The Opposite of What I Feared

Things are not always what the mind projects them to be. I’ve spent five years carrying a wound, then a scar, then a self-protective fight or flight reaction upon coming near to the place of my wounding. I avoided it as well as I could. If time faded it, I’d simply have to drive by the location and the gut punch and heart flip-flop would make it fresh again.

Five years ago, I was in the ICU for eight days. The issues involved the intersection of pregnancy and heart problems. Nobody’s heart should beat at 240bpm, especially not a pregnant mama. You might be suprised to hear that it took that long to get things under control and send me limping home, but it did. It seems my body was stubborn and not willing to respond to conventional treatments. I still have that kind of stubbornness to this day, though it does agree to less invasive approaches.

What happened during that time was spiritual as well as physical. My heart was medically stopped and I left my body a couple times in spirit. I’ve told this story before, but I told the version with the happy ending, where I didn’t want anyone to walk through the worst of the pain with me so I smoothed over or left out the terror. I thought my faith and a little humor was going to fix that, but turns out the symptoms of PTSD cannot be treated by faith alone. It’s hard to know how to treat them at all. It takes time and research and therapy and sometimes medicine.

When I headed to the ER for my recent health disruption, I had no choice but to revisit the same hospital where I experienced the pregnancy trauma that cheated me out of a home birth and into a highly invasive but necessary hospital setting. I wasn’t happy about returning, but I was resigned. I didn’t know that through this pain I would be surprised by joy on the other side of it all.

In my previous post, I mentioned that the hospital has a baby chime. Or, to be more descriptive, every time a baby is born in that hospital they play a bit of Brahm’s lullaby over every hospital speaker so everyone can stop and celebrate.

I don’t know what it was. The celebration? The thought of new life entering the world (and was I leaving it? Not even close, but I wasn’t sure at the time, being clouded by severe pain.) Or was it the past coming to visit us? The shared memory? (I’m not sure Josh had a dry eye, either.) I completely lost all emotional control- you might say the dam broke- and I burst into loud and uninhibited weeping. I was crying for, oh, it’s unbelievable! Was I really? I was crying for joy! Even in the midst of my pain.

It was like the arms of a divine mother wrapping protectively around me, and saying no matter what happens, even be it death, things were going to be okay. That life continues. And it’s fresh, and new, and beautiful. I was still afraid, because the unknown is upsetting, but I also felt the pain easing and a calmness visiting me.

I had gone to the hospital that day in distress, seeking relief and answers. I did not go with the expectation of healing. Josh asked me a little later after checking in if I cried because of the chimes. I think he knew instinctively what my answer would be but was giving me space to process out loud. I tried to put what it meant to me into words. I’m not sure how well I was able to communicate, but I felt a whole cloud of invisible witnesses confirming that something extraordinary had just occurred.

I cannot provide solid evidence that my emotional scars from five years ago have been healed. I can only tell you my truth as I experienced it.  As sure as I am about anything, I felt a miracle happen in those cleansing tears. A kind of birth. A kind of rebirth. A blessed restoration. I think that’s worth a good cry now, isn’t it?

Jamie Bagley