The scent of candle wicks and sweat hung in the air as her newborn cry ushered out my last strained moan. Hot tears tumbled from my eyes, dripping down my neck, and onto the baby before mingling into the water around us. They were tears of gratitude, but if I’m honest, equally tears of relief. I conjured all the techniques I’d ever learned to survive the sensation of her head tearing through my birth canal. Finally, all the anguish was forgotten as I cradled 8 pounds of pure sweetness in the warmth of the morning glow now reaching through the heavy curtains.
The next three days seemed a blur of precious memories, nursing, afterpains and little sleep. My clumsy steps on the cold, creaking floor interrupted the midnight stillness of our small condo as I waddled yet again to the bathroom. My body ached, my back throbbed and I felt the kind of pressure I had felt days before as the baby got into position for birth. Except now, the baby was out. I pushed my concern aside, reasoning that surely this was all par for the course after a precipitous labor.
Concern turned into alarm when my bathroom trip revealed a small bulge amid all the passing postpartum blood. The next hour was a myriad of bathroom trips, prayers with my husband and calls to my midwife. Puzzled and concerned, my husband gently suggested I lay down on the bathroom floor. My eyes pleaded with him for another idea, but desperate for an answer, I sprawled on the floor at the mercy of my husband’s eyes. I have never felt more humiliated and tenderly loved at the same time in all my life. I felt like a bloody bundle of sagging skin and engorged breasts, only a shadow of the woman I knew as a ripe and glowing expectant mother.
My husband’s steady face couldn’t hide his worry as he said, “I’m no doctor, but what is bulging out looks like an organ.”
Indeed, it was.
Stage 3 uterine prolapse. There, I said it. You know, an issue that supposedly aging women encounter. For days and weeks, I went to the bathroom terrified that this mysterious bulge would come out again. My midwife tried to assure me that I would most likely heal in time. Now weeks later, I’m fidgeting with my paper robe in a cold, sterile examination room. I blink away tears and stare at the clock, trying to see this situation on the bright side. Only I’m having a hard time finding it. My body has betrayed me.
It was hard not to feel guilty for the grief I felt when, in the end, I had a healthy baby to show for it. I tried to focus on the sweet stuff, but although there was no longer a protruding bulge, my symptoms and pain worsened, even as I followed medical advice. I couldn’t make amends with this. The throbbing may have started in my body, but now, it reverberated in my soul. I felt broken.
Having lost most of my baby weight, I kept getting the whole, “Wow, you really bounce back fast.” If they only knew how badly I ached to be present as a mommy, yet lived impeded by an invisible affliction too personal to mention. I couldn’t lift my two-month-old baby without being reminded that while everything looked normal on the outside, I didn’t know if I’d ever feel the same.
After trying to outrun the heaviness of my disappointment, I started to embrace the truth that healing for my body and soul would only come on the other side of acceptance and self-love. It started with acknowledging my grief and anger. Instead of concealing it, I brought it to the Father, who reminded me that the emotional, mental and physical tethers I was experiencing didn’t define my worth. I had permission to feel, to laugh and to see the true beauty of who I am inside and out. This is where recovery began.
Two years later, I can look back and see how God wove the people, answers, resources and empowerment I needed into my once raw journey. The doctor recently pronounced by prolapse “resolved” and it didn’t spur the emotions I thought it would. Then I realized, it was because my heart was resolved long before my body was recovered. I still have “off” days from time to time. It’s okay. This journey has taught me that acceptance and love have the final word.
Hannah Savage is a wife and busy mom of 3. She writes about cultivating home from the inside out on her blog at HannahSavage.com. When she’s not homeschooling and investing in her local community, she loves connecting with moms in the trenches on Facebook and Instagram.