"The body remembers trauma for a long time."
This is what a massage therapist told me last week while she cared for injuries still lingering from my car accident in June. I am fairly certain she could've told me the details of the accident before I described it, just from feeling the tension spots in my back. She described pain and trouble spots I didn't even notice until she pointed them out.
In the middle of her work, she asked me if I ever wake up with side pain in the morning. I was a bit surprised at the insight of her question, and responded with a quick yes. It's always been a mystery to me where my side pain has come from. She said it was probably from my cesarean. That there is likely scar tissue still lingering around in my body and causing trouble.
She noticed that my body is still hanging on to the trauma of my firstborn's birth.
Tomorrow, my son turns nine. I've written before about some of the miraculous and crazy circumstances around his premature birth. It is something I will celebrate tomorrow.
I want to use my body's memory to jar my heart's memory- to remember not only tomorrow, but today. I want to remember the day before the miracles.
Nine years ago today, I was in the hospital on bed rest, unsure of how long I would be there. My baby wasn't due for another eight or nine weeks, but no one thought we would make it that long. My blood pressure was spiking to 214/164, and my baby's fetal heart rate was dropping to 60. This was less than a week after I'd been diagnosed with *pre-eclampsia in the first place. There had been little time to process a pregnancy going so differently than we had expected or hoped.
Nine years ago tomorrow, we celebrated the birth of a healthy baby boy. Eight weeks early, and tiny at 3 pounds, but pink and screaming and kicking and resting in our arms. We knew he would need to be in the NICU, but also knew he and I had both survived the birth.
Nine years ago today, we didn't know. We didn't know how long the pregnancy would last. We didn't know how much worse my health might get. We didn't know how the baby would do at enduring labor.
Nine years ago today, we could do nothing but wait, pray, and worry. I was angry at the person who quoted Romans 8:28 to me, who assured me that all things would work out for good. Because we didn't know that, not in the way that verse was being used. Somewhere in me, I knew that God was with us, and would carry us through whatever came to pass. But I didn't know what that would mean. And neither did anyone else.
We didn't know if the steroid shot had helped our baby's lungs, or if he would have lifelong asthma. We didn't know if my body or my baby would be able to handle labor. We didn't know if things would lead to a cesarean, and if that happened, if I would have a major seizure in response. We knew we were in the hands of good doctors, but risks were still there.
Plenty of people of faith have prayed and hoped and held vigil while in crisis, and ended up with different results than what we had. I knew that. Reassuring me with false promises about how everything would be okay was neither life-giving nor helpful.
The day before, I needed the gifts that so many of my friends and family gave. The gifts of presence and empathy. The gifts of laughter and distraction. The gift of feeling like I was not alone.
My body remembers the trauma, and I want to remember, too.
I want to remember how I was angry with God, and God did not abandon me. I want to remember the relationships that held me when I felt like the floor of life was dropping below my feet. I want to remember the messiness of a faith without easy answers. I want to remember the abundance of love and lack of shame of receiving help when I needed it.
And I want to celebrate this body of mine, which so often frustrates me by not looking the way I want it to look. I want to celebrate how she hung on nine years ago today, and brought my son and I into the hope of nine years ago tomorrow.
Body, you can let go of the trauma now. My heart will not forget.
* Spoiler alert from Downton Abbey Season 3: As a point of reference, Sybil had pre-eclampsia and died when it became full-blown eclampsia. Eclampsia remains a large factor in childbirth deaths worldwide. My disease was early onset, and progressed into HELLP syndrome. Without access to modern medical care, I, and the baby, would likely have met the same fate. Which, by the way, made that episode even more emotional to watch.