Monday, July 14, 2014

High-Risk Pregnancy: When Stress Threatens the Marriage, and the Pregnancy’s Outcome

            Another day of living bedridden in a high-risk pregnant passed, and I checked it off my little hand-made, bedside calendar. Then I'd count the days I survived and the days I still had to go. 

            It was my own personal ritual.
            Day after day, I leaned into the Lord through prayer to gain strength.
            Yet, even with the strength I garnered from prayer, there remained plenty of weak moments when I felt like waving the white flag of surrender and giving up. Then my inward-seeking self would roar back. “None of this is worth it!” I’d confirm vehemently to the silent room and emotionless ceiling. “After all, I have a life to lead. My husband and son rely on me, and I’m not very reliable lying in bed. Who’s looking after my family and household?”
            And what if, after all of this sacrifice, we still lost the battle? That ugly possibility always hovered around the perimeter of my conscience as I forced myself to view the situation realistically.
            One afternoon, though, in the depths of doubt, a “voice” spoke to me in such clarity from my heart that my conscience snapped to attention: Fight for me, Mom, the “voice” entreated. Fight for me!
            How could I not? It was all I needed to “hear” to buttress my resolve to go on. What I was doing was right and necessary, even if it were physically painful. The fight would endure until a succinct end signaled victory or defeat. And I would go down swinging.
            But as my resolve strengthened, Chris’s withered away. At twenty-eight weeks, he slumped into the rocking chair in my bedroom after a rough workday and caustically announced, “I don’t know how much more I can take. I’ve experienced just about enough! I’m tired, sick and frustrated. The demands from everyone are unrealistic, and I have realized my limit!” His voice was sharp, accusatory, dripping with disgust and anger.
            Then he launched a final blow. “If it all ended today, I would be happy. I could live with myself for the rest of my life and not feel the least bit of remorse.”
            I was crushed into silence. What had happened to the man who so lovingly washed my hair once a week and tenderly helped me change my clothes when they wouldn’t last another day? I desperately needed his encouragement; I needed him to continue to be selfless with his love and support. He was doing everything humanly possible to take care of my physical needs, but his emotional conviction waned dangerously. It actually seemed to have packed its bags and vacated. I thought—hoped—it was a single night of him unloading his frustrations. But it wasn’t. With increasing frequency and intensity, he complained vehemently about the demands everyone was placing on him—from work, to Parker, to me. It threatened to become a nightly ritual, and instead of happily awaiting his return home, I started dreading his appearance every afternoon. 
            What did he expect me to do? How did he expect me to provide him with any emotional support? I knew and appreciated how hard he was working, but there was absolutely nothing I could do to lighten his increasing load, much of which was brought on by his own design since he also continued his relentless pursuit of self-employment while working full time.
            Yet guilt racked me. The gravity of my situation had become a frightening, monolithic burden—to me and everyone else. Keeping me focused on my goal continually strained my tolerance boundaries and sanity. My heart ached for him and his burden, but I was incapable of shouldering his afflictions, too. He needed to find someone else he could unload on.
            I started resenting his daily castigations against his company, his “situation,” and the demands of both. It was difficult for me to not regard his attitude as selfish and coarse. He needed someone else upon whom he could pour his fears, doubt and anger. He needed someone else to strip away the hard, emotionally protective veneer he’d constructed around his heart and mind. Without me, he no longer wished to attend church regularly, so support wasn’t coming from that arena. And the men he knew didn’t call to ask how he was doing.
            The situation ballooned out of control, so he took what seems to be the familiar male approach: he lashed out against it, or tried to reduce it to a state of insignificance. Chris was a man in limbo who wore his negative emotions on his sleeve, on his face, and in his cornflower blue eyes. There were times when I even dreaded turning my head to look into those more frequently flashing, angry eyes. Eyes that had formerly been so expressively tender and loving. At the worst times, those precious eyes, and the man I love so deeply, seemed to find everything about me—and the situation I had put the whole family in—irritating and disgusting.
            By the thirtieth week, I was terrified of my husband.
            If this was the enemy’s way of trying to undermine our union, erode our foundation and assure my failure, it was working. The chunks were rapidly falling from the edifice.
            As the loneliness deepened and separation from the outside world threatened to drive me insane, sorrow now penetrated my soul. I felt acutely alone, even when my family was in the house—especially when my visibly miserable, overburdened husband was present. Yet, it all made me even more determined not to disintegrate emotionally or physically, or to walk out of that room defeated. I would not be forever cursed with what ifs overtaking my conscience like a slow-growing parasitic fungus, every waking moment for the rest of my life. Not after all of the love, suffering and perseverance already accomplished.
            How could I throw God’s mercy and grace in His face and tell Him that He could have it back, that I was finished with it? How could I tell Him He was expecting too much from me—from all of us—and that I had changed my mind; that I no longer desired to sustain the precious life I was carrying? The life He had given me?
            Alone, yet not alone.
            If I thought I’d hit the end before that point, I was dead wrong. I needed to crawl under the shadow of the cleft and hide.
            At least there I knew I’d be sustained.
            And protected.


NEXT WEEK: Little sparks of encouragement…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!