My name is Christy Pliler. I’m an artist, a wife, a teacher, and, most recently, a mother. I enjoy a good cup of coffee on a rainy day, and exploring downtown festivals with my little family. I pretend that I’m spontaneous, but I’m really a hardcore organizer. I love plans and hate surprises, so you can guess how God enjoys teaching me life lessons.
Everything about my son was a surprise; from his conception to the pregnancy to the birth itself. Nothing went according to plan. I first found out I was pregnant two days before starting my new job and two weeks after moving into a smaller house. I called my husband in hysterics because I wasn’t sure what to do. We laugh about it now, but it completely caught us by surprise. We weren’t ready for a baby, but then again, who is?
By the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, I was happily anticipating the arrival of our little boy. Everything-- the measurements, the tests, the heartbeat-- was perfect. I had almost finished paying my midwife and I was scheduled for a prenatal appointment in a few days. That’s when the itching started.
It was a slow irritation at first. I hardly noticed it until I started waking in the middle of the night just to scratch. Arms, legs, palms, soles of my feet; there was not a part of my body that did not itch. I spent the next few nights researching, trying not to overreact, and praying it was just another weird pregnancy symptom. My suspicions were proven to be right when my midwife immediately took a blood test and sent me to see a specialist to confirm the results. I had cholestasis; a rare disorder that kept my liver from passing bile acids properly, causing a buildup in my system. To top it off, this was one of those conditions that greatly increased the chance of a stillbirth the longer the baby was exposed to that buildup.
With that one confirmation, all my preparations and plans crumbled before my eyes. I would not be able to deliver at the birth center or have any control in how I brought this child into the world. I would not be surrounded by my loving midwives-- with whom I had built a strong relationship over the past six months. There would be no free movement, position changes, or eating and drinking. I was to be induced in two weeks, stuck to a bed and wires, and I hadn’t even had a baby shower yet. I broke down in tears at the registry desk.
Labor is an interesting thing. You sit through contractions, some being worse than others, and pass the time while you wait in anticipation for active labor to start. Because my labor was induced, I had all kinds of extra wires and monitors taped to me. Moving around wasn’t necessarily easy, and even when I did, my baby would roll away from the heart monitor, causing a nurse to rush in and fix it. The little guy had a lot of fun playing hide and go seek with them.
My husband and I would pass the time joking about our son. Would he be a March baby like half of our family or would he decide to be born on the very last day of February? Wasn’t he stubborn, and, man, wouldn’t we have a story to tell him later? The questions distracted me from the ever-growing pain and discomfort, and from the fact that I’d only been allowed to eat popsicles all day. I’m happy he was there.
I was in labor for nearly twenty four hours. During that time I had a foley balloon inserted for most of the morning, my water forcedly broken, a catheter inserted when I was finally given the relief of an epidural, and eventually a rod placed on my baby’s head to monitor his heart rate after a flurry of nurses couldn’t find him for ten minutes; I wasn’t exactly comfortable, and by three o’ clock, I was over it all.
The OB came in to check and found that I had dilated to a five. I was halfway there! We were excited …. but then she came to check me again around seven o’ clock. I had not progressed, and she was getting worried. She asked my nurse to help me change positions every twenty minutes in one last effort to keep labor going.
Two hours later, the doctor found that I still had not progressed. She couldn’t keep me on Pictocin for much longer; I would need a C-section.
I watched my husband’s face turn white. I knew he hated blood, but I needed him more than anything. I begged my midwife—who was acting as my doula-- to take care of him. It was easier to worry about him instead of how I was about to be cut open.
As I began to sob uncontrollably, my nurse calmly explained the procedure. I would feel extremely sick and I’d shake a lot, she said, especially after taking my last dosage of pain killers, but it would be quick, and I’d have my baby boy in my arms in less than an hour. In reflection, I am so incredibly grateful for that nurse. She knew how scared I was, and she handled the change of plans in the most gentle and supportive way possible.
My memories after receiving the last dosage of epidural are a bit of a blur. My husband kissed my face and told me not to be scared, but to sing praise songs as they moved me from my dimly lit labor room to the penetratingly bright operating room. I remember shaking uncontrollably to the point where I couldn’t even speak, but I felt a huge sense of relief when they allowed my husband to come in. He stroked my hair and told me jokes until my midwife exclaimed “They just pulled the baby out!” It was February 28th, 9:55 pm, and I had finally given birth to my first child.
There are many things you experience after a cesarean section. For first time mothers, there is the weighty feeling of failure. Your body was unable to perform the job that is supposed to define you as a woman. Although it is far from the truth, I have heard this statement several times over from mothers who faced similar situations. From a scientific standpoint, the natural process of labor is interrupted causing the oxytocin hormone to not release with the birth of the baby. You don’t get a rush of emotions or a sudden feeling of love and relief. The only reason I knew my son had been born was because my midwife announced it. The following postpartum weeks are difficult, both physically and mentally. You cannot laugh without immense pain, and there is an impending sense of dread when you need to sneeze. You cannot shower without supervision nor can you drive without clearance by a doctor. When the baby starts to cry, you cannot immediately get out of bed to care for them. Eventually you learn how to stand up while minimizing the intense shooting pain, but I still cried every time. And then there’s the numbness. I now have an area on my lower abdomen that will forever lack feeling. In its place remains a soft tingling sensation that I have grown accustomed to. The nerve damage is permanent, and so is my scar. My body has changed and will never be the same; I have been forever branded… but so was Jesus.
When I started to put my thoughts to paper, I asked God to reveal to me His message. How could I use this difficult experience and turn it into a testimony? Then I saw Jesus’s hands and feet. Because of the crucifixion, he forever bears the scars of his torture. His body was never the same, and neither was his identity. From the start of creation, Jesus has always been the son of God, but, after undergoing the suffering of Calvary, he was forever branded as a sacrificial lamb. The cross-- an ancient torture device-- defines his existence.
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus looks down at his hands- just as I look at my incision- feels the soft tingling of damaged nerves and remember that things will never be the same as they were. And why? Because he loved us so much, he was more than willing to experience the pain so that we may experience life- just like a mother.
My birth story changed me. But after months of healing, and fellowship within a community of c-section mothers, I am learning to be okay with that change. I allowed myself time to grieve the loss of the plans I had spent months building, but I also rejoiced in knowing that God had instituted His plan. He had lined it all up perfectly. I was in a safe space where they could quickly transfer me to get the help I needed, and, when they discovered my son had low glucose levels, he was able to get the help and monitoring he needed. When I was first diagnosed and put on a timeline, I was immediately seen by the new doctors, and the hospital worked with my insurance to cover the costs because I was out of network. My story could have been very different, but I was taken care of in the best way possible.
My experience-- and as an extension, motherhood itself-- has brought me a deeper understanding of who God really is. I have started to understand why Jesus would suffer and die for me. I feel closer to Him now than ever before. If nothing else, I am grateful for that.