Not too long ago I found this picture: In it I am holding my sweet newborn son, behind me, tucked into the corner was my newest fashion accessory.
I think back. Just a few days’ home from the hospital with my first baby. His bright new eyes, my broken body. A baby, a walker, and strict regiment of pain pills that my mother kept track of.
“The color has drained from you face,” she’d say. “What’s your pain level?”
We didn’t know anything was wrong. Twelve hours of labor didn’t seem bad. I mean sure, there were some less than pleasant moments. The feeling of an epidural needle isn’t really something I relish, but then again I wasn’t loving feeling the contractions either; give and take.
The nurse said push. I pushed. And pushed. And pushed.
And then there he was.
They whisked him away from me. He was purple, umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. I went from calm to hysterical. I wanted him back. If I could have moved, thousands of years of maternal instinct would have lifted me from the bed and pulled him to my chest.
But I was stuck, IV’s and wires everywhere.
Then I heard it, the little cry. My baby’s cry. The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. A cry. He was back in my arms in moments. Seven pounds, eleven ounces of pure radiance. I’d not known the depth of love until this moment.
Later, I was encouraged to get up, shower and move about. I would have loved to, but I couldn’t feel my legs yet. Was this normal? Probably just the epidural taking longer than normal to wear off. I waited. Numbness faded and pain took its place. Was this normal?
Pain became searing, shocking, white-knuckle-it-pain.
Something was not right. Doctors and nurses reappeared to discuss symptoms. The slightest shift of my pelvis left me undone, tears streaming. Diastasis pubis symphysis.
“Diastasis symphysis pubis is the separation of normally joined pubic bones, as in the dislocation of the bones, without a fracture.”
Three days later I left the hospital, our sweet baby bundled up against the February chill, me gliding to the car in a wheelchair.
In the days that followed I relied on family and friends (literally) to move about and care for myself and my baby. My husband had to lift my legs, one delicate movement at a time to help me into the shower. I’d have to cry out when I was ready to get out, because not only had I separated my pelvis but I have also torn just about every ligament holding my lower half together. I had no strength in my legs.
Five years, another baby, and a c-section later I struggle with the aches, pains, and new scars. I move too fast or carry something too heavy (like baby number 2) and the distant pain becomes all too familiar. On these days I get angry with myself, angry with my body.
“You failed me, body. We were stronger than this.”
My heart aches, knowing I’m done having children, knowing that I didn’t make that call, but my body made it for me. I savor all these little moments, the days that my children climb on me and want to play in their very physical way. In the back of my mind, nonetheless, I process through the weakened state of my body, the betrayal I feel.
I feel betrayed when my boy asks me to carry him and I can’t.
I feel betrayed when something is too heavy and I have to ask for help.
I feel betrayed when I hit the bed at night only to toss and turn searching for comfort.
In the midst of all this betrayal and anger, I feel something else as well. I feel this strange sense of gratitude. I feel thankful for these limitations. As crazy as that sounds, because they force me to slow down, they force me to stop. They force me to sit on the ground and play with the kids, they force me to rely more on my husband, and ultimately they force me to rely more on God.
It’s not what I thought it would look like, motherhood or life for that matter, but it’s beautiful, it’s deep, it’s to be cherished.
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