I didn’t want to need anymore. I didn’t want to need acceptance, companionship. I had resolved to not need to feel important or worthy; solely self-sufficient. I vowed to not need emotionally or even physically.
I walked into that hospital fully prepared. My labor and delivery bag included my day planner – complete with itineraries and contact lists. I had a freezer stocked with food, my fast and easy recipes were lined up on the counter for my return. I had the number to call strangers to bring me food if I ran out of strength. (Strangers feel safer than friends sometimes). My nursery was prepped with everything needed for a newborn. I had arranged toys and entertainment for my other two munchkins. Color coordinated pages of activities and time slotted chores where at the helm of this transition. I had it all planned out, every step. I was prepared to not need.
But I wasn’t prepared for her.
Less than 12 hours after checking into the hospital my life was in jeopardy. My feet were numb, my head was dizzy, my eyes blurry and I had absolutely no control over anything. There were male doctors and nurses placing sticky probes all over my chest. (Can I just admit that was intimidating in and of itself….) There were other nurses shouting out my blood type over and over again. My room number was broadcasted to the ENTIRE hospital and everyone was invited to join (and I mean EVERYONE). Then there was my obstetrician and her obstetrician friend probing, pushing, tugging, scraping my … well my other extremely private and vulnerable place. Then there was the Anesthesiologist rearranging the iv sticking out of my back (luckily I was numb and couldn’t really feel the pain) but his hands were there none the less. There were two more nurses to my left strapping down my arm, poking needles into my perforated skin. And yes, even janitors were there rearranging the walls!!!
I was vulnerable to an outcome I had absolutely no control over.
But she was different. She was gentle, steady, and she wasn’t searching for anything. She just was. She simply slipped her hand in mine and didn’t let go. She stood calm. I don’t know her, I don’t know her character or even her history. I only know her first name and her deep blue eyes. The room seemed to still for a moment while I allowed myself to notice.
I needed her.
Hours earlier I had resolved not to even acknowledge my needs. But suddenly I realized I needed her. She stood there with no other purpose than to hold my hand. She held my vulnerabilities – the emotional ones I was ignoring. She watched my vulnerabilities bleed all over the floor and make a colossal mess. I was exposed to her and she held on. She didn’t let go, she didn’t let go despite my hemorrhage of fear.
It was unfamiliar to be that out of control and exposed and yet feel so …cared for. I hate vulnerability but I crave touch, connection.
Vulnerability is the exposure of your true self. Being vulnerable is stepping out of the familiar into the unknown just as you are. It means being unfiltered. Vulnerability is expressive. It is being aware of your feelings, your dreams, your fears and disappointments. It’s exposure to both the embrace and the attack. Please hear me, I am not saying you must be open and exposed to the whole world all of the time, but you do need to be aware of yourself and open to someone somewhere… or you’ll disappear. You can’t be open to the embrace and not to the attack, they can’t be separated. You can’t wall off from vulnerability and still be whole.
My experiences with vulnerability have not all been so … touching. In fact many of them have been just the opposite. I have opened up and shared the depths of my soul to many and some of them have turned their back. Oh we punish ourselves for being vulnerable don’t we? When we share the messy, the scary, with someone and they shrug their shoulders and walk away; we’re left exposed and hurting. We then kick ourselves and use that as an excuse to continue the lie that we are worthless, we aren’t loveable, we aren’t wanted. We determine to be “stronger” next time and we vow harder and with a tighter jaw to not let the vulnerabilities out. We strive (sometimes to death) to appear loveable, to appear worthy of connection, to be want-able and perfect; only to feel toxic inside.
In those moments of physical chaos and darkness my eyes were opened to the fact that my needs, my vulnerabilities, my messiness are the essence of my authenticity. That nurse taught me through vulnerability I can find connection and it’s worth the risk. Not all connection is going to look or feel a certain way and will it always look the same. She held my hand and stood with me as I faced one of the scariest times in my life and then with the passing of a shift it ended. I haven’t been the same since. Even on the brink of darkness – death, in the middle of the mess, you are worthy of connection. You are worthy of acceptance and companionship.
I found myself at the end of that hemorrhage. Transfused with new life and revived, my essence emerged. I left that hospital authentically connected. Connected to my imperfections, my dreams, my needs… my character. Nothing has been the same since; relationships have beckoned authentic boundaries, duties have revealed true passions and time… well, time has become my barometer. Don’t wait, don’t hide.
“Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.” ~Ps. 37:5-6 (Msg)
*This post originally appeared on Faith2Shine in January 2014 And is linking up with Suzanne Eller for #livefreeThursday today, Feb. 26, 2015
I have been hiding; afraid to express the depths of my heart. I have allowed spoken words, experiences, doubts and fears to wrap around and imprison the essence of me. My passions and dreams have been hidden for so long that I’d all but forgotten them.
My walls began to crumble the night before my third child was born. We had gone in for my 35 week check up that day and all looked great. As we walked towards the door to leave, I casually mentioned to my OB that I was having pain in my right shoulder-blade. She, being phenomenally thorough, ordered a blood test and sent us home, promising to call with the results as soon as they were in.
My husband got that call and after I had eaten most of my dinner he calmly shared that we needed to head to the hospital, now! “You are showing signs of preeclampsia and the Doctor wants you checked in tonight.”
My mind was racing like a frantic search engine… preeclampsia? Blood pressure? “But my blood pressure was perfect today??”
My Doctor had once explained preeclampsia as one of those conditions that can either gradually present its self or come in like a roaring lion. Scripture states that our enemy prowls like a roaring lion…. Preeclampsia has no known cause and its only cure is delivery.
Once at the hospital my second blood test results were worse-way worse. That lion was starting to prowl.
But I belong to the Lion of Judah and He is faithful.
That night and into the morning seemed to be a steady rhythm of beeping IV’s and monitors. You see, God promised me a third child, a little boy, a sacred gift. The sound I still treasure from those long 14 hours is the sound of my sweet son’s heart beat. Can you hear it… that fast, low, beating echo? Have you ever stopped to ponder the fact that God resides within the chamber of that beat?
Just before the Doctor came to break my water the Lord led me to a song all about trusting Him. “Come sit here upon my shoulder and watch as it all unwinds.” This was the first and only time I thought I heard the growl of my enemy, a warning of trouble surrounded by a promise of trust.
I think, like many of my close family members, I thought that with delivery the danger of preeclampsia would be over. The night I was admitted to the hospital both my mother and mother-in-law had an eerie sense of doom and they bloodied their knees over us. I had posted a quick comment about my preeclampsia and pending delivery on my Facebook page and unbeknownst to me hundreds of people were praying: friends called their friends who called friends. My immediate loves took a prayer respite with the news of my son’s arrival while others-Thankfully stayed on their knees.
Micah Canon made his entrance on January 4 at 12:02 in the afternoon. He weighed in at 9lbs 8oz and was 22 inches long. He instantly delighted my soul and ravished my heart. I had dreamt of this moment for many months. I had visions of holding my sweet child and introducing him to our family. I looked forward to those initial introductions and regaling of the story of God’s promises fulfilled through this little one. You see, Micah’s name means Sacred Gift from God, and he is- he truly is.
Shortly after delivery Micah needed more specialized attention. His glucose levels were dangerously low and he needed an IV. So with a deep sigh and dashed visions of introductions, my husband walked him down the hall with the NICU doctor. Little did I know that as they left a prowling lion lurked back into the corner of my room.
My sweet nurse, Sheri, placed a can of Diet Coke on the table at my feet. When you’ve had nothing but ice chips for 24 hours a carbonated can of caffeine looks like a bottle of pure gold. It quickly became my goal, the nurse just needed to check my bleeding and massage my belly first.
The prowl of my enemy became his roar.
She massaged once and gasped. She massaged again and threw back the sheets: that can of Diet Coke began to look blurry.
She paused and pushed the button on my bedside. She said something medical. It was urgent-very urgent. Within seconds my room hosted three more nurses and my doctor; who luckily was just down the hall, probably sipping on her own Diet Coke.
The Doctor massaged my belly as the nurses weighed the first towel. Without moving her hand or her eyes from my body she firmly asked for someone to call the lab. “The lab is busy for the next 20 minutes” came a nervous report. The doctor then asked for someone to page radiology.
“They’re backed up for at least a half hour”.
At this point my body was so weak I didn’t even try to move. The doctor massaged my now throbbing belly again a moan escaped from somewhere deep.
I was laying flat and just wanted to close my eyes. I didn’t know it, but my husband had returned to my room-unable to get to me, he stood at the door and watched. Speechless. Months later he told me my body was a color he’d never seen and the only way he knew I was conscious was the movement of my eyes.
The pattern of requests and answers repeats. Then my doctor firmly and confidently orders a Code White which seconds later echoed over the hospital PA system. Instantly my room buzzed, cords slapping, machines beeping, bars on my bed snapping and shoes… lots of shoes.
In the one minute it took to get us down the hall and into the C-section-turned-surgery-room, every available department had already convened. Janitors were hanging plastic sheets to expand the sterile space; lab technicians were standing at attention loaded with bags of blood; blue shirts were scrubbed and ready.
And the chaplain was there.
That one minute in the hallway was the turning point for me. It was there I caught the eye of my husband. It was there I heard him say my name and that he loved me. It was there I found strength to reach for him only to miss his finger tips. It was there I realized: that may have been the last chance I had to tell him of my love. One second I wanted to yell “this can’t be it- I am NOT DONE!” and the next I heard a nurse say to my husband “no, you can’t come with us. Say your prayers”.
My heart screamed what my mouth couldn’t muster: “Jesus!”
Months later, while standing in worship at church, a song vividly sent me back to that hallway:
“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
God of Power and Might.
Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna. Hosanna. In the Highest.”
I asked God why; why, during this deep worship song was I back in that hallway? He answered: “Because that is what the angel was signing over you as he walked next to your gurney”.
That day I lost over three times the normal blood after a delivery in the course of only 40 minutes. I was given four units of blood and plasma. Herds of elephants ran in and out of my uterus during a DnC, if they weren’t pushing they were scraping. While the bleeding slowed, I was still in danger. I had developed a rare and sometimes fatal form of preeclampsia called HELLP. My best option was to have an Embolization, a very new procedure to the field of Obstetrics.
In between the DnC and the Embolization my spinning world paused. I got to touch the face of the man I love. And he touched mine. In that one touch all of our dreams surfaced, those we’ve already experienced and those still woven into our pillows. Through tears of relief, I could only voice four words: “I’m not done yet”.
Graciously the doctors and nurses appointed by God for that time and place saved me. And someone somewhere was driven to donate their blood, my life line. Those four units of blood and plasma not only replenished my life but made it possible for me to recover and still breast feed my newborn son. Thousands of women hemorrhage after giving birth, even more suffer from preeclampsia but I can’t ignore the little details of those moments in the hospital.
I am humbled by God’s faithfulness, despite the prowl of my enemy, my life was spared. God made promises and He is faithful to see them through.
Deep fears bled out breaking down walls of doubt and my life was left standing, open, visible… free.