The process of motherhood
Every woman’s road to being a mother is different, none is easy. Mine starts at a young age, when my greatest concern was the love of my boyfriend (bf then, soon to be my husband). The last thing I wanted to do was have children, I saw motherhood as a thankless job, and I really wasn’t interested at working at any job –especially a thankless one. But as fate would have it, in my first year of college when my worldview dictated that humanity was not only depraved & worthless but hopeless to boot - it was no longer just me I had to be consumed with worry about on this doomed planet, but a tiny infant too. Being the card carrying member of NOW & NARAL that I was at the time, I was well aware of my rights and the fact that I did not have to become a mother, I had a choice….but due to the aforementioned boyfriend whose greatest dream it WAS to become a father, it was motherhood for me. During a time when I gave God no credit, blessing or praise in my life – He saved my ass countless times, how He saved both my children from the jaws of death at their birth- happens to be what I’m most thankful about.
Things started off fairly ordinary, as they always seem to; extraordinary is usually something you identify later. My first and second pregnancies had more than one thing in common, they both resulted in the births of boys of whom I can easily say “this is my son-of whom I am most proud”, and during both I suffered (as did they) from a mysterious illness called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is one of those things that happen to the female body that every doctor has a different theory about. The simplest is that the woman’s body is rejecting the fetus as “foreign”, instead of as with a normal pregnancy where an antibody of some sort gets produced & the body accepts the little alien invader. My body reacted by sending my blood pressure to heights of 220/180 and swelling to 3xs its normal size, retaining enough water so that the pressure on my brain caused vision loss for the last weeks of my second pregnancy and was not restored until Ben (baby #2)was almost 6 months old.
During my first pregnancy (which at the time I wasn’t so excited about) I spent my first and second trimesters studying Philosophy & Children’s literature, getting a little more uncomfortable with each passing day in class, but also more excited and hopeful about my new life as a mother. By my third trimester, I was on bed rest-my left side to be specific, with a restricted diet and increasingly uncomfortable and sick. SICK. Morning sickness lasts –I’ve been told- only for the first 12 weeks….well, my experience was a little different, vomiting & headaches were a regular part of my days – I lived on salt-free saltines for a lot of the time. At 37 weeks my blood pressure, in spite of the yummy diet of tasteless crackers & ultimate excitement of bed rest, started really creeping up and upon the advice of my midwife –I induced at home with Castor Oil.
Here’s what I learned- NEVER INGEST CASTOR OIL. Yes, it can start labor naturally, however it’s like you are Linda Blair from the Exorcist –not pretty. Upon getting to the hospital, I was given a Pitocin drip (thanks anyway castor oil), hooked up to the monitor and left in the care of my 19 year old boyfriend & mother. Praise God my mother knew how to read the fetal monitor because just a couple hours later, she noticed it was registering no heart rate for the baby. When the nurses & doctors finally understood what was going on, I was given a full spinal block and rushed into the ER, although they intended on an emergency C-Section, there was not enough time. My placenta had torn away, my family was told there had been a placental abruption, I was bleeding internally and my baby had been without the life giving blood/ oxygen for almost 10 minutes –possibly longer. Doctors gave me a fourth degree episiotomy (look up “episiorectoprotomy”, yeah-it’s as awesome as it sounds) & using forceps (although he was not even fully descended into the birth canal) pulled Nicholaus Vincent Grace into this world. Nicks first APGAR score was 1, he was so blue-he was almost black-he just barely had a heart rate and no respiration. His next APGAR was 3. Nick was watched for seizure activity which began within 1 hour of his delivery.
While in recovery, this news was delivered to me by my midwife who was accompanied by a priest (not her usual companion, so a little disarming to say the least). I was told the baby was being taken to the Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Strong Hospital, I was being released - but needed to sign a waiver to do so as they would have preferred to have kept me due to the loss of blood & risk of infection from the procedure they had used to (as the pediatrician had described it to my Grandmother) “rip the baby out”. Although it didn’t sink in until they had left the room, they were telling me my son would most likely not make it through the night. He did. The first day at Strong, we were told not to expect him to make it through the day… with the little glued on leads all over his head/ EEG they could detect that the seizures were not stopping, regardless of the medications they were pumping him full of, they were doing all they could, but again expected little to no response.
Within 48 hours the seizure activity stopped, we were told not to hopeful; that he would ever have normal brain activity was a long shot. On the third day, as Nick breathed on his own, a highly respected neonatologist told me Nicholaus recovery was miraculous and could be described in no other terms…at that point he was still expected to have some possible developmental delays and/or learning disabilities – Nick at age 16 is an unstoppable force, bright, strong with no disability –and a heart to do the will of God. The enemy made an attempt on his life when he had no way to protect himself, I am grateful to God that He can do all things –in spite of what the world says is a certainty, God can make a way.
Baby number two soon followed, I had been assured that Preeclampsia rarely strikes twice, all would be well. So, on our wedding night & throughout the honeymoon in Old Forge, we - without apprehension we tried for another baby & were successful. At my 8 week appointment, my blood pressure was taken and I was told to lay on my left side (I began to cry immediately). I was put on bed rest at home, not an easy task considering I had a 10 month old...within in a month I was put in the hospital, my blood pressure continued to creep up, so I was given a cocktail that included Magnesium Sulfate (a wonderful drug, that helps you to keep your baby BUT makes your flesh feel like it’s being eaten by fire ants). NO TV, NO lights, limited visitors- NO STIMULATION, I was also only allowed to sponge bathe– so I was boring and smelly.
By week 20, my vision (from the mag sulfate & pressure from water retention) was very blurred – blessedly, I couldn’t see the state I was in. When two of my aunts had come to visit, one had not seen me in a few weeks-she took one look at me and ran from the room with an “Oh my God!”…I said to my other aunt, how bad is it? And she responded with her usual candor, “Well, you have no neck and look a lot like a frog –kind of scary…but it’s really the smell that’s most overwhelming.” Great-I thought, boring, smelly & scary.
At 27 weeks into the pregnancy, they could no longer control my blood pressure; my organs were showing signs of stress, so the decision was made that the baby (who had been given steroid injections to help his lungs develop quickly) would be delivered. Benjamin Charles Grace was born crying, breathing on his own and weighing in at 2 pounds 12 oz. against the odds, as healthy as could be. I spent another week in the hospital, waiting for the swelling in my brain to recede & my vision to return, Benjamin spent almost 90 days in NICU, we didn’t hold him until he was more than a week old, just had to admire him through the glass of his incubator– sleeping & eating, a tiny- but perfect little boy, gaining weight like a champ, making all the ladies love him right from the start. Ben is now a great big 15 year old with size 12 feet & a ginormous heart, the “son of my right hand” as his name aptly means.
By age 20, I had nearly died (twice), had almost lost two children and recovered from blindness – & In spite of medical professionals assuring me that the survival of myself & my children was nothing short of the miraculous – I still refused to believe, what proof was there that God exists- how is God different than luck? And WHY would He have saved US- who were WE? And BTW, If He was GOD - couldn’t He have prevented me from being sick to begin with? What purpose could all the pain have served, did He enjoy tormenting infants & mothers? That was the God I was supposed to praise & worship? The Jesus road was a narrow path lined with weak minded individuals in my opinion – I was far from interested – there was a far better & cooler answer I was sure. Over the next 15 years I embarked on a journey that not only answered my questions, but proved to me that there is a reason for the suffering and that there was & is no cooler cat than Jesus Christ. The process of Motherhood introduced me to my savior & for that I am eternally grateful.