These first days after birth melt one into another, a beautiful fog.
She was born at 12:38pm. Tonight I don’t have dinner, but drinking apple juice and being able to move my legs again are glorious, and she is beyond perfect. I drink in her tiny nose; velvet cheeks and eyelids fluttering open and shut. Her mouth searches and closes around my breast, sucking and sucking the sticky colostrum. She is the fourth babe I have nursed, but still every time I’m afraid my milk won’t come in, it feels impossible that this miracle will also happen. I’m floating on cloud nine and constantly worrying that she isn’t getting enough, that my body is starving her. Before we drive home from the hospital her already tiny legs will have grown skinnier, but the kind nurses remind me this is part of the process and to trust.
Trust is all I have held onto for nine months. At every milestone I think that I will be able to breathe after we pass it, but the truth is that we are never safe this side of the grave. And so I continue to hold carefully, to nurture and to worry. But the truth is we are always safe, because we are held by our loving Father God. I cradle my children within his arms wrapped round me.
So now I hold this good and perfect gift, a daughter born after two sons and a daughter lost. Only hours ago I walked into this hospital with her full inside of me and laid down on a table where they cut me right in half. Only hours ago she laid on my chest for the first time, skin to skin, us both finding each other. Hours ago they wheeled me upstairs still in the shine of anesthesia and helped me slide into this bed that will be our home for the next few days.
The first time I rise to walk my legs don’t remember their role and the pain slashes through me, unfelt before. When I birthed Jeremiah after an emergency c-section I was terrified to stand, but this time I am determined that fear will not rob these moments with her. So I stand and slide one foot faltering forward after another.
I will stand in peace this time.
I will walk forward in peace. This time it’s just to the bathroom where I am still raining down blood. After a full-term loss and a torn placenta six years ago panic rose every time I saw the red running down. Trauma takes a toll that’s not always reasonable. But this time I stare the crimson down because I have decided peace will win the day. I look in the mirror at my still swollen belly, knowing the wound that is bandaged there. I feel it every time after birth, the thoughts creeping dark, telling me that because my body is a weeping wound I am unlovely, disgraceful, but this time I know I am not only beloved but blessed in this brokenness. As the nurses take the catheter out and ask about my bodily functions I see the tender awe in their eyes. As they take my babies vitals they scoop up miracle in their arms, sit on my bed and talk of this joy a child has brought. I am thankful for women caring for and reminding me of all the sacred this sterile hospital room holds.
This first night I am afraid to sleep. It feels strange that my body is no longer automatically caring for her, that she needs air and food and arms holding her. So I prop pillows to keep her safe and finally rest my eyes, nurses waking me from shallow sleep every few hours. I know we are watched and I can rest.
Light peeks through the window, heralding the morning and I am relieved to stop my charade of trying to sleep. I lie with her, alone for half an hour as the rising sun brightens the courtyard outside our window and Jesse sleeps curled in a chair.
The best scrambled eggs I have ever eaten, oatmeal, yogurt and cantaloupe are delivered. There will be cantaloupe at every meal that I will snack on through the day. Our whole world has shrunk to this bed, her tiny body, and the tray next to me holding fruit, chapstick, lotion, a pencil and my book. The nurses joke that we are the musical room as classical and worship music alternate out of the tiny speaker I packed in my hospital bag.
Here my husband and I are. Here she is. In this room there is peace and nothing else. There is pain and discomfort, my healing body wrapped in comfortable nightgowns and robes, but I have never felt more blessed. She is swaddled, her ankles wrapped with hospital bracelets, and to look at her is to remember that life holds promise.
Pregnant with her I would stand in the back of the auditorium, hands raised in worship as she kicked in rhythm to songs sung by crowds of believers.
“Like a tidal wave crashing over me, rushing in to meet me here, your love is fierce.
Like a hurricane that I can’t escape, tearing through the atmosphere, your love is fierce.”
We are only lying here peaceful because his fierce love has dreamed us, formed us and fought for us. We will gather her and go home. Real life will resume and I need the peace to rest on us. I will need the peace to come like a tidal wave, washing over me, a force of nature unstoppable.
I need to be the tidal wave, yet I am weak. In this hospital room I realize that strength can flow through me when I lie broken. Miracle can overtake when I enter a story greater than myself.
I search and flail until I sit down to write – my story, and now her story – and then the peace comes. All I know to bring it is to write the next page, a remembrance and a prayer.
In this writing I stay within the mystery, remembering the miracle, overtaken by peace.
“You’ve been my King of Glory, won’t you be my Prince of Peace.”
Elizabeth Joy, one day old. November 10, 2016