I meant to have this ready to post on Mother’s Day, as her day serves as a reminder that my birth was so very difficult on her. To this day I have forceps scars from my difficult birth, a birth I was not expected to survive and nearly cost Mom her life. The explanations of what happened have become part of my narrative as I have had to explain the source of the scars my entire life. These physical scars serve as a daily reminder how fortunate I am to be alive, how lucky I have been to function and live a normal life. When I see someone else that suffers from some of the terrible afflictions that are found in this world, I feel a profound personal connection as I know so very well that could have been me. The experience of the birth of my own children would only intensify this, giving me a greater sense of empathy.
My dad was serving overseas in the Marines when I was born so he could not be with my mom. Mom had a difficult pregnancy with me and had gained only thirteen pounds. As a result, her doctors were concerned she would have a difficult delivery which was exactly what happened. During my birth, the doctor allowed me to progress too far and I reached a point that I was wedged tight in the birth canal. The vital signs for my mother had reached a point prompting the doctor to decide who to save, and the decision was made to save my mom. As a result, the doctor had to very quickly and robustly deliver me with forceps.
Although I survived the birth, my head was so deformed from the forceps that the doctor thought I would die or that I would have brain damage if I lived. As a result, Mom was not allowed to see me until the doctors saw I would recover. Obviously this was extremely unsettling for Mom. Though I recovered without any brain damage, I still have the physical scars on my head and neck from the forceps to remind me of this miracle. After learning from my aunt I had been born, Dad did not comprehend exactly what happened when he had written these words in his first letter to Mom after I was born:
“…she said something about you being cut deep but I didn’t quite understand. I sure feel sorry for you. I know you went through a lot and I am thankful that we had the Lord on our side. I will be so happy when I can hold Clay in my arms…I’m glad we have one of our own that I will be able to hold before to long…”
Though I have known this story as long as I can remember, having been there for the birth of my children I cannot imagine what my parents went through. As I read the words from the letter Dad wrote, I am reminded of the birth of my first child. As she was born, after a night of labor she too reached a point and the doctor decided her head was too large for a natural birth. At this point, the doctor decided to stop the process and schedule a cesarean section a few hours later that morning. I cannot adequately express the emotions I was feeling.
Thankfully, I only had a couple of hours to get nervous, so I was able to appear reasonably calm as I was with my wife in the delivery room. When my daughter was born she was screaming as loud as she could as the nurse asked if I wanted to see my little girl. As I reached out to her, that tiny baby grasped my finger and stopped crying as she heard my voice. At this point I was overwhelmed with emotions and could not stop crying, which is something I almost never do for any reason. My mom was watching through an observation window and all she could see was me crying harder than I had ever cried before. So my mom start crying too as she was afraid something terrible had happened to the baby, my wife, or both.
I now understand how scared I was that something would go wrong, just as it had when I was born. When God had my new born baby girl reach out, grasp my finger, and stop crying, all my suppressed emotions were released and I was overwhelmed with tears of joy. As I write this, I feel a profound sense of empathy for my parents as they missed out on an experience that can never be relived. I am thankful that Mom saved this letter so I would have something to help me remember Dad. Yet, I am sadden he could not be there to experience with Mom the miracle of my birth and to comfort her during our recoveries.
Even as I was born, God was there with me as I have never suffered any ill effects from this traumatic beginning to my life. The doctors continued to test me for signs of permanent neurological problems for several months. Mom still remembers the doctor finally telling her there were no signs of any neurological damage, and no more testing would be needed. If fact, Mom chuckled when she recalled the doctor telling her that if I was any brighter I would be obnoxious. Truth be known, it has been said more times than I care to admit that I have been more than a bit obnoxious.
I am thankful God has given me this gift of life, thankful for the dad I had for nine plus years, thankful for all my mom, my wife, and my daughters. I would like to end this blog with the following words of Rabbi Harold S. Kushner from the end of his book, “Living a Life That Matters“:
“We matter, not because of our achievements but because we are loved by God and loved by the people around us. That love may not shield us from pain, death, and loss, but will make them more bearable, and that will be enough.”
© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.