Thankful For Strength

Thankful Thursday Series

by Tiffany Shelton

Exactly one year ago today, I visited my OB’s office for my very first ultrasound. The room was dark. I laid on an elongated bed and lifted my shirt. The nurse spread a warm silky fluid over my exposed abdomen. She told me to breathe normally.

I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath.

A dimly-lit picture flickered on a monitor in front of me. It was a bit staticky at first, like those old shows where you have to bang the TV to get a clear picture. Then I saw him. A teeny-tiny gummy bear swam and swirled playfully in a river of stars. My cheeks grew hot, but tears rushed to cool them. My boyfriend squeezed my hand and smiled, proud. The nurse congratulated us. I couldn’t hear or feel anything. I focused intensely on the sensations of my belly. It hadn’t been real until that moment. It hadn’t been real until I saw him and realized I could feel him. Before this, I somehow fooled myself into believing I was just another false positive.

I’m not married. I’m not financially ready. I must just be feeling a little sick, I would tell myself.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was in absolute disbelief. I announced it to my boyfriend excitedly, but I didn’t believe my own words. “I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant,” I’d chant like a lunatic.

The entire experience was scary. I never realized how afraid I was the whole time to face new challenges that came with an unexpected pregnancy. How the heck did I get through it?

In the first few months, I thought I was going to die. I had a horrible morning sickness where I couldn’t hold any food or water down. I had to be admitted to the hospital for IV and was prescribed special medication that made food digest quickly. This lasted until the end of my second trimester. My doctors supported me, and always made sure I was feeling okay.

Going into labor proved even more frightening. I woke suddenly at 3am with consistent abdomen pain that made me feel like my back was trying to arch through my stomach. When I arrived at the hospital at 5am, I thought I was surely about to pop. Then the nurses informed me that it could be approximately 10 more hours.

Now, we all know that 1-10 pain chart at the hospital right? I came in describing my pain as an 8. By the end, I realized that the pain chart is a big joke.

However, at every hour a nurse would come in and encourage me. She would tell me how strong I was. She told me that it was a marathon, and I was almost to the finish line. Her words echoed and became my mantra: “Just one more contraction”.

The delivery part was just frantic. I wanted a natural delivery, so I had no pain medication.  This didn’t stop me from screaming at the nurses to knock me out, even though it was too late. A nurse and my boyfriend held me up by my arms as I pushed, both telling me that the baby was almost there. Just one more push.

Finally, at 2:03pm, Axel was born. A nurse quickly cleaned him up and gave him to me to nurse. Relief washed over me like a monsoon. I looked up to see that my two delivery nurses had turned into seven or eight. They all congratulated me, but they were all also so busy working. Just two minutes later, I heard the booming footsteps that could only belong to my father, running into the delivery room hoping he didn’t miss anything.

When I reflect, I realized that all the strength that pulled me through was borrowed. Strength came to me through doctors, family members, and sometimes random internet bloggers with similar pregnancy issues.

This Thanksgiving, it’s obvious that I am thankful for my child. But I could never have had him without so many people giving me the courage to move forward. There was always something to be afraid of, but there was always someone to guide me.

I have so much gratitude for all of these people. When I thought I’d succumb to a fear, they kept me grounded and firm. The strength of others held me up, and inspired my own strength. I want to inspire others to take a look at who in their lives have been a rock for them, even for a moment. I will probably never see those delivery nurses at the hospital again, but I am indebted to them.

What inspired this piece was my son. His first tooth started protruding today. A new set of fears coat the future, but this time I know that I have the strength to pull through.  

And even if I don’t, I’ll just borrow some.

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