When I found out I was pregnant with my son, Jack, I took no less than 10 pregnancy tests before ever seeing a doctor. I say “no less than” because I undoubtedly took more pregnancy tests than that, but my memory and pride won’t let me recall just how many sticks I peed on. From the day I discovered the pregnancy, I wanted control. I couldn’t see any evidence of the baby, or feel any symptoms of its much desired presence in my womb, so something had to keep telling me I was truly pregnant. I tried to sit in patience with the Lord and His plan for this little baby in my belly, but kept failing miserably. Every test I took brought with it immediate, earthly relief, which lasted only momentarily before the worry settled back in. How could I trust God with this little life? How could He ever really know how much I wanted this baby here on this earth with me? What if I wanted him too much?! What would God think and do then? It’s embarrassing to admit how little trust I had in God and what He wanted for me. Looking back, I see the refining fire kindling, but had I known how big the flames would get, I’m not positive I would have had the strength to continue.
As my pregnancy went on, I somehow settled into a calm-ish state. I still had moments of overwhelming anxiety or panic, but for the most part, things felt pretty routine. We found out our baby was a boy, named him Jack, prayed for him constantly, and I was more excited than worried for the big change we had on the horizon – a move to the UK. My husband, Seth, had been accepted into a masters program at The University of Cambridge before we had gotten pregnant, and we had both decided we didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
After all, babies were born in England all the time! At 20 weeks pregnant, my husband and I packed our life up into three incredibly heavy suitcases, said goodbye to our cat and headed to my parents’ house in Nashville. We had also planned a trip to Iceland with my parents prior to discovering my pregnancy, and decided we would keep the trip as planned and just go to Iceland “on our way” to England.
Two days before we left for Iceland, I started to have some infection-like symptoms, so I headed to a Nashville urgent care, where they diagnosed me with a UTI. I had a history of kidney infections, and started to panic. I had no obstetrician, no home address, a one-way ticket to Europe, and no plan if this antibiotic didn’t work. I prayed constantly, but wasn’t finding relief or feeling better. The morning we left for our trip, while en route to the airport, test results came in that there was also a slight bacterial infection present in my body. After some scrambling and running out to a local pharmacy, we got more antibiotics and boarded the plane for Iceland. My husband kept letting me know we could always stay home, but it didn’t feel like a viable option as we really didn’t have anywhere to go at home. We had both left our jobs, and therefore forfeited insurance in the United States. We didn’t have a house anymore, and at least in England we knew we had healthcare as part of our student visas. I boarded the plane, hoping we were doing the right thing, but was completely unsure if I was jeopardizing our baby’s health and future. I knew God was in control, but mentally, the whole flight to Iceland, I fought Him for His reigns. It was an exhausting yo-yo of a battle that would continue for the next five months. Planning and plotting and trying to cover every “what if” scenario, and then reminding myself to breathe and trust God. I constantly handed control over to Him and then yanked it back, and the effect was dizzying.
By the time we landed in Iceland, I still had UTI symptoms and was developing some new, more worrying symptoms, like severe back pain. I tried to put on a brave face, but I ended up spending most of the time in our hotel room, cradling my tiny baby bump and crying, afraid that at any moment whatever was attacking my body would start attacking my baby.
I felt his kicks and cried out to God, asking him to relieve me, to keep Jack safe. I told Him I could handle anything, that it didn’t matter what happened to me, but begged Him to protect my baby. Had I been at home, I would have been at the OBGYN or the Emergency Room, but the idea of doing that in another country where English wasn’t their first language felt very intimidating and almost not an option. Eventually we got to a point where I couldn’t talk in the midst of the back pain, and we decided we really had no choice but to head to an Icelandic Emergency Room. It was my first moment of having no control and needing to let God take over. They decided to admit me to the maternity ward of the hospital with a diagnosis of kidney stones. They wanted to administer pain medicine and antibiotics because they said the intense pain of the kidney stones could stress my body and the baby out. At first I refused it, afraid it would affect Jack, but a peace settled over me (thank you Lord!) and I finally felt okay taking the medicine. My fever broke, and an ultrasound showed our little guy kicking away happily, with a sturdy heart-beat, unaffected by all of the drama. I cried and praised God and cried some more.
Eventually we left Iceland, and landed in our new home – Cambridge, England. I was so scared to be in another new, entirely unfamiliar medical system while I still had multiple unresolved issues. The kidney stone had passed, but I continued to have urinary infection symptoms and had developed an intense burning sensation. I told God I had nothing left, and yet He miraculously kept giving me enough strength to get through each day. As a general practice, you don’t see obstetricians in the UK unless there is a significant complication with your pregnancy, so I went to a local general practitioner. A doctor in the UK told me it was essentially just after-effects of the infection and that I was basically experiencing over-active anxiety, which I believed. I mean, if the glove fits… right? After a week or two of continuing to deal with this burning I went back into the doctor and was once again told I was fine. Finally, after a month of burning so badly that I often struggled walking any real distance, I went back to the doctor and asked if they would take a swab test. It turns out that after those weeks of taking antibiotics and killing good bacteria in my body, a heavy thrush infection had taken over. At the point of the thrush diagnosis I was around 25 weeks pregnant, and the thrush had become so intense that it would last (in varying stages of severity) for the rest of my pregnancy. At this point I felt desperate to regain control, to take the reigns of my life and pregnancy back into my own hands. So I tried. I mentally planned, prepared, and told myself a million times that as soon as the baby got here all of my problems would resolve themselves. This wasn’t existence, this was a miserable in-between. Life starts when baby Jack is here. I didn’t once think about or realize that in designating this part of my life as valueless I was forgetting what it means to be blessed with air in my lungs, and my feet on the firm earth. I didn’t see the beauty in the hard and the reward that comes from walking in it.
Instead I hardened my heart and decided to wait this time period out, and as a result I simply wasn’t prepared for what would come next.
At nearly 38 weeks pregnant, my blood pressure started to rise. It’s typically quite low, so this was a bit alarming. The midwife sent me to the hospital to get checked out. It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, downright balmy for an English November. I felt calm as we got checked out, and after consulting with a doctor, they thought I could be developing pre-eclampsia and decided I would come back in for a scan on Friday morning. However, little Jack had his own plans, and I started having intense contractions Wednesday night. Early Thursday morning, my water broke and we headed into the hospital. I labored all day Thursday and into Friday morning, where I pushed for two hours before it was decided Jack wasn’t going to make it out on his own, and it started to look like he was in a bit of distress. We headed in for an emergency c-section, and a few minutes later, Jack was born. Hooray! He was here, it was over! Life could begin! Except I felt even worse than before. I had lost a lot of blood during surgery and needed a transfusion. They asked if I wanted to hold Jack while I was still on the table and I told them I felt too tired and worried I would drop him, but I really just didn’t feel I had anything to give him. I had a sense of panic. He was here, but it WASN’T all better. I hadn’t slept in days, I was weak, and now this little life NEEDED me, but I felt empty. We got wheeled to the recovery room, and the situation did not improve. The NHS (National Health Service) provides socialized medicine in UK, and while many good things exist in regards to the program (and I am very grateful to the NHS for the safe and healthy delivery of our little guy), it’s incredibly expensive for the country and as a result, sometimes cost-saving measures are put in place.
For example, I labored in my own t-shirt in the hospital, not a gown or anything of that nature. Post birth, we shared our recovery room with four other women who had also just given birth (as well as partners/babies). There was nowhere for our husbands to sleep or really even rest, so they laid on the floor. You bring your own supplies, and when I ran out of maternity pads (after bringing the recommended amount), there were no more in the ENTIRE hospital. When Seth wasn’t in the room and Jack’s diaper needed changing, but I couldn’t get up due to the c-section, I had to plead with a nurse to help me. I added more days of virtually no sleep onto my pre-delivery total.
I didn’t tell anyone, but I wanted to just throw in the towel. I knew I loved Jack, but there was the numbness that kept me from feeling the warmth of that love. My love for him felt almost more theoretical than tangible. I was devastated. How could God let me down like this? It was all supposed to be okay when Jack got here. That’s what I had decided.
And that, it turns out, was it. That’s what I had decided. Not God. I had decided my pregnancy was too much. I had decided everything would be better when Jack was here. I had refused to fill my lungs with gifted air and pick my head up. And it’s not that I didn’t ever feel grateful, or never rejoiced in my pregnancy, life, or beautiful, healthy new baby. I did, often. But the posture I regularly took on life with wasn’t a joyful one, but rather that of a defeated woman.And that’s not good, but it’s also okay that it happened. That’s what God does, after all. He teaches us, and He isn’t here for the righteous. He’s here for the sick, the sinners, the people in the middle of the “I just can’t do it” phase. He’s here for us. It took real time to feel okay after Jack was born. Months. Lots of months. It took prayer and quiet time and lots of support from the helpmates God has blessed me with (including but not limited to my cute husband, family, friends, medicine and counseling) to realize that I had been in the midst of a fire I didn’t even know I needed. I’m still healing and learning from it. A fire that destroyed my attempts at control, cornered me, got me so alone I had nowhere to look but up. Flames that hurt as they exploded everything around me, but healed as they died down and gently licked my wounds.
I’ve learned so much through the experience of having Jack and yet I still fail God every day. But my heart has forever changed, and I am grateful to know he loves me despite this. I still may be the woman who takes an extra pregnancy test, but I’m also now the woman who can open my hands to the Lord when it’s the last thing I want to do, and say, “It’s yours, they’re yours” and truly believe it. And when I do, the pain leaves and I’m filled with His peace.”
Today’s guest writer is Christine Green. Christine is a “20 something”, extremely fun, energetic, brilliant, intentional, extra-ordinary gal who loves Jesus, Jack (her son), Seth (her hubby), cats, the Michigan Wolverines, and is always up for an adventure! Christine, Seth, and their soon-to-be 1 year old, Jack, now live in Atlanta, GA where Jack will eventually grow up to be a professional golfer (thanks to his dad) and a die-hard Georgia Bulldog fan (thanks to his Aunt Brookes and Uncle Schuyler ;). Here at The Women’s Health Company, we are honored to call Christine a friend and also to publish the first of hopefully many of her writings. Someday you’ll be perusing the Target aisles and find a book written by this beautiful friend of mine…so make sure you grab it!