With every hardships there is relief…
“Where is my baby?” I awoke upset that my belly hours before bulging through my scrubs, had surprisedly been flattened. No one had asked for my permission to deliver him. They told me he was delivered emergently, at 32 weeks gestation, to save both our lives.
I was a 3rd year pediatric resident, the senior for the Pediatric ICU, the night of his birth. My overnight call had just started with an admission of a 12 year old in pain of a sickle cell crisis. As, I began writing up the admitting orders, I felt a sudden descent in my pregnant belly, and then an intense, halting stab of pain down my spine. I thought maybe, I could pass through what I conjured was a contracture but the spikes of pain were unrelenting – and set in the sirens of an alarm. I quickly stood up, somewhat conflicted I began to work some courage to tell my attending faculty doctor that I needed to be seen by my OBY doctor. In response to my request, she smirked without even looking up and dismissed me. The nurse, standing behind her, insisted I take a wheel-chair – “You don’t look like you can walk, Dr, she said. It was 2002, and we, residents were supposed to be super-human. We weren’t expected to ask anything for ourselves. This time, however, I did heed the nurse’s advice.
Hours, later the contractions developed a regular cadence. My blood work also began to raise alarm – I was in a H.E.L.L.P crisis-that’s doctor talk for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelets. But “HELLP” was also the state of my mind. The last few months had been tough – I was working over 100 hours per week while being the present mother of a 3 year old in and out of day-care and being the diligent wife to my spouse who was desperately trying to finish his Ph.D. Emotions were hard to keep bottled up especially after my recent return from Pakistan where I had left my dying father in conditions I could do nothing about and most recent strife with my in-laws in a struggle to make all ends meet. All this, while trying to keep my pregnancy healthy.
They say in our religion, “Verily, with hardship comes ease.” I had always thought that when you sacrifice the successful resulting harmony and peace comes after. I told myself this while growing up with much turmoil. Just keep working hard, harder, and even harder and the strain and pain would be justified with the end of happiness and relief. The outcome of struggles would be reward. What I have learned however after so many years, that it is not the end that is better. The verse says “WITH HARDSHIP COMES EASE.” Why WITH?
In the neonatal ICU, my prematurely born son, lay on his back, flaccid – with tubes attached to almost all of his orifices. He was breathing still harder, my eyes and mind blurred still from all the medications after many seizures the night before. This baby needs to be intubated was my first thought.
Two weeks later at my baby’s bedside, I watched the nurses, and doctors, (my colleagues and attending residents), rounding day in and out. Each day all I wanted was to have had just a few extra weeks of him in my womb. Inside me, he felt closer to my heart and in my control. His feet would rub inside my belly and he would tug at me when he was hungry. Now that he was outside, all I could do was pump my milk with a lingering hope that when he is off TPN,(IV nutrition) he would have enough for his first feed. I waited. I observed his every movement, his breathing, his jerks, his eyes open and close, and his soft creaseless, pink feet. Pain is most intense when we feel powerless.
Yet, it was in this very pain, this despair of lacking control, the ache of regret, and heaviness of guilt, that I felt a relief. I held him, for the first time, on his 13th day outside of my womb. He lay in my arms with his blanket to cover all the tubes and IV’s I knew too well. All his weight in my hands felt firm like gold. His darkly colored eyes glared back at me – he knew me, he had heard me and he had felt the inner side of me. I drew him close, his heart beating against mine. His soft creaseless pink feet rested upon my chest.
It was the hardship that I had shared with him that bound us in that very moment. Even now, while he sleeps, I sometimes find a moment to caress the still smooth bottom of his now 16 year old feet. I have had to learn, that it is in those most difficult, most challenged times, that there resides in us -a deep beautiful pain. It is WITHIN those moments of hardship, that I found my ease.