(I think I’m going to take a page from Katherine’s book and post this story this slowly as I have snatches of time here and there for writing.)
My heart is ready, O God
my heart is ready.
I will sing, I will sing your praise.
I knew the day. I knew the hour. There were no surprises. I had experienced this surgery twice before. I had rehearsed in my mind exactly what would happen. In so many ways I would have preferred the unknown of childbirth; but it was not up to me to decide what was going to happen. Only how to approach it.
I approached the day increasingly filled with fear, anxiety and great trepidation. Anticipation and joy too; but how easily those get crowded out. It is evidently not unusual to experience anxiety under spinal anesthesia, to panic at the sensations of pressure as one’s organs are manipulated this way and that. It seems my reactions may be unusually strong, though. Bella’s birth was not pleasant but I was spiritually calm and was able to offer it up. With Sophie’s birth, however, I’d been in labor, on pitocin, for hours and was already emotionally and spiritually drained. It was all I could do to cling to Dom’s hand and cling to God but I didn’t feel like I did a great job of doing more than just getting through. I was determined that this time I would be better prepared.
I did my best to put on the armor of prayer, to put on Christ. Father R came Tuesday night and administered the sacrament of annointing and that brought me great peace. Additionally, I knew that I had armies of friends and family members enlisted to pray with me. I had done my research on the saint’s feast day and spent time with St Augustin Zhou Rong and companions. And, keeping in mind Pope John Paul II’s admonition not to let suffering go to waste, I had made some decisions about intentions for which I wanted to offer my up my suffering. I was scared but focused.
I’d achieved a great deal of peace in fact and thought I’d laid much of my anxiety to rest until I arrived at the hospital for the pre-op blood test and orientation. As the labor and delivery nurse walked me step by step through the procedure, I found the emotional floodgates opening up. Tears welled in my eyes and disturbed the poor nurse. I couldn’t even tell her precisely what was wrong. I couldn’t put a label to the emotions that overwhelmed me. I got the tears under control for the remainder of our interview; but cried all the half-hour drive home in the privacy of my car.
I woke up in the early dawn hours on Thursday morning, awake with the early choruses of birds. Not that I wanted to be up then; but it had been an uneasy night, tossing and turning, my back aching, my fasting belly growling. By a quarter to six Benny was doing his usual early-morning acrobatics and I gave sleep up as lost. I sat in my rocker and began to pray the psalms and when that was done I drifted a bit more until the girls woke up.
The morning was more leisurely than most, not having to prepare breakfast for myself as well as the girls. Fasting was especially hard, though. How I wanted a bit of Bella’s bagel and cream cheese or Sophie’s juicy strawberries! All too soon it was time to go; but first as I hugged Sophie goodbye she reached for a candle on the prayer shelf (she’s never done that before!) and asked me to light it. “Ok,” I said, “You light a candle and pray for mommy today.” I’ve never really been in the habit of lighting a candle, just not one of those things I’d done. But two weeks ago I found myself lighting one for Katherine and deciding to try to do so more often now that I have a nice dedicated shelf. But did Sophie really remember and understand? I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. She has her ways. In any case, I found it a comfort to think of my little girls folding their hands in prayer. (Later, my sister was to report Bella offering up a spontaneous litany of saints for me.)
We were late getting out of the door. We ran into construction. We were late getting to the hospital. But even so there was much waiting as the OR was busy with an emergency c-section. The ward was full, all the labor and delivery rooms occupied, we were put into a backup room. Not that it really mattered. Much time to wait; but I didn’t mind. I took time to chat quietly with Dom—He read me some beautiful poetry by St Ephrem— and to then to pray the daytime prayers of the liturgy. The one phrase that grabbed me as I prayed: My heart is ready, O God. That verse was to become one of my anchors during the surgery. But more about that later.