When I was pregnant with my first child, I was determined to have the best possible pregnancy. As a type A perfectionist, I immediately read and studied all available information on pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. I gave up caffeine, walked for exercise, and did everything within my power to ensure that I would have a healthy baby.
When I was just 24 weeks pregnant, I was in a small town arguing in my first jury trial. The final morning of the trial, I woke up and knew something was terribly wrong. I immediately realized that the bed was wet, and I knew that I was either bleeding or that my water had broken. As I stumbled out of bed to go to the bathroom, liquid poured down my legs. When I turned on the light in the bathroom, I nearly fainted from the shock – blood streamed down my legs and covered the floor.
I was transported to a small, rural, community hospital where I waited, terrified and alone, for my husband and parents to arrive. As the minutes crept by, my contractions continued and intensified. Each time I had a contraction, blood gushed out. Although I clung to the hope that my child might live, in my heart, I was convinced that he was already dead because I could not comprehend how a child could survive the loss of that much blood. I also started to wonder if I would bleed to death.
Each time I moved, the bleeding intensified, and I was absolutely powerless to stop it. I was completely out of control of my body. As I waited, I played out every possible ending in my mind. If my child lived, would he be physically broken due to the lack of blood and Oxygen? Would he have brain damage? Would he be so tiny that his body would wither away? Even worse, I hated myself as I thought, I tried so hard to be perfect, what did I do wrong? Despite the pain and the horror of my fears, the most agonizing part was not knowing. As the hours passed, this state of unknowing left me paralyzed with fear that my heart would cease beating if I learned with certainty that hope was lost.
When the doctor finally arrived, he abruptly told me that if my baby was born that day, he would die. At only 24 weeks, my baby boy would not have lungs, and he could not even assure me that my child was still alive, given the quantity of blood I had already lost.
After hours of waiting, an ultrasound finally confirmed that I had not miscarried. However, the situation was grim. I had a placental abruption, and it was life threatening for me and my baby. I was flooded with conflicting emotions – I was filled with relief that my baby was alive, but I could not process how this had happened to me because I had been so careful during this pregnancy! I barely heard the doctor explain that If the placenta continued to tear away from the uterus, the medical team would have to perform an emergency c-section to save me and my baby. I was given steroid shots with the hope that this would help my child breathe if he was born early, and they decided that they had to transfer me to a much larger hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit.
When I was finally stable, I learned that the rest of my pregnancy would be anything but typical. I would remain in the hospital, on bed rest, until my child was born. I naively thought, “Wow, I will be in the hospital for 16 weeks!”
I did not understand that the doctors had no expectation that I would carry this child to term, and my first goal was to make it to 28 weeks. Every day that I remained pregnant was crucial in my child’s struggle to survive. I considered each day that I did not go into labor a victory, and I prayed for my miracle child to live.
That first night, I would never have guessed that I would be in the hospital for twelve weeks on bed rest. During the course of my hospital stay, I had 23 ultrasounds, daily monitoring, and constant medical oversight. To prepare me for what we all thought was the inevitable outcome, I was taken to the NICU to see a child that was 25 weeks old. As I gazed at that fragile, tiny baby, I vowed in that moment to do fight with every fiber of my being to save my child.
As minutes passed into hours, and hours crawled into days, I spent much of my time in the grip of fear. With every pain in my stomach, I wondered if I was contracting again. Each time I went to the bathroom, I checked obsessively for the tiniest drop of blood. I knew that even if my child survived his birth, there were numerous health issues that he would potentially have to overcome. I feared bleeding on the brain, gastrointestinal issues, and undeveloped lungs.
While other friends were planning baby showers, agonizing over the perfect color to paint the nursery, and discussing their birth plan, I was praying for my child’s life. I became obsessed with his health, and in a vain attempt to feel that I had some control, I read books about baby safety obsessively. Because I could not physically prepare for his birth by selecting a crib and preparing his nursery, I mentally prepared to be his mother by reading and learning everything that I could about parenting.
I desperately clung to reminders of home and “normal” life, so I decorated my sterile hospital walls with pictures of family and friends. I missed the mundane, everyday aspects of life like walking to my car, driving to a restaurant, and ordering my own food. I fantasized about sitting on a bench to simply feel the warmth of the sun. I mourned the loss of my independence and resented having to rely on my mother to do my laundry. I craved mental stimulation and quickly grew tired of reading to get through the endless daylight hours. My body ached from spending so much time in bed, and I had to take medication to sleep. More than anything, I longed for privacy. For twelve weeks, I never had a day that wasn’t interrupted by well-intentioned visitors or my caregivers. There were days that I just wanted to cry. However, if I cried, nurses and friends immediately panicked. They wondered if I was having contractions or if I needed antidepressants. The only thing I needed was my son.
As I lay, day after day, in my hospital bed, I began to truly grasp the meaning of sacrifice. Before I was pregnant, I could not comprehend how a mother could selflessly love a child. I worried that I would not have what it takes to put another person’s desires before my own. Yet, each day, I stayed in my bed even though my body was perfectly capable of standing and walking. At any moment, I could have chosen to walk out of the hospital, but I chose to stay in that bed for 2,016 hours. I was driven by a fierce desire to meet my child so that I could continue to lay down my life for him every day of his life.
During the long days and lonely nights, I could not feel the hope of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I could not fathom how any of this would work for my good or for the good of my unborn child.
However, 12 weeks later, my miracle baby was born, healthy and perfect. As I held this child that I had longed for, I could finally see the work God had done in me. In that moment, I knew that my life was no longer my own. A part of my heart and soul was in the body of this precious boy resting peacefully in my arms, and I knew that I would spend the remainder of my days laying down my life to ensure that he was loved.
I finally realized that sacrifice is painful, but love makes it all worthwhile.
Beth Mabe Gianopulos is a pastor’s wife (“PW”), a lawyer, and a mom of three amazing kids. Beth is married to Michael Gianopulos and is passionate about short-term missions and serving others at their church and mission organization, Project:Re3. Beth strives to openly and honestly share her triumphs and struggles to motivate, encourage, and give hope to those that are hurting and searching for purpose and meaning. Beth lives in Kernersville, North Carolina. Read more from Beth at www.pwlawyermom.org. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.