I pull up to an outpatient medical clinic and park my car. My headlights assign themselves to the front door where there are massive signs about COVID, screening, and how certainly you cannot go anywhere if you dare to feel sick for a minute. Meanwhile, I know many people who are sick right now, many more who got sick in the last few days. The pandemic is still screaming, welcome to a life of screening.
I dig for my mask, and then sit inside my car and stare at the windshield. It’s hot. My car air conditioner is broken. I am both sweating and trembling. I am afraid to go inside. It is odd how physical spaces hold old traumas, as if they are somehow doing us a favor by preserving them like jam. I would rather find the jar empty and washed, but alas, I must face it. This clinic hosted my strenuous medical care for the last two years. This team saw me through a tragic miscarriage after years of loss and infertility. That flat-line of a heart beat on the 12-week ultrasound still torments me at times. We named that baby, Eliad Leo. Then, they caught my tender courage over a year later when I showed up pregnant with Aimee, and celebrated each shocking appointment that everything looked good, “no signs of disease.” And then, they watched me exit out of these very doors, in tears, when fluid was identified on her lung. I was admitted to the hospital that afternoon.
That day was the last day that I was here.
The last day I saw these people.
The last day before the epic multi-month labor and delivery of Aimee Star began.
I find myself afraid to go into the building as if it will somehow arrest me and pull me backwards in my story. In reality, I have nothing to be afraid of today. It’s a simple postpartum visit. Someone will look at my C-section incision, tell me to keep drinking water as I breastfeed, and then congratulate me on my baby - with a smile I cannot see because of their mask.
Inside I check in. I step on a scale that tells me I still have baby fat, and then walk through empty halls to an isolated room. I had a baby during COVID, lived in and through multiple hospitalizations during the pandemic. It’s still all – weird. The emptiness. The fear. The masks. The distancing. The tension. The deafening silence. Weird have learned to dodge and validate distance with people. Now we do it with muscle memory, and applaud each other for it, which is its own spreading disease.
My favorite nurse on the team finds me in my patient room, she beats the doctor to me, as she always has. She exceeds every doctor. I want to hug her, but resist. She took care of me through a lot of loss the last two years. Sometimes nurses are our primary caregivers, present in moments of our lives that no one else will ever enter into with us. I find out from her that this team has been wondering for months what happened to me. It did not cross my mind to report back to this office after being thrust into medical care in another city. Oh…, I think to myself as I look into her searching eyes, I have so much good news to share with every one of you! Call them in!
The pictures of a smiley 4-month old Aimee Star Luse cause us all to erupt in joy. My dear friend who took the pictures has no idea how much these pictures are giving and will give, to so many people, for so long. This is a miracle in my story, and these people know it better than anyone. They wore the gloves, they caught the blood, they held my hands, and they let me dream again.
This seed of promise.
This star of hope.
This bright interruption –
Is most welcomed.
I sit quietly and choose not to mention much of anything symptomatically about my postpartum journey. I already know that even the most bizarre symptoms in the world are “normal” when you are pregnant. You can vomit for months, and people look at you with googly-eyed excitement. Or, you can swing violently in moods, lose half your hair, suffer sleeplessness, body adjustments and an overhaul on life postpartum and people grin and congratulate you on your baby. It’s all part of the process.
The womb carries life –
To labor it out –
To deliver it whole –
To nurture it to grow.
Let’s all thank God, despite the very real challenges, that I made it postpartum this time.
And, with a beautiful little girl. Thriving. Is this real?
A happy moment in the back of an outpatient medical clinic ensues. We let our eyes smile where our mouths are hidden, and rejoice. Everyone seems thirsty for a reason to sink into gratitude. I take their hands and we go there, together. I assure them that all of the shaking, the shock, the trauma, the fear, and uncertainties -
All of the laboring over months of unexpected crisis -
Was unto something –
For something –
A birthing -
Of new life.
Later in the week, a friend sends me a poem about our world.
The smokey sun.
The missing gatherings.
The disintegrated jobs.
And, I get to thinking … Will we make it to postpartum? And to those who do, what we will be left holding? What in the world is the world birthing? Labor and delivery is full of pain. Full. You breathe between contractions, and that’s about it. But, the life that emerges is full of beauty. Full. And it’s all brand new.
Our world is birthing something right now through very real waves of loss. We are carrying, we are laboring, and we are delivering – in places we did not ask to be. I’m living it as I’m living it. We are living it. Everything is changing through labor and delivery. Perhaps someday we will return together to our old quarters, as I did this week, and find out that all the suffering brought us into a brand-new life. And for that new life, we will thank God.
There will be a postpartum landing.
If I can land, you can land,
Hold on, friends.
Don’t forget to breathe between contractions.
New life is coming!
It will come.
Reflection Question: What new thing do you think God is birthing in your life right now? Reflect on this statement as it relates to your story, "Behold, I make all things new."
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.