Tomorrow, my sweet, adorable, hilarious, smart little boy turns three years old. I know it sounds cliche, but I can’t believe that much time has already passed since he made me a Mommy. His birth was probably the hardest thing I have ever been through. It is still hard to think about, and it has taken me a long time – 3 years, obviously, to be able to process it and put those painful, though joyful, memories into words. Here goes.
When we had only been in Bethlehem two weeks, my husband and I found out we were expecting. “Shocked” doesn’t quite cover it. Having been married just three years, and with NO plans of starting a family for a few more years, we were reeling. The beginning of the pregnancy was not too difficult, thank God; some sickness in the beginning and major aversion to Arab food,(I survived on Pringles for the first four months, I kid you not), I was happy about it and things were great. Fast forward to 27 weeks, and one day I was suddenly experiencing severe, excruciating pain in the right side of my stomach, making it hard to even breathe. It scared us, as we thought maybe it was pre-term labor, and we rushed to the hospital. I spent hours in agony with this pain on my right side and down into my pelvis while they tested various things and checked on the baby. He was fine, and after an IV, I was too – the verdict was hydronephrosis. A rare condition some women experience when the weight of the baby puts pressure on the ureter, and fluid builds back up in the kidney and causes it to painfully and dangerously swell.
For the next 12 weeks I dealt with this awful pain on and off. There was basically nothing to be done about it; I was told to rest and drink a lot of water, and the pain would go away when the baby was born. Awesome! So you can imagine how ready I was for him to GET OUT. I managed it as best I could until the end of the 38th week. I was in so much pain and so uncomfortable that week, that we talked to our doctor about performing a membrane sweep to try to naturally induce early labor. After this painful procedure and much walking, eating spicy food, bumpy car rides, hot baths, and… all of the things, my water finally broke around 11pm on April 1oth. We rushed to the hospital and I was admitted, but found out I was only at 1 cm! I was SO angry…I had been in agony and had gone without sleep for about 3 days at that point, and thought I couldn’t take any more. Oh, the folly…it was still another 48 hours before we got to meet him!
Since I had barely any dilation and was not effaced, I couldn’t be given an epidural. The doctor came and checked the baby’s position (OUCH, by the way…the “checking” HURTS). He inserted a synthetic hormone called a prostaglandin that is supposed to begin contractions, and dilate the cervix within a few hours. After an excruciating night of kidney pain and contractions every 20 minutes or so, and again no sleep, he came back in the morning to tell me I had advanced to TWO cm. I was definitely in tears at this point. He inserted another prostaglandin, and again we waited. Contractions became more regular and more intense, kindey pain increased, and I thought, surely we’re getting somewhere!
Nope. After 3, then 6, then 12 hours of this suffering (kindey pain and contractions every 5 to 7 minutes) I was still only 2cm that night. The doctor checked the baby’s position again, inserted yet another hormone, and told me to rest. Yeah, right! I was in too much pain, so I walked the halls of the hospital all night long. I was determined to get that baby out. By early morning, it had been 36 hours of agony, and not the slightest bit of advancement. I was not allowed to go home because my fluid levels were too low. The hospital was NOT comfortable, and the staff was less than hospitable. In the wee hours of that morning, I just spent time while my husband finally slept a bit crying and praying. I was so exhausted and needed God more than I had EVER needed him before. He showed up, as he always does! The Lord blessed me with peace and some a brief respite from the pain, and I finally fell asleep for a few hours. At about 12pm I woke with intense contractions again. The doctor came by at 3pm and said, finally, we were making progress with some effacement, though still not much dilation.
At 6:30pm or so I was at 3cm (ridiculous, right?), so they sent me up to the delivery room to begin pitocin. I was told that the pitocin would cause some pretty intense contractions, and I was allowed to be given the epidural. About 30 minutes after beginning pitocin, I was handling the contractions pretty well, at 2 minutes apart. So I told the anesthesiologist not to hurry…I had heard a women screaming down the hall and decided she probably needed it more than me. Within about 15 minutes of saying that, my contractions came every 30 seconds, and I couldn’t talk or breathe through them. Another 45 minutes of this evil, just breathing, panting, trying not to scream or throw up, the anesthesiologist finally came. I could not stop shaking, and my husband had to put me in a wrestling hold to keep me still for the needle. At last, within minutes, I felt relief. I was so happy to FINALLY not be in pain. I chatted up my mom and sisters on facebook, watched some Netflix, and relaxed as I saw contractions happening on the computer and not feeling them at all.
Until… suddenly, pain started back on my left side. Within minutes I was feeling each contraction on the left side, and also started to get very nauseated. My blood pressure had dropped dangerously low, so I had to change positions. I was able to handle the pain on the left side after the nausea subsided, but then the pain came on the right side too. The epidural completely wore off. The midwife had called the doctor, but he was in another delivery room, and did not make his way to me until about 30 minutes after the epidural wore off. I was near delirious at this point – contractions every 30 seconds, so basically no rest, and each one felt like the whole lower half of my body were on fire. Waves and waves of agonizing pain. I was crying and praying and crying some more. My sweet husband just held me and prayed with me and didn’t know what to do. I had never really taken a class or figured out how I would handle labor pain. I had intended to just get an epidural and breeze through…haha!
The doctor finally came, and after (very forcefully) checking the baby, he found that his heartbeat was slowing, his face was turned sideways, and I was still only 3cm dilated. He had been in the wrong position this entire time, which was why labor hadn’t advanced at all. Nice to know that 48 hours into this thing! It was close to midnight at that point. With things becoming dangerous for both of us, the doctor said we had no choice but to do a c-section. I was actually relieved when he said this – as much as I hadn’t planned on it, I was just so ready for that baby to get out and the pain to be over.
I was put on a gurney and wheeled into the OR, without my husband. When I noticed he hadn’t come in yet, I started getting hysterical and frantic. I was yelling to the nurses, “where is my husband?” They told me he wasn’t allowed in. No one attempted to soothe my fears or make me feel any better. Everyone had a very abrupt and unemotional manner. I was laying naked on the operating table, shaking with contractions, feeling exposed, vulnerable, and terrified. I honestly thought in that moment that I might not survive. I started screaming at anyone and everyone to go get him, that I couldn’t do it without him. A nurse went out to tell the doctor I was really, really panicking, as they continued to prep me for surgery.
This is where things began getting hazy – I was in and out of consciousness, and when I came to, I heard myself screaming in pain. I was still shaking with contractions, and one nurse was digging into my wrist with a needle, trying to find a vein to start a new IV. Finally, the doctor came in, and bless him, told me he had arranged for Kenneth to be in the room anyway, even though it was a violation of the rules. Kenneth came to my side and tried to calm me down. As soon as they started the spinal block, I began shivering uncontrollably and gagging. The medication was absolutely awful – even though it blocked the pain, I was so incredibly uncomfortable and upset. I kept asking what was happening and no one would answer. They were all speaking in Arabic to each other. Kenneth had to get aggressive, and finally my doctor came around to my head and explained very kindly what was happening, and that he needed me to be calm so he could focus on getting the baby out quickly. I tried my best to stay quiet, amidst the shivering and gagging, and then started losing consciousness again. Kenneth heard my heart monitor slow its beeping several times and was terrified I was going to die…haha (it wasn’t funny then, but now it’s kinda humorous to look back on…it was just the machine malfunctioning)! He kept pulling my hair to make me startle awake and assure himself I was still living. Finally, finally, I felt strong tugging and pulling, which was awful, and then we heard the cry of the baby! The doctor lifted him up above the curtain for me to see his little feet, and then they rushed him over the clean him and check his vitals. After a few minutes, they handed him to Kenneth, who was crying tears of joy (as was I). I looked to my side and he showed me his sweet little face. The overwhelming relief in that moment was indescribable.
Somehow, things got worse from there. The nurses took the baby away to do more tests, and I was being sewn back up. During this process, I started feeling pain and weird sensations. I was worried about the baby and yelling for someone to bring him back, and yelling about pain. The anesthesiologist basically ignored me, saying, “no, the monitor shows your spinal block is still working.” But I began FEELING THE DOCTORS HANDS in my abdominal cavity, and the pain along with the how disgustingly terrifying that thought was, made me start gagging again. Kenneth yelled at him to do something and he finally increased the medication. After a full 10 minutes of FEELING the whole surgery, I was finally pain free again. I was finally all sewn up and bandaged, and was wheeled back into a recovery room. My exhaustion and the harrowing surgery experience had robbed me of all sanity and filter at that point, so I started screaming “Where is my baby? Where is my baby?” Kenneth ran down the hall to the nursery and demanded they give us our child, whom I had not even gotten to hold yet. They told him they were supposed to keep him for 4 hours for observation, but Kenneth adamantly refused this and took him anyway. He wheeled him in the little bassinet cart into my room, and there, through my bleary and swollen eyes, I saw his little sweet face, peacefully asleep. I remember how such a surreal peace washed over me in that moment. I couldn’t stop saying “he’s so beautiful, he’s so beautiful,” through my tears. Kenneth handed him to me and I snuggled him to my chest, and the world felt right again. I praised God over and over that we both made it through that night.
It was not how I planned for our son to come into the world, and I did not handle situation very well emotionally for a few weeks afterwords. But through much deep prayer for God’s grace, He helped me accept that His way, timing and plan are always Sovereign and good. This struggle taught me so much how to rely on the Lord’s presence, and how soothing His peace is. It always comes exactly when you need it. I got to birth my child in the city where, just a few hundred meters away, Mary birthed my Savior. The One who rescued me that night and allowed my son to be delivered safely and completely healthy. I would not trade that for anything.
Oh the little treasure that is our Kenneth IV. I love him more deeply than words can express. I can’t imagine my life without him. Had I been told how much I would love him, and what a beautiful little person he is, I would chose that birth experience again without hesitation, to have him in my life. Thank you, Jesus for your gifts, for blessing us with our sweet son, and for Your ever present help in time of need! Our God is so good!