“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…” – Philippians 3:10
Thirteen years ago today, at 3:47 a.m., my son Daniel was born by emergency c-section at 29.5 weeks gestation. I had developed HELLP Syndrome, a nasty variant of preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication), and both Daniel and I would have died if they had not delivered him immediately. I was completely blissed out during my first 24 hours of motherhood due to all of the medications I was on to save my life, but everything became very real once all of those medications wore off. I then spent the rest of my weeklong hospital stay suffering from PTSD from the trauma surrounding the birth situation as well as postpartum depression (PPD). My mother had flown up to Montana from northern California to be with me, and it was really hard for me when she left the hospital each day. My former husband Jon and I spent the next two months commuting two hours each way to and from Great Falls to visit Daniel in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as he finished growing and developing enough to come home.
When I was ready to come back to work to conserve part of my maternity leave, my primary care physician made the mistake of letting me read my surgical report. At that point, I learned exactly how close I had come to dying that night, and I was really angry at God. I had tried to eat the best I could while pregnant, had changed up my medication to avoid things that would hurt Daniel, and had really tried my best to stay healthy. Yet, I had multiple serious respiratory viruses, strep throat, and they had done a chest x-ray for bronchitis the night my HELLP Syndrome went into overdrive. Why had I been forced to suffer so much?
It turns out that my HELLP Syndrome was likely a genetic issue because they had been watching my mother for preeclampsia when she was pregnant with my twin brother and me. We found out 10 ½ years later that I have a clotting issue that is stress-activated, and that probably contributed to why I was so immunosuppressed during my pregnancy. Emotional healing came when I got involved with the Promised Walk for Preeclampsia in 2011, and I became the survivor speaker for the San Jose event in 2014. I started being vocal about what had happened to me, and the lives of a few of my friends were saved when they were diagnosed early and able to get as close to full-term with their kids as possible. Knowing that other people avoided my fate because they knew the symptoms helped me to find a context for dealing with my suffering.
Lord, you suffered on the Cross so that death would not be the end for us. Be present with us in our sufferings and help us to know that you understand the pain we feel. Amen.