I was cold before I even saw the table. It loomed large in the white-washed room. All around stood shadowy strangers, watching as I hovered in the doorway. Hands twitching at my side, gooseflesh along my skin, I hesitated. I was no one to them. I knew exactly what they saw: another in a long line of failures. My failure at what mattered most brought me right back here, to the very place where I had become a shell of my original self.
My breath hung in my throat, and panic started rising as I remembered searing pain and weeks that blended into months as I tried to gain back my confidence and strength. I felt like searching the room for who I used to be. It would all change again, right here on this table. Was there anything left of me to give?
They awaited my decision to sit down, and my roiling flesh was a hot reminder of my obligation. Sitting down, I was told to move a bit further back. My naked back, exposed, was poised and ready to puncture. I was told to relax, yet their words felt like pelting rain. They were no comfort. Instead, I shook like a leaf and felt like screaming. I longed to run away, but by now I was held tightly by plastic hands—the weight of the life I had within me anchored me down to the table.
This hungry life demanded everything of me, and it needed to come out.
The table was cold, so I was given a blanket; however, a blanket wouldn’t do much to warm up the numbness inside me. Lights exposed my tight and stretched-thin skin, laid bare before greedy hands ready to cut.
“No wonder you need another one; you’re so short,” said the deep vibrato voice standing over me. Completely at his mercy, I didn’t know how to respond to that assault. Already utterly defeated and at the mercy of my raging surges, I had to welcome him in pulling me apart. Tears flooded my face, and no one stopped them. Sobbing, I laid exposed to the assaults of jostling hands. Their smiling eyes above their masks assumed mine were tears of joy and gratitude.
How could I feel joy when I knew what was ahead?
My fear made me hold my breath even as my fourth child took her first. Love born of pain. It wasn’t over; it was starting all over.
This table, the very table that had made me a mother three times before in the very same way, was the altar of my sacrifice. I had tried every other way, but I always ended up right back here. No stitches would put me back together, and I wondered if they were ever meant to. I already knew how I would answer those who asked—“It is totally worth it”—but the table knew, and I knew, the cost.
Shannon Brink is a mother of four and a nurse by profession, but currently she is unearthing her creative soul, which was buried under the rubble of years of shame and fear. She loves writing metaphorical narrative and is on the journey to try to publish her first book. God keeps using her writing to explore awkward spaces of life like waiting, grieving, calling, and transition. From Vancouver, Canada, she and her family are currently living in Malawi, Africa. You can find her writing here: www.Shannonbrink.org
As a midwife, I read your words with sensory images mixed with tears. Yes. I hear you.