one year later, when grief and joy hold hands

I want to take a moment to remember the scars I bore a year ago. I want to acknowledge them, grieve them in the deep places of my heart, before looking upward…before planning Baby’s first birthday party.

One year ago, when we got home from the hospital, I wondered if my scars would ever fade. The physical ones, I mean. God heals emotional scars, turns them into beautiful, shining things. This I know from experience.

But the truth is, my body was marked everywhere and, I can’t explain why, but I was embarrassed about it. I remember wishing I had the normal marks of labor like everybody else, wishing I was sore in all the normal places.

In the weeks following my delivery, I barely even noticed my C-section scar or the pain from it. I was too distracted by my battle scars.

My jaw was sore, and my voice was thin and raspy, a breath, thanks to the ventilator that had kept me alive. In the beginning, after I was finally able to speak, I was afraid to sing to Baby…I was afraid my vocal chords might give up, snap and break, decide they’d had enough. The doctors promised me this wouldn’t happen, assured me my voice would return with time. So I sang, soft, soft, soft, my voice a whisper.

Removing the ventilator was ugly, its own scar on my memory. The nurses made Michael leave the room. I still remember why.

eduard-militaru-Q4PvX80itZ0-unsplash

Photo by Eduard Militaru, courtesy Unsplash

I also had a deep, painful scab on the side of my neck from a special IV port they had to insert into some sort of main artery leading directly to important organs…they do this in critical conditions, I think. They took it out as soon as they could, since it’s dangerous to have such an intense portal in for too long, but it left a hefty scab on my neck that the hospital photographer later photoshopped out of our newborn photos.

“I can’t be in the pictures,” I’d told the photographer from my hospital bed, shaking my head. “No. I can’t. I just—I don’t look good.”

She didn’t know what I’d been through.

I didn’t want her to know.

“Oh,” the photographer had said, her voice cheery, her red hair shining, clean, unlike mine. (I’d been connected to a blood-thinner IV for days that made it impossible to shower. God bless the night nurse who, after day 4, saw my desperation for normalcy, bit her lip, and unhooked me from my IV so I could sneak a shower.)

“All the moms say that,” the photographer had said, focusing her lens. “You’ll be glad you took some photos.”

My cheeks burned. I wish I was like all the moms.

I nodded, winced as I scooted into the frame, and took the pictures. It was fun pretending to be like everyone else for a moment.

(Weeks later, after an inward debate, I chose to print the photo with the scab on my neck. It just felt more real.)

I also had scabs all over both my wrists, about seven or eight on each side. To this day, I’m still not sure how they got there. I asked Michael about my wrists while we were still in the hospital, but all he could tell me was “Robby, you went through a lot while you were under.”

I had a cocktail of bruises – big, purple, yellow, green bruises, all up and down both my arms. I know for sure where those came from. Those came from the night after I was moved from the ICU into a high-risk family room. 

My welcome committee was two nurses who spent two hours numbing me, injecting me, numbing me again, injecting me again, trying to put in a PICC line, which is, from what I could gather, a thick needle that lets you inject as many meds as you need into one person without a million IVs. After two hours of being injected, I finally started to cry, silent tears rolling one by one down my cheeks, and my veins wouldn’t stop closing.

All I remember is I was ready to hold my baby again, and the fluorescent lights were unnaturally bright. I felt see-through and exposed.

“She’s done,” one of the nurses whispered. “She’s done. She’s been through enough. We need a different solution.”

The different solution was a bunch of IVs and more bruises. We clipped all my wires to the side so I could nurse and cradle my treasure-baby.

Before I was released from the hospital, a doctor showed me how to inject blood-thinners into my stomach. Three months of that precious, life-saving medicine for which I am eternally thankful, and my stomach was riddled with even more scabs.

I joked to Michael that, along with being the Harry Potter of the hospital (“The Girl Who Lived”), I’d also become a human pin cushion. Joking helped. It still does.

The thing is, a good friend told me that grief doesn’t mean you’re not thankful for what you have. It just means you’re acknowledging what you lost.

You can be thankful for things and grieve other things at the same time.

I’m thankful for and awestruck over my healthy, beautiful boy, and I’m saddened and grieved for what we went through together.

I acknowledge my grief, and I acknowledge that God makes all things new. God feels my pain and is, somehow, turning it into something beautiful. Something I honestly can’t see yet. 

Right now, what I can see is that my grief runs deep, and my joy runs deep. 

I have prayers to lament, a baby to cuddle, a husband to hold, a birthday party to plan.

Turns out, my scars finally faded. 

But I’m comforted in knowing that God remembers every single one.

 

Blessings to you,

Robyn

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