By Kristin Jamieson
Editor’s Note: Every birth is as unique as the woman giving birth. Births vary from child to child and in our era of modern medicine, most births occur with little complication. But every birth is a beautiful story–a story a mother remembers for the rest of her life. We have asked some of our writers to share their birth stories. We hope that you are moved to value life, motherhood, and the joy of a new baby along with us.
When I was twenty-four I almost died in childbirth—twice. My twenty-three year old husband paced the hospital halls, making quietly urgent calls to scared parents, aching with constant prayers for God to preserve us, his wife and daughter.
And the Lord, who also told Jairus not to be afraid, chose to give Rose and me life—though lives much altered and deeper for the struggle.
Rose was born in a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, in a break between blizzards that made the winter of her birth the snowiest in living memory. After twenty-four hours of labor, at three days overdue, my daughter wouldn’t come and her heart wavered.
Within an hour, Bobby and I were in the surgical amphitheater, attempting to emulate the calm of the surgical team. But as they began the c-section the mood shifted. Everyone broke into terse efficiency: there was bad news and we had missed the headline.
Too much blood in the uterus, a silent baby, a nurse named Heidi with blue eyes holding my face and yelling at me to stay with her, a rarely-frightened husband asking with rising urgency for someone to please tell him what was happening.
Level Two abruptions are usually accompanied by severe symptoms; I had none. The placenta had been separating from my uterine wall for an unknown amount of time. I was bleeding out as Rose aspirated my blood.
The recovery room blurred in and out of focus. Heidi rubbed my arm. Bobby sat beside me. The head of the NICU came frequently with updates. Rose would live. Tests were still being run. Hours after her birth I had only seen her for thirty seconds. We know now that based on her oxygen levels Rose would not have survived five more minutes in my womb. Five minutes, just thirty seconds, and two more weeks in the hospital. The Lord was teaching us to number our days.
We knew within the first twenty-four hours that Rose was sound and would be well. She stayed in the NICU for a week, and then came home with her Daddy and her Gram.
Two days after her birth, though, I was not well. I began to feel strange the night after her birth, couldn’t eat by the third night, and couldn’t walk to see her by the fourth night. The doctors didn’t know what was happening. My abdomen swelled, I couldn’t keep anything down, I threw up bile, they inserted an NG tube. I didn’t eat anything for the next eleven days. I was held constantly in the grips of a previously unimaginable pain, a dragon that would not leave or quiet, whose voice still makes me shudder.
Six days after Rose’s birth I had an emergency life-saving surgery. I had developed an advanced case of peritonitis as a complication of the c-section, the full scope of symptoms not presenting themselves until it was almost too late. The knowledge of how it feels as the body decays and the curse of death not needing to be imagined but now fought through, aged me.
I recovered on a non-maternity ward, my heart monitored because it had failed sometime during my illness. My mother stayed with me during the day and my husband brought me pictures of our daughter in the evening. I had never been so depressed, or so glad to be alive.
Before Rose was born I had plans for how the birth would go, in the way only someone who has a lot of opinions but no experience can. I never considered the World Health Organization’s statistic that a woman dies every minute from the complications of childbirth; the number who give their life giving life. I viewed my child’s safe arrival as a guarantee, not a gift.
God is the author and sustainer of life. The Lord gives and he takes away. At twenty-three and twenty-four God brought death near. And as we felt our mortal weakness, we fed on the life giving Scriptures: Christ has conquered death. He is the firstborn from the dead. God’s mercies are new every morning. Do not fear, even when everything you hold dear crashes around you, and the mountains slip into the sea.
When Rose was three months old, I at last grew strong enough to take her on a walk. I pushed her stroller slowly around Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill, the grass scrubby, the trees bare, the snow melted on a cold and clear early spring day. As we walked I remembered unbearably slow walks in the hospital corridor, holding an IV pole and my husband’s arm. Now unencumbered, alive with my daughter, I paused, grateful to the great God who satisfied me that morning with his steadfast love, who let me rejoice and be glad in my numbered days.
Kristin Jamieson lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Bobby, an editor for 9Marks, and their two daughters: Rose, born in January 2010, and Lucy, born without complications in June 2012. They are members of Third Avenue Baptist Church.
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