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The Days After

April 22, 2012

The rush of doctors and nursers preparing me for surgery startled me. I guess they meant the emergency part of emergency c-section. No more constant, back-to-back contractions. No more hourly checks only to report no progress. But what was going on in there? Why was my body not responding to labor? Why was my boy’s heartrate dipping so dangerously low? Had we already done irreparable damage?

And so was the scene leading up to Reed’s delivery. After we heard Reed’s first tiny cry, the mood livened up. Chatter filled the space around us. People moved back and forth across the room. I began asking to see him, to hold him. Smiles broke across peoples’ faces, amidst the excited proclamations that he had red hair! And my midwife Wendy, who had worked so hard to give me the natural delivery I wanted, stayed in the OR the whole time, taking pictures. I glanced over at her, across the room, and thought Whew, the hard, scary part is over.

Oh the naivete of a first-time mom. The hard part? Laughable now. Though the worry, the intensity, the focused anxiety had passed, I had no idea how painful the recovery would be nor how steep of a learning curve awaited me.

With similar naivete, I proclaimed just days ago that I was kicking fear to the curb, reclaiming confidence, and owning every part — even the unplanned, unexpected, un-normal — of my life. But I had no idea how difficult the next days would be. To live that proclamation was like being reborn. And pain always accompanies (re)birth.

Fear was not leaving quietly. As if she knew her day was coming, she meticulously plotted how to ramp up the but what if and how can I ever and will we evers. Her lies seamlessly coursed through the smooth, well-worn paths of my mind, and the startling cold, slippery lies left me gasping to breathe.

Slowly, I started flexing the long neglected muscle of inner fortitude. At first, my protest was weak, and Fear laughed at me. That’s the best you got? Maybe Fear was all I knew how to do. Maybe the decision I’d made was foolish. Who wouldn’t be fearful in my shoes? Maybe Fear is just realism in all its scary dimensions.

And now, Fear derided, you’ve told the whole world that we’ve broken up. You only look more foolish because clearly I’m all you have.

She quieted down after that, I suppose thinking she had cornered me, nailed me back down, and could move all her baggage back in. I am not, this time, going down without a good fight though. Muscles, especially those long unused, need practice for reconditioning. But people need more than reconditioning. They need rebirth.

I will never win, never excommunicate Fear rightly, with the person who lived in the shadows of shock, denial, and despair. She wasn’t strong enough, brave enough, or determined enough. I have to be willing to scrap every way I thought my family would be, and let this painful process rebirth me into a woman made capable by God to embrace our journey.

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