We cry out and He responds
Seated on a couch in the doula’s living room, one of a dozen women shifting uncomfortably, I wondered who it would be. Shulamis, the birthing instructor, had just dropped a bomb of a statistic for us first-timers: “One in ten women will have a caesarean section, whether due to fetal distress, lack of progress, maternal danger, or other causes,” she declared.
I tried to maintain an impassive face while smugly scanning the room, deliberating over who this unfortunate woman would be. Perhaps the nervous girl in the corner who, for the duration of our monthlong course, appeared to be on the verge of a panic attack? Or the petite little thing who looked too young to be having a baby? One thing was certain: It would not be me.
Three weeks later, in the maternity ward, the pain too intense to talk, I struggled to catch the attention of the nurses chatting opposite my post-C-section room. To no avail. My voice refused to amplify above the faintest murmur, and the call button seemed to have quit from overuse. It was just me alone with pain so intense it radiated to every corner of my curtained cubicle.
I thought of my fragile baby boy tucked away in the NICU, a three-and-a-half-pound bundle alone in his incubator. How would I ever muster the strength to visit him if I was too weak to articulate above a whisper?
Time heals all wounds, even surgical ones. Within a few weeks, my preemie was gaining weight, and I had made a complete recovery from the pitiful post-op woman of yore. More importantly, after comparing notes with my non-caesarean post-birth friends, it seemed I had scored the better birth. They complained of aches and pains I’d never met; of discomfort I couldn’t fathom. Although, point for point, my caesarean continually came in first place.
Three-and-a-half long, anxious years later, I am back in the hospital opposite my obstetrician, listening to his assessment of my 38-week pregnancy with a horrifying sense of déjà vu. It’s happening all over again.
Once again, my unborn baby has barely grown in two months. Once again, I have no amniotic fluid. Like a copy-paste of my bechor’s birth, the doctor meticulously lays out the alarming evidence. We need to get this baby out immediately. I must be induced.
Except this time, he won’t do it.
“You have scar tissue from your previous caesarean. We would be willing to attempt a natural delivery after one C-section, but inducing birth when there’s scar tissue is terribly risky. I don’t think there’s any recourse but to perform another caesarean. And we can’t wait for you to go into labor on your own, this baby must come out today!”
My reaction surprises me. After years as the caesarean poster girl, the one whose long-term recovery undeniably trumped her natural-birth contemporaries, all I can think is, Twice a caesarean, always a caesarean. And at that moment, tunnel vision kicks in, and I know with utter certainty: I do not want another C-section.
I plead, I implore, I negotiate like a UN peace broker. My doctor finally relents. He agrees to bump my desperate request up to the head of the department. Head Doctor is consulted, and with a sigh of resignation (or is it pity?), he agrees to begin induction with a microdose of Pitocin.
“However, at the first sign of any complication, maternal or fetal, it’s off to the OR with you!” Head Doctor proclaims. I don’t care; like a doomed man stepping down from the guillotine, I’ve been handed my reprieve.
I’m generously allotted 20 minutes to change into a hospital gown. In my waning moments of freedom, before they tether me to a hospital bed, hooked to an IV and fetal monitor, I decide to daven Minchah.
In the 21 years hence, this tefillah has served as my gold standard. It was Ne’ilah in the middle of April, an amalgam of anxiety, desperate negotiation, and angst.
“Hashem, You are the Shomeia tefillah and the Rofeh kol basar. You created me and control the intricate workings of my body. You decreed this pregnancy should be. I know I said I was okay with always having caesareans, but I made a mistake. If it is Your Will, please may my birth proceed smoothly and naturally, despite the doctor’s prognosis. Please, please may it be Your ratzon that this birth be uncomplicated, and that I give birth naturally, with a healthy baby and healthy Mommy. Please spare me another caesarean.”
Never before and never since was I as acutely aware of my absolute dependence on Him, like clay in the potter’s deft hands, subject exclusively to His Will.
Sixteen hours later as I recline, exhausted, in the delivery room, the doctor rests a wrinkled four-pounder in my arms.
“I can’t believe I didn’t have a caesarean,” I tell my doula in disbelief.
“Yes, it’s pretty miraculous,” she says. “I thought there was a 90-percent chance you would.”
My doctor looks at us for a moment, and then offers his take. “I thought there was a 98-percent chance.”
I smile, recalling the previous afternoon’s Minchah.
Hashem is not bound by statistics.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 813)
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