The Peruvian Spanish I heard all around me was becoming more confusing as the contraction intensified. My husband was ushered out of the room to make a calm, yet desperate phone call to my father in the States requesting an immediate wire transfer of money for the emergency caesarean I was being prepped for. I especially didn’t want him to leave since my newest companion, the cardiologist, had decided this was the perfect time to practice his “eengl-eesh.” No, sir, being prepped for an emergency c-section in a foreign country while enduring the worst pain of my life is most definitely not the time to practice “eengl-eesh”! At least, that’s what I wanted to say. This certainly was not how I had pictured childbirth.
This being our first child, we were blessed with not having anything to compare the experience to. In hindsight, care at the clinic we chose was acquiescent to care that may have been common in the United States in the 1950’s. But, we were blissfully ignorant throughout our monthly appointments, lack of regular testing, and the occasional ultrasound. Our overall consensus was, women have babies here every day; what’s the worst that could happen?
We were 45 minutes, by car, from the nearest reliable clinic. A bumpy road that made us wonder if maybe my husband should’ve paid more attention to the chapter in the book about delivering in a car! Friends from the States visited and brought down totes of baby clothes, which saved us from having to buy very expensive onesies and supplies available in-country. We decorated the bedroom, put blankets into her dresser drawer which became her bassinet, and anticipated her arrival.
Our initial OBGYN was very kind, even when she chewed me out for the absurdity of gaining weight during pregnancy. However, when I came down with a severe case of shingles at 36 weeks pregnant, she was indifferent, prompting us to find a new OBGYN. This new OBGYN had a private practice, spoke some English, and had an ultrasound system in her office, giving us more peace about our baby’s health.
The shingles were miserable and covered me in ugly scars just days before baby girl was scheduled to arrive. Labor was slow-coming and an induction process was begun one week before my due date. However, baby was not ready and induction was not working. A medically-induced contraction kicked in and precious baby girl’s heart rate skyrocketed.
My husband managed to get ahold of my father via pay phone and have money transferred in order to satisfy the clinic policy of paying before the procedure. When he returned, I was being wheeled into surgery. We boarded the main elevator of the clinic, along with all the random people coming to the clinic that afternoon. When we reached the operating room doors, though, my husband was restrained by two nurses and the doors slammed in his face.
I was alone.
The anesthesiologist didn’t seem to know what he was doing, resulting in a highly uncomfortable epidural procedure and being cognizant of essentially the entire operation. Additionally, my hands were tied to the bed, so I felt like a fish being filleted. I had zero control of my modesty, felt every push and pull, and had no one there to comfort me.
I saw my healthy baby girl for thirty seconds. I couldn’t touch, hold, or kiss her. Four hours went by of me wondering where my husband and new daughter were before I was finally wheeled back into my room.
As soon as we were alone, we wept and talked. My husband thought I’d died and had been trying to figure out how to tell my parents while making plans about how to be a single dad. The afternoon had been more intense than we could have prepared for!
Elena was brought to us that evening, and that is all I remember until the next morning when I was forced out of bed and into the shower with the help of two nurses. Already feeling vulnerable, it was compounded when they began to comment on my scars. One reached out gingerly to touch my side and whispered, “I have never seen anyone so scarred before!” I looked down to see the lines from my healing shingles, deep stretch marks, and the bandage covering my incision.
I really was scarred.
It took months for me to heal – physically and emotionally. There are still repercussions, including never experiencing natural birth and wondering if my relationship conflicts with my daughter stem from her traumatic entry into the world and being separated from me for about the first four days of life.
However, I am finally able to share this story with no tears. I look back on this time with immense gratitude to God for even allowing me to experience all this. All control was forcibly taken from me and I literally had to lie there and plead with God to handle it all for me. In return, God handed me bravery; courage I didn’t even know existed within my bones; endurance, stamina, and the will to pick back up and keep going.
Now, I can comfort others in a way I never would have imagined. If I didn’t carry these scars, I wouldn’t understand the pain of giving birth far from home, no mom around, in a strange environment. I would not know what it’s like to have your birth plan tossed out the window and an emergency operation thrown into its stead. I am able to sit with moms who are scared of what’s to come and share my story. I tell them that God has not given us a spirit of fear over childbirth, but of power to get through it, love for the baby that’s on its way, and a sound mind to make wise decisions (2 Timothy 1:7).
Childbirth leaves us all scarred in one way or another. My scars remind me that God makes me brave; that when all control over this life has flown out of my hands, it’s flown right into God’s. And He makes those scars beautiful.
Lisa Biegert is a wife, mom of 3, full-time missionary and journalist with BCM International, and children’s ministry director. She finds her greatest delight in sharing Jesus with children. Lisa and her husband, Brian, live and serve fellow missionaries at a missionary housing facility outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. You can follow their family ministry at www.brianlisabiegert.wordpress.com, read Lisa’s personal blog at www.thetaskathand.wordpress.com, and discover more about BCM’s global ministry in the BCM World magazine. Connect with her via Instagram and Facebook.