So what is JOY?
I have always associated the word “joy” with happiness. After all, it is hard to imagine anyone singing or talking about joy without being happy. Joy to the World is a happy song, right?
In my very short time as a mother, however, I have learned so much more about the true meaning of joy. Joy, in the biblical sense, is a feeling of purpose and fulfillment. Jesus’ disciples had true joy because they understood that their collective purpose was to spread the news about salvation to all people. When Jesus came to earth, the world received JOY because it now had purpose and its inhabitants could now find fulfillment in life.
My experience at the hospital was not a happy one. I was questioned repeatedly by nurses and doctors but my answers were disregarded. In fact, the birth plan that I took so much time to write and perfect was so far ignored that I shouldn’t have bothered. I was induced with a drug that I was hesitant to allow, I was told repeatedly that I had a “diagnosis” that I still don’t agree with, and I ended up having a ceserean section when my daughter couldn’t tolerate my contractions.
Following my delivery, the hospital staff once again disregarded my wishes to have my placenta encapsulation (despite a lengthy conversation with everyone WHILE I was in the operating room, half open) and someone threw it in a solution to go down to pathology. This ruined it. Upon returning to my room, I was hooked up to magnesium sulfate (without my consent) and I was not allowed to leave my bed or eat for 24 more hours.
That same afternoon, the nurses informed me that Layne had low blood glucose and that she would need to go to the NICU to be hooked up to a glucose drip. Of course, one of the reasons we liked this hospital was because they were adamant that nearly every newborn intervention could take place in the patient rooms, rather than down the hall in the NICU. Unfortunately, they were also in the process of cutting costs for staffing for the NICU, so it was temporarily relocated to the first floor (we were on the third).
When they came to take my baby, I was a mess. This wasn’t happiness. Women are supposed to feel accomplished and fulfilled after having a baby. I, on the other hand, felt a bit like I failed. Nothing was going right, I was exhausted, and I had now failed one more time by not being able to keep my baby from having to go away to get additional help. I told my baby that I loved her and watched them wheel her away from me while I sobbed. That night, my husband and I used FaceTime on our phones so that he could go visit her and feed her while I watched. I tried to be strong but tears just kept running down my cheeks. She was crying when he got there. I could do nothing about it.
My spirits lifted slightly the next morning, when I was allowed to get out of bed. My one last wish was for my baby to be breastfed. I was so determined to give her anything I could that I would pump constantly, even when nothing came out after 15 minutes. If I did manage to get some colostrum, I would proudly carry it with me in a syringe while my husband wheeled me downstairs to feed it to her. It became a routine for us to check her temperature, change her, have the nurse check her glucose, and then allow me to try to breastfeed with no success. We would then give her formula. The formula was necessary for her health, but it just felt like another slap in the face.
We would feed Layne every three hours. This meant that my husband would wheel me downstairs, we would do the above-mentioned routine (which took about an hour) and then I was supposed to go upstairs and rest. That “rest” time was usually spent having nurses and doctors check on me for a variety of medical and non-medical reasons. I developed anxiety about not waking up in time for her feedings so I wouldn’t sleep. For the duration of my stay in the hospital, I got about 5-6 hours of sleep (total). I was berated by the nurses for this as well.
Layne did make it out of the NICU in time to spend our last night in the hospital together. We left the following day in a whirlwind of confusion as our checkout day was misquoted, but I was very pleased to be leaving the hospital for good.
Nine months of planning and all of it (save my beautiful daughter) was destroyed in a few hours. I was too tired to be sad at the time and my body knew that I needed to keep moving to care for this new life. It took about a week to process the experience I had in the hospital and to start to grieve for what I lost. It was the moment when my world stopped spinning so fast after the holidays and I had my daughter in my lap staring up at me that it finally sunk in: I am inadequate as a human being and as a parent. My daughter has no idea how she got here but she thinks the world of me and that should be enough.
As time is passing along, I am weepy about all sorts of things….lack of sleep…..the rate that my daughter is growing…..the continued struggle (although almost success at this point) to get my daughter to breastfeed with no aids…..
But JOY is the one thing holding me together. Purpose. Fulfillment. Being a mother to an adorable baby with chubby cheeks who doesn’t see me as a failure or a diabetic patient with a host of made-up medical issues. To her, I am just Mom.
And this Joyous Path will continue to guide me through the grieving.
“Consider it pure joy [purpose, fulfillment] , my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2