Not a week after I posted my last note here about our finally having landed in a safe home and finding peace after a great deal of turmoil and transition in service to our country did we end up in perhaps the most traumatic and tumultuous situation of our family’s life thus far. And it changed everything.
Working hard at unpacking our home for the second time this winter as a heavily pregnant woman and while caring for my small family, one night in the late hush of sleeping children and exhaustion, I was quietly talking with my husband about all we had come through together and how God had seen us through so much — when sarcastically I commented, standing there in front of him in the dim light, ‘I wonder what shoe will drop next’ — when literally, something did drop and the drop came from me and it was blood and I saw that I was 32 weeks pregnant and having a massive bleed.
He dialed 911, they arrived and I was wheeled out of our unpacked living room on a stretcher, bleeding and shaking, aching for my small children who would awaken in the morning to a new house and a missing mama, terrified the much prayed for and loved baby inside me was dead or dying. It was snowing in the dark of that midnight, icy flakes drifting down in front of the ambulance lights, falling cold on my face, melting in drops along with my tears.
The ER nurses and doctor spoke life giving yet cautious words: My baby was alive and well, the bleeding stopped (for now). But the ultrasound revealed a complete placenta previa that was not going to resolve. It was definitely going to be an early delivery and definitely a surgical one and possibly a very premature baby. And it was too dangerous for me to return home until the birth.
In what felt like a whirlwind, I was immediately wheeled up and admitted to the high-risk pregnancy ward to a private room looking out to a gazebo and roof-top garden and helicopter landing pad, the snow blowing down, dizzy and swirling in the night, my own mind swirling dizzy. And I was afraid.
That one night turned into five weeks and two days of hospital bed rest — of life away from my husband and little ones, who, until then, had never ever spent a night away from me. Five weeks away from my small two year old daughter who had just recently weaned and who had never not slept in her mothers arms, all while knowing it was possible I might not return. I had never felt such profound sadness.
Five weeks of aloneness, of waiting, of praying, of laying still on my left side– of knitting a baby in my womb and knitting a pile of wool yarn into a layette, the layette a talisman for a baby born big enough, healthy enough to actually wear. The layette a symbol of hope, the act of knitting a continuous prayer and meditation.
Five weeks of knitting love, stitch by stitch, breath by breath, prayer by prayer, hour by hour, watching the winter snow turn warm spring breeze through the windows, trying to not be afraid and deeply aching to be home with my husband and children.
My heart hurts just remembering.
But do you know the kindness of nurses? And of the lady who cleaned my room, mopped the floor, smiled at me while emptying the trash? Of the people who brought me meals to eat and water to drink and fresh towels and changed my linens and took away all the dirty things?
I knew them– I saw them. They eased my ache, comforted my fears–and I could weep for each one of them, for their care and love and hard work, for everything that actually matters and yet everything that goes unnoticed and unrecognized. I could weep in gratefulness for everything that everyone did that let my body knit my baby, everything that kept me pregnant for just another day longer, for every ounce of love and service that knit a life.
In spite of more bleeds, we miraculously made it to full term, to 37 weeks and 1 day. His April birth day arrived, sunny and blue, the world welcoming my beautiful new baby with flowering dogwoods and azaleas, celebrating him with the color and beauty of an awakening spring.
The doctor exclaimed, “I see a little head”, and up he came from my womb, immediately sputtering and crying and pink and robust and loud! and 7 pounds 5 ounces of healthy little baby, double chin and all. And I could not stop the tears of relief, the tears of utter joy– I am alive and he is here! and we are together still. In that one moment, that first cry, all my fears — the labor pains of this birth — were replaced with perfect love.
I don’t know the reason for this story and will never understand why this happened– why I had to abandon our home waterbirth plan for a life-saving surgical birth, why this baby needed to be born so differently from my others, why I had to be separated from my family for so long. But through it I saw, for the first time in my life, that the presence and service of love is the very thing that changes and saves lives, that each small thing contributes to the whole.
I saw the people willing to do the work, the people showing up in the flesh to help at a moments notice, of coming to the ER to comfort me in the dead of night in a snowstorm. The few quiet people who came with encouraging words, help with my children, delivering meals. I saw the people cleaning my hospital bathroom, taking my vitals, checking my baby. I saw the people willing to be the very hands and feet of Love, of God.
And each moment of waiting in such care, each action of service a stitch in the fabric of God’s work, was the tangible knitting together of His hands in an embracing love for us, my baby and I.
It is that stitch by stitch service that knits the whole of the world together in a perfect fabric of Love — the very Love that saves us all.