Joel and I took 10 weeks of natural child birthing classes before we had Alex. I knew I wanted to have him naturally. We read everything we could, and I mentally prepared for what I believed would be the most physically challenging experience of my life. At 36 weeks I went to the hospital because I could no longer take the pain in my left leg. It was swollen and discolored, and the pain was beyond description. They diagnosed me with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). It was serious. Very serious. The doctor told me that they could wait one week, but then they would need to induce me. “We need to get that baby out. The clot could move and kill you.” I won’t ever forget that.
So our natural childbirth was out the window. Just like that. All that preparation and planning — for nothing. I was devastated. I was no longer in control. I was hooked up to IV poles, a prisoner to the hospital bed. But I did what I needed to do, and pushed out my beautiful Alex.
I have a picture of Joel holding him for the first time. Joel is crying, so is Alex. I cry every time I look at that picture. He was perfect.
After two days they sent me home and scheduled a surgery ten days later for the clot to be removed. I went home in a wheelchair with our baby boy, a blood clot, and a broken dream.
It was supposed to be the best time of my life. There were balloons, and new baby clothes, but my heart was so heavy. I was terrified. I had a clot inside of my body. A time bomb. What if moved to my lung, or my heart?
I am not sure how Joel and I got through that stretch. I was waking up every couple of hours to nurse Alex, and was on so many pain meds –everything seemed to be a blur.
I was so angry. And so scared.
When I went back to the hospital before surgery they did an ultrasound of my leg and found that the clot extended from my belly button to my knee. The surgery was going to be longer and more complicated than expected, and my body was still weak from giving birth.
Joel and my dad paced in the waiting room, and my mom tenderly cared for our new baby.
When I woke up I was expecting good news. I needed them to tell me that the clot was gone, that the surgery was successful, that I could go home to my nursing son. Instead they told me that there was still a big section of the clot inside of my leg. They would need to keep me lying flat for 24 hours while a clot busting medicine ran through me. I remember asking them to bring me a breast pump. The nurse held my hand and told me that it was okay if I gave up on breastfeeding. She said I had a long road ahead of me and that it might be easier just to use formula. I again asked for the pump. Pumping while lying completely flat proved quite interesting, but I would not have that taken from me, too.
After another procedure, they sent me home with a remaining piece of the clot in my leg. I was to do two blood thinner shots in my stomach everyday for the next 10 months, and wear compression stockings on both of my legs for the next two years.
They said I might have the clot forever. They said I might have pain in my leg forever. They said I might never be able to have another baby.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night gripped in panic and fear. Would I die? Would I leave my husband alone with a newborn? Would I ever be happy again?
I hated the deep ache in my leg that kept me from running. I hated the shots that bruised my stomach. I hated the compression stockings. But mostly I hated the fear.
Time passed and then at a check-up they could no longer see the clot. It was gone. Dissolved. Just. Like. That.
And guess what? I started running again. I bought long dresses and skirts that covered the stockings, but still made me feel pretty, I finished the grueling shots, and I found a doctor that said it would be safe to have another baby.
And I did.
I hired a doula, practiced yoga, changed out my desk chair for a huge bouncy ball, and mentally prepared for the honor of laboring without medications. I experienced an ocean of pain. I let my body rip open and I pushed out Andy.
It is hard to remember the pain and anguish of that blood clot. Time has faded it, made it foggy.
The pain of this cancer is crisp. Present. Real.
But it calms me to know the truth about time.
I know what time can do. I still wear the stocking on my left leg, and sometimes it aches before a storm. But it is part of my past. Something I have overcome.
And now I must be patient. I must remember that this too will pass. I will have a few forever reminders, but one day I will look back on these days with the wisdom of knowing that when we are open to it – life will heal us in the most unexpected ways.
If there is something woven here, if there is an invisible thread that pulls it all together, if you must study it closely with a microscope- you would have to close your eyes to see it.