A Birth Story (And: A Beginner’s Guide On How To Handle Anxiety)

It started March 23rd. My wife’s contractions were getting worse. But our newborn wasn’t due until Easter (April 4th), so they couldn’t be real contractions… right?

The next morning, my wife went to the restroom, and shouted for me – that’s never a good sign. I went to see her, and she told me there was blood. At that point, I switched into a full panic. We packed our bags chaotically, my wife’s sister broke the sound barrier on the way to our house to watch our kids, and we sped our way to the hospital. When we got there, I had to “raise my voice” to the people asking us to sit down and fill out some information. I’m certain I yelled a phrase similar to “We gotta go! She’s bleeding!” – and they let her go upstairs while I had to give a few bits of information to the lady at the reception desk.

I ran upstairs frantically. They told me which room she was in. The automatic door moved like molasses. When I got to the triage room, nobody was there, so I started to wander the halls. I finally heard her voice, laughing with the nurse over something I missed. I saw her walking towards the room, so I went back in. When she got there, I asked her, “Did you hear the heartbeat yet?”. She said no. My heart was beating hard at this point. My mind leapt into the worst-case scenario (like it usually does). Assuming something terrible had happened to our boy, we had literal minutes (or less) to seek medical attention.

They finally hooked her up, and to our delight, we heard the rhythmic beep of a heartbeat. A strong heartbeat. Alive, healthy, and strong. It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.

The nurse soon announced that my wife was six to seven centimeters dilated, which meant that our baby boy was coming soon (in case you don’t know, it’s time to push at ten centimeters).

The next hour or more was met with pain as my wife was in active labor. She asked me to push into points on her back during contractions, which helped counteract the pressure and pain she felt. After a while, the nurse came back in to check on her progress. Unfortunately, not much had happened, so they asked us if they could break her water. Of course, this usually means that the pain gets much more severe, since the amniotic sac acts as a sort of cushion for the rest of the body. It also puts progress on the fast-track. After some thought, we agreed, and they broke her water. And the pain increased again.

Some time later, the nurse measured again, and told us she was about eight or nine centimeters. Unfortunately, my wife could barely handle the pain anymore, and she decided – after much debate – to get the epidural and get some relief before she had to push (this was a very difficult decision for her – once you realize that an epidural involves injecting a ridiculously long needle into the spine, it’s easier to comprehend – by the way, they don’t allow anyone to watch this procedure – they wanted me to face her so I couldn’t see her back – this always struck me as curious). After the epidural, we enjoyed about an hour of peace.

Finally, it was time to push. Now, I’m going to approach my next few words carefully. I almost certainly have not experienced pain anywhere close to what a woman experiences during labor or delivery. However, my wife was blessed with very quick deliveries – she usually pushes for less than twenty minutes. This case was no different (the funny thing about being in pain is that it stretches those minutes into hours – it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me either, of course, watching my dear wife come to the brink of sanity – therefore, I would never say that it was an easy delivery).

Finally, though, with all the strength she could muster, giving one final push, our baby boy entered this world. I don’t mind saying that I cried tears of joy for several minutes (the same happened with my other two children). I hugged and kissed my wife. I took pictures. We laughed and we cried.

They measured him and weighed him. Twenty inches long. Seven pounds, fourteen ounces. Everything was wonderful. He was a perfectly healthy baby.

. . .

If I’ve narrated the story properly, you might have picked up on a common thread. And this is it: however unfortunate, it seems to me that a major factor of life is characterized by anxiety, fear, risk, pain, and sorrow. These are emotions that I’m confident every expectant couple meets as they begin trying to have a child. We tend to think of conceiving a child as a two-part process: pregnancy and birth. And that’s true, to an extent. But once you go through it, you realize that there are so many more levels to it than you first expected.

Of course, the initial pregnancy is one thing. After the first month of trying to conceive, if your wife is not pregnant, the first pang of anxiety hits you. Are you unable to conceive a child? Is something wrong with her, or me?

Then, your wife becomes pregnant, and you are both overjoyed. But immediately, the next challenge starts. You start fearing the risk of a miscarriage. And there’s nothing you can do but wait. And you fear hearing a scream from the restroom. And so you prepare for the worst.

Then comes the anatomy scan, where they measure your child’s bones and spine, and you wait anxiously for the doctor’s words.

Finally, you make it to the birth, and you remember stories of still-births and other complications.

Soon, your child is one, and you worry that they won’t be able to speak due to some unforeseen speech impediment or other complication. And at two, you worry that they won’t be able to walk. And when they go to school, you hope that they won’t have a learning disability.

. . .

I apologize if I seem like I’m venting or pouting. I’m really not. I’m just making observations about life. And this observation is hard to ignore. Once again, it seems to me that life is characterized by anxiety, fear, risk, pain, and sorrow.

Of course, thankfully, all of these emotions have their opposites. To get philosophical, you could say that if darkness is a thing that exists, light is also a thing that must exist. After all, if darkness was all that existed, we probably wouldn’t call it darkness. We know things because we know their opposites. And it’s in knowing both that we can fully realize and embrace the highs and lows that each provide.

. . .

You could say that I’m writing Jesse’s birth story, and I suppose that really is what it is. But I can’t help but draw some conclusions from all of these events. It’s just the way my brain works.

Fortunately for us, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy. In our case, the journey through the fear, anxiety, and pain resulted in an invaluable prize – a precious new human life. However, there were many steps along the way where our fate could have taken a different course. What do you make of this life when something like that happens?

Yes, there are no doubt a myriad conclusions when attempting to understand tragedy in our own lives (or the greater world, for that matter). But I think most of them could be categorized into two different branches. In one branch, the suffering and pain of mankind is purposeless, and in the other, we can find some sort of meaning.

In the one, we humans exist for a short period of time, and in that time, we are tasked with hoarding the most pleasure and joy from this life as possible. In this view, when tragedy strikes, I don’t know if there are a lot of ways to console a person. It is what it is. Tragedy falls on us all sometimes. We have to pick ourselves up and get through it.

However, there is another worldview to consider. In this one, we humans accept things that come, whether good or bad. When they’re good, we take it graciously, and we cherish it. However, when tragedy hits, it has a purpose. For one, it can motivate us. If you look at most of the largest charities, they were started because of a tragedy. They began because someone thought life was going to go a certain way, and it didn’t. In their grief, they attempted to find a better way. In their grief, they reached out and decided to make the world better. In other words, sorrow, tragedy, and grief, is not wasted. It is used to fuel a purpose that was most likely greater than the person had ever intended in the first place.

I remember one of the first times I thought about these things seriously. I was volunteering at a kids camp. They took abandoned and neglected children from nearby foster homes and brought them to a camp where they told them about a God who loved them. And I had a problem with that. To be honest, it pretty much broke me. How can I tell them that God loves them? Why would God allow an innocent child to be harmed, abused, and neglected? And then I thought of the alternative. What would I say then? Can I tell them there is no purpose to anything? Can I tell them that in life, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose? Or should I tell them that – even though sometimes we don’t know why things happen – God knows your pain, and He longs to know you, and He can provide you with joy, and a deep and loving relationship with Him, and even restore your mind and your spirit, if you would let Him.

I believe in a good God. It’s true, He doesn’t always give us what we want. And I don’t believe we will know why things happen the way they happen – at least not in this life (although certainly in the next, we will). But I believe He loves us, and I believe He hears us, and He comforts us in our sorrow. This is a beginner’s guide in how to handle anxiety. When we fear the worst, we know that God is in control. And if things don’t go our way, then we know that we will grow, become stronger, lean into God, and know His embrace more than ever before.

Can I ask you, if you’re hurting today, can you try leaning on Him? I promise, He will embrace you with open arms.

I love you all.

By Steve Bongiorno

I write about gaming, books, faith, and family.

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