One year ago my husband received the worst voicemail he has ever listened to in his life. I called when the bleeding started. He didn't answer; he was at a leadership conference with the rest of Compass Church's staff. I called again. I couldn't hang up because I needed him, and I left THE WORST VOICEMAIL EVER. I only sobbed, very loud. For about TWO MINUTES. I was unable to make words leave my mouth, and so I sobbed as blood left my womb without my permission. I sobbed for the baby that was leaving me in that moment as I stood in my daughter’s bathroom. I sobbed because we waited 2 long years for this sweet baby to be conceived. I sobbed because I felt so ugly. Oh, the pain. The pain in childbearing.
Let me give you some back story. We tried for a year and half to get pregnant. Long before that, I knew something was wrong with me. I knew that it was my fault we weren’t able to get pregnant. I felt like a failure. I felt ugly. The one thing I should be able to do as a woman and I can’t do it. So I went to see the doctor. Ultrasounds and blood work confirmed that I had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome/Disease). Again, with that feeling of ugliness and failure. I mourned the child I had already lost after Paislee and the children I thought I would never have in the future. I truly felt so alone. I felt unimportant. Forgotten.
The doctor prescribed some medication that I didn’t want to take and so I sought out a more natural route with essential oils. I started my regimen in late February 2014. I had placed so much hope in these oils. I had faith that they would help me to become pregnant (and regulate my hormones). I was a mess of emotions, likely in large part due to my hormones being out of whack. I started using the essential oils regularly for about a month before feeling very depressed about the situation and stopping. Then I would start again, but I would be inconsistent. I was just so done with the FEELINGS side of it all. I wanted to be done. I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to just know what was going to happen! Of course, that’s never how it works. #amiright
I finally decided to stop worrying. I decided that I would focus on the Beauty Unveiled Experience in my photography that I felt called to. At least a year previous I felt that unveiling women’s beauty in photographs was my calling, but I was so afraid. I was afraid of not doing justice to women’s beauty. I was afraid that it was too much for me to be able to accomplish that. I felt like it was too important, and I didn’t want to do it poorly. So, I just didn’t do it.
In late June 2014, I started to focus on what God called me to do. I was ready to jump in head first. I set up a meeting with a special lady to discuss some ideas regarding the Beauty Unveiled Sessions. We met the first week of July. I shared all of this story with her up to where I was; my calling to it, my pain and heart ache, the times I felt so ugly. I didn’t feel like I could possibly be the one to unveil a woman’s beauty and empower her to feel beautiful in her own skin because I didn’t feel that way. BUT I knew I had to. I had to go where I was being called. I could not sit back any longer. We met again that week with a dear friend and ministry partner of hers to talk about beauty, and we all felt stirred.
She called me not many days after to ask me to be a workshop leader for their women’s retreat and I was able to share the best news ever. I told her I was pregnant. It was amazing. It felt so right. I was coming to the point that I started focusing on God again and then it just happened. Like that. When she emailed me regarding the retreat, the bottom of her email said, "Our verse for the retreat is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.' Kind of appropriate for our phone call isn’t it?!” I was so overwhelmed by all that God was doing and moving in my life. I mean, talk about the feels. It was just amazing. Not one month later and it would all change.
On August 14th, 2014 I miscarried our baby. My sister in law drove me to the emergency room where my hubby and some of our pastors were waiting. It was all such a blur to me; I was emotionally numb. I arrived and was taken straight back to a room. There was so much blood. My husband’s face was strained with feelings he didn’t know how to feel outwardly. He didn’t know what to do. I remember thinking, “There is no way this baby is still there. There is just too much blood." I could only cry. It wasn’t long before we were taken back for an ultrasound. It was painful (in so many ways) to lie there while she examined the remains of my womb. And then she looked me straight in the eye and turned on the doppler.
A HEARTBEAT. A FREAKIN’ HEARTBEAT! I did not understand. It wasn’t possible. How? She did a second, more invasive, ultrasound and discovered I was carrying twins. TWINS! (By the way, my hubby's sisters are twins.) In the midst of our pain, there was joy. We lost one baby, but the other was still growing. We already knew what the name would be if he were a boy. Ezekiel. A name we picked for our first born, but that baby ended up being a crazy Paislee! Ezekiel was the perfect name for this child. You see, Ezekiel means “God Strengthens.” Although it started out with a couple months of bed rest, I really had no idea what we were in for throughout this pregnancy. Through my bed rest, I became very depressed. With my personality, I did not do well being secluded in the house for long periods of time (and sometimes with a crazy Paislee). Friends would say that they’d come visit during the day or that we should hang out, but it never seemed to happen. I felt so alone again.
Every time we went to the doctor, I had an ultrasound done. And every time I was reminded that my womb was also a tomb for the child I would never meet on this earth. Not only that, but the remains of one baby put the other at risk. It was always on my mind that there were still pieces of my unborn child inside of me. We could only wait for baby to “resorb.” How terrible that word is. It makes my heart sad. Every where I went, pain followed. The pain in childbearing followed me through my whole pregnancy.
You see, no one tells you that the pain in childbearing is not just the physical pain of labor. It is the pain during the process with which we bring children into our lives (I believe this also applies to those who are adopting). And it just kept following me. With excitement (and hopes of a boy), we went to the specialist for the Anatomy Ultrasound in October. This was a big day during my pregnancy. It was full of surprises. It was pretty amazing to see the details of this tiny little BOY growing inside of me! And then we got the news- they wanted me back in the office to speak with the Specialist because baby boy was showing markers for Down Syndrome. So, as quickly as was humanly possible, we grabbed lunch, noticed the car was acting funny, and then ate our lunch in the waiting room. We met with the Specialist and decided a genetic test was the best option at that point. I went in the back room so the nurse could take my blood. She poked me three times. None of which resulted in blood for the tubes. At this point, we were risking being late for my regular OBGYN appointment that afternoon. So, she let me bring the genetic testing kit to my doctor’s office where they resumed poking me two more times before getting a vein. (I’d like to point out that I have never had more than one poke to have blood drawn previously.) Meanwhile, hubby took the car somewhere close by to see what was wrong with it and why it wasn’t starting every time. It was hectic. I had to relay the information from the Specialist to my doctor, which went something like this: It’s a boy, he might have Down Syndrome, take my blood so they can send it in for testing, the remains of the other baby are less visible, they believe I only have a blood clot remaining (but it's situated in just the place where it shouldn’t be), and… did I forget anything?! Just as I was done, hubby picked me up and we took the test back to the specialist. That night I cried for hours and then fell asleep on the floor of the closet.
It just felt like the last straw. I was being so strong, and then this day. This. Day. Happened. And I couldn’t hold it in any longer. What a sight I must have been when Gable found me on the floor of the closet with mascara all over my face, puffy eyes, and covered in a shawl! We met with our Senior Pastor that morning. He reminded me that the pain in childbearing is much more than the labor pains and that God was calling me to go through this. I told him that I didn’t care if my child had Down Syndrome; that’s not why I was crying. I was just so done with everything going wrong. I couldn’t handle it any longer and I was tired. Pastor Tim said that God was working and had a higher calling through this journey. Oh boy. That meant it wasn’t over.
I continued to have problems in my pregnancy from the hemorrhage and was unable to do my normal work. Beginning in January I was visiting the specialist two times a week and my OBGYN once a week so they could monitor baby Ezekiel. That same month, our brother was hospitalized to receive chemo to treat his newly-diagnosed aggressive Leukemia (he's in remission- AMEN). Our niece and nephew came to stay with us for the month and the distraction was welcome. There was always something. The doctors were concerned that my fluid levels were low, that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, that he wasn’t developing properly, that his organs were compromised, that I may go into pre-term labor, and the list goes on. The rest of my pregnancy was very difficult for me. I felt so lost. I was afraid that I would have an empty nursery. I was tired of seeing the doctor every other day. I was tired of not being able to work. I just wanted to be done. We went in for an appointment with my doctor at 36 weeks and she decided if baby didn’t come on his own in the next few days, she would induce me that week. I had such a feeling of dread. I asked the people that were in our inner circle to pray for this dread I was feeling. I told Gable that I was afraid to go because I thought that it would end with either Ezekiel or myself dead. I’m sorry to be morbid, but this is really how I felt. I was so broken.
Although Ezekiel had a little trouble breathing at first, he was healthy and strong even at 4 pounds 13 ounces. He was my tiny little miracle. This little person I had been praying for was finally here! Again, I have to remind you that his name was the perfect name. Ezekiel means, “God Strengthens.” I did not need the reminder of God’s strength during my pregnancy with Paislee even though I thought she would be a little boy we would name Ezekiel. He knew the pain in childbearing would be great this time around so that He could strengthen me through this process. I am still in this process. The pain in childbearing (for me) was mishandled brokenness. Even after the birth of my little miracle I have mishandled my brokenness.
We have all mishandled our brokenness. It hurts so we ignore it, but it doesn’t work. We need healing! We must put God at the center and allow Him in even where we haven’t allowed anyone else. All of these lies we have believed… THEY AREN’T TRUTH. They have definitely felt true and have caused very real wounds in our spirit. We feel empty when God is not at the center. I know we have all felt that emptiness. Take a look at Eve. As soon as she put herself at the center, in place of God, she fell. Her eyes were opened and she was ashamed. Eve was no longer as she was meant to be. Just like Eve, we see in ourselves that we are not as we were created to be. The world, just like the serpent, has told us countless lies and we have believed them. Especially when God is not at the center. The problem is that the world has already answered us with pain before we even came to God for the answer and the result has been soul shattering. We have to remember to go to God with our brokenness. We have to bring our hurting heart to HIM.
We NEED God at the center to be the REMEDY.
So, now, the pain in childbearing (for me) is the process of sanctification.
Photo Credit: Jenifer Howard Photography