|Me, days old.|
Here's my story.
Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, was speaking at a nearby church that Sunday night. My parents had felt a pull on their hearts to help the church in communist countries since they had read God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew together, right after they were married. The book had been a gift for their wedding two years previous. Now they were excited for the opportunity to hear Richard Wurmbrand speak on a topic so close to their hearts. My dad was hoping to get some Q&A time with Wurmbrand, but sometime during the meeting my mom leaned over and whispered in his ear, "I think I'm having contractions."
She wasn't sure because she had just been to the doctor a couple days before. The doctor had assured her that the baby looked to be right on track for the November 3rd due date and would not be arriving early. So that evening on October 24th, she didn't think much of the pain she felt in her back. Until she realized the pain was coming and going at regular intervals.
When she told my dad her suspicion, he insisted they go to their own church, which was also having a Sunday night meeting, to get some prayer before the baby came. Their church was in the opposite direction of their home and hospital, but it was their first child and they wanted prayer. After the leaders of the church prayed for the labor and delivery, mom and dad went home and timed the contractions. Early on the morning of October 25th, around 2:00 am, they headed to the hospital for the big event.
When they got there, my dad was able to be with mom during the labor, but as she was taken to the delivery room, he was told that he could not be in the delivery room with her, which surprised them both. At the time it was not common for men to be in the delivery rooms. This doctor, however, had indicated to them that she was open to it. Disappointed he waited in the hallway. After some complications with the delivery, my mother yelled out in frustration, "I want my husband!" The doctor relented and let my dad in the delivery room.
I was coming out the wrong way, with my face turned up, chin first. They gave my mom some gas as the doctor got ready to reach in and turn me around. Being familiar with hospitals and surgery and anesthetic gasses, having assisted in many surgeries as a surgical technician, my mom knew that they don't give the mother gas unless there was something very wrong. As they put the gas mask over her nose, she felt a sense of dread. "Oh no!" she said just before she lost consciousness.
Dad stood there, helpless, watching, trying his best to comfort his wife even though he was afraid he might lose her. Mom came back to consciousness just in time to deliver the baby and felt a great sense of relief seeing her husband there in the delivery room with her. When I was born at 6:29 am, my dad didn't recognize that I was the baby at first, because I came out such a dark blue. Is the baby dead? he wondered.
It was uncomfortably silent in the delivery room. By giving my mother gas, the doctor had lowered the oxygen content in her blood, which in turn lowered the oxygen content flowing to the baby inside of her. That's why I was so blue when I was born, I didn't have enough oxygen.
The Apgar Score is a method of assessing the health of a newborn baby based on five criteria, zero being dead, ten being perfectly healthy. My initial Apgar score was one. They went to work right away trying to revive me. In fact, they didn't even tell my parents if I was a boy or girl. They only knew I was a girl because they heard the nurses referring to "her" and "she." The first minutes after I was born were filled with anxiety, not celebration, although they were happy that at least I was alive. After a few minutes the anxiety subsided. My next Apgar score was nine.
My dad, however, was still concerned. I looked deformed when I was born, not at all what he was expecting. My head was lopsided and my left eye was so scrunched that he had to look twice to make sure that it was even there, then asked the pediatrician to check it to make sure it was okay.
When they wheeled my mom to the recovery room, my dad went to the nursery. The nurses wheeled me over to the window so that he could have a better look. I looked to the left, to the right, then right at him and smiled. He felt such a great sense of relief and so much emotion that he hurried out to his car where he could be alone and weep for joy. He wept so hard that he hyperventilated and his jaw locked.
And, I think, he's probably been weeping ever since... for joy, of course.
Knowing this story of my birth has at times made me feel pretty special. I remember one time specifically. I was walking down my grandparents' wooden basement stairs and I slipped, but I caught myself and didn't get hurt. I remember thinking, "I could have died. Just like I almost died when I was born. God must have a special purpose for my life." I think I was probably eight years old at the time and a little over dramatic. I'm still wondering what that special purpose is that God has for me. I've decided that it was to bring my own children into the world.
Interestingly, knowing this story of my birth impacted my feelings about the whole process of giving birth. When I was pregnant with my first child, as the due date approached, I realized that I was very fearful of labor and delivery. I lived with the fear until it grew into a somewhat consuming thing. I finally worked up the courage to verbalize my fear and mentioned it to my mom. As I talked to her, I realized that the source of my fear was my own birth story. I knew that my own delivery had been difficult and I'd heard that often the birthing experiences are similar to your own mothers' experience.
"Oh, Anne! My labor with you was easy. Well, as easy as labor can be anyways. If you hadn't been turned the wrong direction, the delivery would have been an entirely different story, I'm sure. My other two labor and deliveries were fast. You really have no reason to fear. Embrace the pain." Her advice to embrace the pain has stuck with me. I even wrote one of my first posts about it.
And so, the story of my birth is somewhat traumatic and painful. And yet at the same time full of joy and hope. Giving me a sense of God's hand on me throughout my life, even from the beginning. I used to think that meant that I had to do something special. Now I think it just means that God thinks I'm special, and that is good enough for me.