, too, if you let Him in. I finally have so much peace with my birth story because the question that nagged me for years has been answered. God used the pain from that story to strengthen my faith so that I could be rocksteady for Dad in my faith that God would never leave our sides. I’ve truly never felt God’s love more alive in me and in my life than during my Dad’s last days here on earth.
The day my father passed, I felt my Dad’s joyful exuberance in heaven – a piece of the exquisite joy he was experiencing. Thank you for giving me that glimpse of your new beautiful life, Dad. I will always miss you but am forever thankful for how much the legacy of your life and love has bolstered my faith in our great and glorious Savior.