by Gabby Jordan
Today began unexpectedly. I was awakened by my own labored breathing and pounding heart as the memories of last year’s Good Friday flooded my mind.
Exactly one year ago, I had an appointment set for an ultrasound with the high–risk pregnancy clinic. After speaking with my obstetrician and the clinic, I was reassured that this would more than likely be my only visit with them. They were just taking proper precautions due to my age and previous pregnancy, which had resulted in the premature birth of our first son. I was very relaxed. I even told my husband to stay home with our one-year-old so he could eat breakfast and I would be back home in plenty of time for him to make it to work. We had no idea this appointment would turn out to be a matter of life and death. My baby would be delivered via emergency C-section at just twenty-six weeks, weighing less than two pounds.
On the day my son was born, everything felt chaotic and rushed. He emerged from my womb without breathing or crying. I felt like I was going to pass out–my heart racing as I continuously asked if he was okay. I was so afraid that I eventually asked the anesthesiologist to “knock me out." It was more than my mind and body could handle. The doctors whisked him away immediately and I was unable to meet him for 24 hours. After four days, I was discharged but I was an emotional wreck. I longed to be two places at once–at the hospital with my baby and home with my toddler. That first night I didn't sleep at all. I could not stop crying. I wept so much that I couldn’t catch my breath. As the days passed, this became a strange new normal. I would break down crying, uncontrollably, without warning throughout the day. The physical agony I felt was beyond me. My heart raced and I was very short of breath, feeling as though I was gasping for air. My husband was very worried and I would apologize profusely because I simply couldn’t stop.
Finally, after a visit with my obstetrician, the Emergency Room, and my primary care physician, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. The doctors prescribed a low dose of anxiety medication which helped calm the physical response of my body to stress. Finally, despite the ups and downs of fighting for our baby's life, I began to see signs of hope.
I was showered with awe-inspiring love and prayer from my husband, our one-year-old son, and our church family. I realized my responsibilities as a wife and mother did not pause, nor did my God-given purpose. I learned to gain strength through the prayers of others, worshipping God, and praying for and with other parents who also had children in the NICU. I realized, despite the hardships and challenges, the ministry of reconciliation and finding joy in small things were, and are, always accessible.
So this morning, when I was awakened with anxiety, I was more prepared today than I was a year ago. After laying in bed for a while without finding relief, I awakened my husband and told him I felt like I was having an anxiety attack. He immediately sat up, placed his hand on my shoulder, and prayed over me. This time, I knew to reach out, not only to my husband but to some of my sisters in Christ who had proven to be my lifeline and support system. I had learned to lean into my community and allow them to support me. They reminded me to turn to Christ and take practical steps to get through anxious moments like this. I chose to worship, take deep breaths, and tell anxiety that it had to bow at the name of Jesus.
God created us to need the support of others. When I was unable to see how things could get better, my community ministered strength and encouragement to me. My community has cried when I cried and rejoiced when I rejoiced. Though for many years, my habit was to keep my challenges private until they became unbearable, this situation taught me that isolation would only magnify the pain.
Since the birth of my son, who is now a thriving one-year-old, I have begun to write about his journey and testimony. However, I have not been as forthcoming about my internal battles. I am not a fan of being vulnerable but, the older I get, the more I realize the importance of sharing my side of this story. Using what I have learned to encourage someone who is living through what we experienced with our son is also healing for me.
As a result, I am breaking out of my little shell. I will write whatever the Lord lays on my heart, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, because I remember how it feels to deal with a challenging situation that seems to drain life from you. I know how to pray for you because I recognize your need to be surrounded by a community that will help you stand when you are weak. I know the mental battle and have learned to pray Philippians 2:10–that at the very name of Jesus, everything unlike Him must bow in submission. The peace of God will rule in your heart again. The joy of the Lord will be your strength.
I am living proof.