Our daughter was born eight weeks early as planned and has spent several weeks in the NICU as expected. While I took the respite of the decade in the hospital for four weeks, my husband and both of our moms took on my tasks at home. Families from church brought meals and invited my kids over to play. Friends from every place we’ve lived prayed for us and sent encouraging messages. If you are one of those wonderful people, thank you.
I learned a lot about hospitality, peace, gratitude and perseverance during my hospital stay- I wrote about those lessons in this series. In this post, I will share a few specific stories leading up to our c section.
A WEEK BEFORE THE C SECTION
Over the months, my limitations went from my couch to a hospital unit to my hospital bed and wheelchair- a big change for an energetic, in-control kind of person. A week before the birth I took a pill every four hours to keep contractions at bay, even through the night. I slept 13 hours combined in one three-night stretch because I couldn’t fall asleep after waking for the pill. Tired, lonely, and a little stiffled, I called my husband one day before dawn, “I’ve been up crying since 4am. I’m so tired. Please come sit with me.” He was tired too, juggling his job and mine while I was away, but he came with holiday blend coffee and his Bible.
Chris sat with his arm around me on my narrow hospital bed. He prayed for me and our baby, then we read the scriptures together and chatted for over two hours. I felt so near to him (literally and figuratively) and very dear to him that morning. I looked at him, seeing what a protector he was and how servant-hearted he had been under the recent demands on his time and energy, and I admired him. I could lean my head on him and just rest there in this beautiful way, full of trust and thanks. I loved him with a bigger deeper love in that moment than I could have foreseen on our wedding day, because I could see tangibly how very loved I was by him. Just like he had promised.
Such raw and humbling situations have brought us to know one another better during this trial. Such opportunities to serve and be served have drawn us closer. Our marriage is not perfect, but I look forward to the next chapter as our relationship deepens and we take on parenting four kids together.
THREE DAYS BEFORE THE C SECTION
Three days before my daughter’s scheduled delivery, I became afraid. Would her lungs be mature enough for her to breathe on her own? Would she be okay? I also doubted whether God would (or could) give me the strength to handle mothering four small children well. God had given me emotional strength already, but I wondered if He could actually energize my tired body and infuse me with the patience and gentleness my family would need from me.
I saw God’s promises throughout David’s poetry and Paul’s letters to strengthen both our spirits and our bodies. But still I doubted.
I asked God to correct me. And He did like never before. That night, I listened to the Bible on audio to help my restless mind slow and sleep. When I fell asleep, it played on. Then, at 2:00 AM, I heard Romans 4:19-21 in my sleep. I heard it acutely and isolated with a level of understanding that grogginess does not typically permit.
[Abraham] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.
The passage was familiar, but I had never read it out of context or seen God’s character and my reflection in Abraham like I did that night. The words answered my questions perfectly: God was able to strengthen me despite my tired body. And He was able to answer my prayers for my daughter’s development despite her premature body.
I sprung out of bed, paused the audio and seized my journal. “The Word of God really is ‘living and active!!'” I scribbled (Heb 4:12). I knew afresh that I could trust God with my salvation and with every other promise that He has ever made. The Bible says that God will give us all the strength, peace and help we need for every situation (Phil 4:7 & 19, 2 Peter 1:3-4, Eph 3:20). Therefore, if I ask and believe, He will help me mother four kids well. I can ask and know that God is sovereign over my daughter’s life whether she thrives or not. I needn’t waver.
I felt treasured by God for teaching me in such a way. He was so patient with my doubts. I believe He revealed this verse to me because He wants me (and you) to know Him as He is- the “author and perfect of our faith”, and “a very present help”.
THE C SECTION
Four hours before my surgery I messaged a friend,
I anticipate feeling so out of control during the c section and recovery today and seeing her behind glass with wires and being unable to care for her. Can you pray that God helps me entrust all those things to Him and just depend on the medical staff today- that the peace would continue and I would not feel afraid or distressed?
She reminded me, “God will give sustaining grace for the moment! You are never without a helper.” Another friend had told me, “There will be lots of opportunities to choose faith or fear… I am excited for you to experience God’s peace and mercies in a new way.” Their words encouraged me greatly. I reflected on how God had given me grace to face each step so far, but He hadn’t given me grace for the next step in advance. He would give me operating room grace in the operating room as He had given me grace for the hospital stay and grace when I found out about my condition.
I realized that I needed Him not just week to week, but every hour. So I memorized the old hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour” that morning to repeat to myself during the operation.
The walk with Chris from my room to the OR was surreal. I shook as we entered and must have looked scared judging by my sweet nurse’s encouragements. On the table, I couldn’t stop shaking and thinking, “Is this the right choice? Is it too soon? Will she be ok? What if she’s not okay? I’m about to get sliced open. Ah!” I realized, “Oh. I can sing my hymn now.” So I asked God to comfort me then fixed my eyes on the floor and silently mouthed,
I need Thee every hour most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will and Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
repeatedly. The words soothed me before my husband, the obstetrician and nine neonatal team members even walked in. I was relaxed and I stayed calm the rest of the procedure.
Well, I was not calm when I heard my daughter cry. She cried! Oh my goodness she cried! Her lungs worked! As soon as I heard her, I started crying too. Like loud rejoicing surprised flipping excited sentimental woman crying. I was so happy.
Alhough she could breathe, the doctor put a c-pap on her. I held my other babies within moments of birth, but not this one. Before the team whisked her away to the NICU, they let me see her. I couldn’t resist reaching toward her though I knew I couldn’t hold her until she was stable. I didnt want her to be alone, so my husband accompanied her while I was stitched up.
I did get to hold her less than two hours later with my husband and mom beside us. She was 4lbs 7oz and had seven wires/tubes attached to her so I couldn’t see much about her face, but she was healthy and she was darling and I was so incredibly happy.
The vasa previa, which could easily have gone unnoticed in our ultrasound, was very obvious during the surgery. This intervention saved our little girl’s life. I am so thankful to our ultrasound tech and medical team. I am thankful to God. The stack of coincidences in our story is too high to not be called a miracle. God rescued my daughter from death and He rescued me from fear. He replaced fear with faith and revealed His character to me. I know God will continue guiding both my soul and my body as I take on a new level of motherhood. He has taught me His old promise yet again, “Ask and you will receive” every day… every hour.
“Better than our promises is the day we get to keep them.” -Sara Groves