Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On the Gift of Faith

The giant step in the walk of faith is the one we take when we decide God no longer is a part of our lives.
He is our life.
(Beth Moore, Praying God's Word Day By Day)

Opening the pages of the memory book of my mind's eye, I see the moving pictures tell the story.  

I had just been wheeled back to the hospital room in Delhi, India.  Settling into my bed beneath the khaki colored blanket, a fresh newborn is swaddled and resting in my arms.  The ache in my head begins then increasingly intensifies.  I tell my husband, "I have a really bad headache," and he asks the nurses for some pain medication for me.  

Nurses, like a revolving door, in and out of the room, checking on baby, pushing buttons here, there, one asking for "baksheesh", a tip.  I vomit.  More hospital staff enters to clean.  I feel bad that it made such a mess and apologize, "Maaf keejeeyay." Then, finally, a plastic cup - the vessel for pills.  I entrust our second born to her father, swallow the hope of relief, and, once the pain subsides, fall asleep.  

When I open my eyes again, my right hand feels strange.  Maybe I slept on it awkwardly.  I try to grasp something, but I can't keep a hold.  I try to speak but only a few broken, slurred words escape my lips.  I can't force my mouth to say the words.  I'm confused but know I probably need to feed the baby.  I reach for her, husband places her beside me and she settles in, resting on the bed because I can't hold her tightly enough to keep her from falling.  And I drift off into a slumber.

When I rouse, my head no longer aches, but I still can't complete a sentence.  I start to ask for my wedding rings, removed before giving birth at the insistence of the nurses "in case of emergency", fresh nail polish removed the same.  But when I try to remember the word "ring", I can't.  I see the picture of what it is in my mind, but my brain won't tell my mouth what to say.  So I raise my left hand and point with my right fist to the finger that usually wears the vow-symbols.  Husband understands and helps me put them on.  

I sleep again.

I'm in a daze when the doctor enters, tells us my headache is caused by a spinal fluid leak, a complication from the epidural.  Husband suspects the meds they gave me for my headache - anti-psychotics - are the reason for my other symptoms.  Doctor says I will heal better if I drink caffeine and lie flat without a pillow.  I don't remember anything he says.  Sleep overcomes me yet another time.

Nurses bring soup, wake me, tell me to eat, check on baby.  I don't feel hungry.  When they leave, I roll over and go back to sleep.  

I hear the baby cry.  I need to feed her but feel so tired and my head hurts again.  I maunder and slur, "Is...she...Does she...need...?"  I can't get the last of my thoughts out.  Husband tells me the nurse is already feeding her.  Through fuzz of sleepiness, I look over and see my little one lying content on the cushioned bench beneath the window, nurse in white dress and hat - like nurses wear in cartoons or like Klinger on reruns of M*A*S*H.  The nurse is holding a shallow, spouted, metal cup carefully pouring milk into baby's mouth.  I am too tired to say anything, but I feel guilty.  Later, when I wake again, I mumble incomplete sentences about how I want to breastfeed my child.  He tells me it's ok, the nurse will feed her until I can.  

During moments of alertness, I see him caring tenderly for our baby.  Changing her diapers.  Dressing and swaddling her.  Rocking her and singing to her.  And now I love him more because of it.

More food.  This time, husband tries to feed me.  I'm still not hungry and angry that he woke me.

Mother-in-law visits us, leaving first born at the guesthouse with her grandfather.  Educated as a nurse, she expresses her concerns to her son and wonders if I will ever recover.

A new doctor enters, telling me to eat, spooning soup into my mouth.  "Your husband is not a good one.  He should be feeding you."  I try to defend him, concentrating to say, "No. He's a good husband," but what leaves my mouth instead is, "No.  She's...good.  She's good."  

A friend visits, and I call her by the wrong name multiple times.  She graciously excuses my mistake. 

Later a nurse asks if I want coffee or tea.  I refuse either, knowing I should not drink caffeine while nursing a newborn.  I ask for a pillow.  The one I had been using is missing and my head hurts.  Husband tells me what the doctor said about lying flat and consuming caffeine.  I'm more alert now, the medicine wearing off, 18 hours later.  I still can't use my right hand completely, but my sentences are much more comprehensive and only a few words still weigh down my tongue.  I tell him I didn't remember the doctor's instructions.  More compliant now, I eat, drink tea, and lie flat, even though I'm no longer as tired.  

I snuggle close to this newest addition to our family.  Looking at her, I feel as if there is a piece of time missing, the most significant portion of our first days together.  Initial bonding moments are lost.  Will I always feel this way?  As if we are not knit quite as closely together?  Is it too late to join my heart to her and love her as much as I love my other daughter?  Eventually, there is a sweetness and deep love in our relationship. 

Three days have passed since this infant took her first breath.  I'm ready to go "home" - a guesthouse for now, since we are a 12 hour train ride from our home city.  To be discharged, my doctor has requested a psychiatrist visit me.  One does, asks me questions, sees if I am aware of my surroundings, my name, the year.  I am finally able to fully use my right hand and my thoughts and speech are clear.  I still have an ache in my head, less intense, and I know how to treat it from home - plenty of caffeine and other fluids. After a final visit from my doctor, who wants to confirm I am able-minded, they release us.
Months go by.  It is a difficult adjustment going from one child to two.  A family of three to a family of four.  I struggle to figure things out.  My faith is weak.  Tensions are beginning to soar.  Sleep is scarce.  Summer heat is at its peak and power outages are reaching 18 hours.  It's only our second year in this country.  Men lack respect for women, and women rarely leave the house in this culture.  And so it is for me.  I stay at home with the children.  It's better that way.  I don't have to face disrespectful behavior, and we stay cooler inside under the fan where temperatures are in the 90s inside compared to the blazing 120 degree weather outside.  They say only fools and Englishmen go out on a summer's day in India.  I'm neither...or am I both?

But it's getting old, this thick, oppressive place.  I'm wanting out.  I'm wanting to leave it behind and head for old territory.  I am suffocating.  I cry nearly every day.  My knees buckle, and I pray.  I start making changes.  Start reading, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, applying what I'm learning.  Slowly.  Waking up at 5 am - before the kids bombard me with their needs, or while nursing the youngest.  And I feel His hand taking my heart and cracking the hard shell, then peeling back the layers underneath.  It's painful.  It's incredibly difficult to handle.  And then I find I'm all soft.  Easier to mold.  Like bread dough being kneaded by the Holy Spirit. 

The memories dissolve, and I focus on my heart as it is today.  I do not always allow God to take center stage, though that is precisely where He belongs.  But there are many days when I can't get enough of Him.  Can't sit long enough at the feasting table.  There is breakfast to make.  Diapers to change.  Bickering to intercept.  I try not to get distracted.  Sometimes I'm successful.  But I'm much closer to choosing God as my life than I was nearly six years ago when these memories were not history.  It's not something I've done so much as something I've allowed to happen to me.  Faith is not something we grow in ourselves, but something we can cultivate and allow the Spirit to take root in our hearts and bring forth.

I'm humbled, thankful.  It's a gift.



  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing. Did they ever really know what caused that? That's really scary. I'm glad you are more moldable now. Those painful lessons are always the valuable ones.

  2. was from a spinal fluid leak - a complication from the epidural.

  3. Beautiful - so incredibly well written. I'm so glad you took the time to write it down. While it wasn't an ideal birth by any stretch of the imagination - such a difficult time - so glad you allowed it to grow you deeper. And so so glad you chose to share it. Miss you.

    Love you friend,


  4. Shannon, I just happened to read this today, and I am in tears. Wow. What an elegant and poignant writer you are, and what an incredible story to tell. God is so good.


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