Paul and Naomi Zacharias have been married for six years but have known each other their entire lives. When they were only four years old, Paul declared his intentions to marry Naomi, to which she agreed. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nestled in the beautiful little town of MacGregor, Manitoba, Paul and Naomi decided to start a family, and were blessed with Davie (5), and Emma (2). Paul works as an independent consultant for raising investment capital, and Naomi is primarily a stay at home mom, working part time from home.
Together with their children they cherish a peaceful home, extending welcome to anyone that comes to their door.
“The baby is in the perfect position.”
The doctors and nurses were talking about me and my baby like I didn’t speak English. Talking about me, not to me. I cleared my throat, a quiet voice escaped my lips.
“That’s not the baby’s head, that’s the baby’s bum.”
No reply. No acknowledgement.
“THAT is not the baby’s head.”
“THAT IS THE BABY’S BUM, THE BABY IS NOT IN THE RIGHT POSITION.”
Enter the patronizing tone:
“Why are you getting upset? You’re not handling this well at all - this is your first baby sweetheart, and I’ve delivered thousands of them... trust me - that’s the baby’s head, we are going to go ahead and break your water.”
This moment is still so clear to me today. It hangs in the air when I think about it.
Sometimes I wonder, if things could have been different, had I INSISTED on an ultrasound... If I’d stood my ground and not let them go ahead… If I had trusted my (novice) maternal instinct.
Minutes after my water had been broken, my doctor’s countenance changed. What he thought was the head, was - in fact, the bum. My baby was frank-breech. I was told that it would be possible to deliver vaginally, so I went ahead through transition and labour. Sadly, due to the precise way the baby was positioned, everything stalled and the doctor declared that the baby’s jaw was caught on my pubic bone, and they would have to operate to save our lives.
I can’t accurately describe the depth of my emotions in that moment.
I was angry, hurt and in pain, yet beneath it all there was a part of me that was smug, because, after all - I was right.
I was almost immediately given an epidural, and in a whirlwind, brought to an operating room. I was strapped to a table to keep my wracking body still as they delivered my son in a way that didn’t even remotely resemble my birth plan.
In that moment the only thing I could feel running through me was pure, unadulterated fear.
My husband went with our baby to the NICU, and I stayed in the OR while they tried to stop the bleeding. There was so much blood.
I went in and out of consciousness on the operating table. I vaguely remember panicked tones, and people rushing around, and then the calm, and sudden warmth of the recovery room - sleeping under a stack of heated blankets while my body involuntarily shivered.
I asked for my baby over and over again - but the nurses on the floor insisted I needed sleep. I did need sleep. And so, I slept.
A number of hours later I was finally brought up to see my boy, I was able to hold him - and everything felt right.
At my two week appointment postpartum I asked my OB what happened.
In short, he explained that so much had gone wrong with the delivery, that they had inadvertently and irrevocably damaged over 50% of my uterus, and that it would be much more difficult to conceive again, if ever.
I felt like I had failed. I had failed as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and that the walls of my throat would close if I slept. I didn’t sleep, I was so scared. When I was met with well-meaning people joking about when I would have another child… I would laugh with them at the busyness of it all, but inside I ached, I felt attacked – It was as though the life I’d pictured for myself was crumbling all around me, and there was nothing to do but wait and witness it transpire against my control.
I had sunk deeply into postpartum anxiety.
Over time, I clawed my way back to a version of myself that I recognized. I made peace with having an only child just in time for my husband Paul and I to discover that we were PREGNANT once more.
I was so happy. I thought that maybe my uterus had healed after all, and that we would be able to move forward with hope and joy.
I booked my appointment with a (new) OBGYN right away to make sure everything was okay. I walked into that appointment with nervous excitement.
It was confirmed, I was pregnant - I had to go back for some precautionary testing, but - as it stood, everything looked great.
I was sent for bloodwork a few times before my next round of tests, which I found to be a little unusual since I’d been assured in my previous appointment that everything looked good.
When I walked into my next appointment, I was met with a somber face.
“What we first saw as a viable pregnancy, is looking like a mistake,” said the doctor.
“We have found several things wrong with the fetus. It isn’t growing at an appropriate rate, and according to the current bloodwork, it will have a myriad of health issues and other difficulties in life, causing strain and pain for, not only the fetus, but yourself and others you care for. Furthermore, after looking in your file, your uterus won’t be able to carry to full term… and if you ARE able to carry full term, either you or your baby will very likely not make it. For these reasons, I am suggesting termination.”
She said it just like that. So matter-of-fact.
Like she was cancelling a cable bill.
It’s interesting the sudden surge that happens inside someone when they are protecting their young. Women, under dire circumstances have been so fueled with adrenaline that they were able to lift a car in order to save a child. That is the only way to faultlessly describe the torrent that swept through me when I heard her talk about MY baby as a fetus that required termination.
I stood. And words rolled out of me effortlessly as I explained to her that I would be having this baby, EVEN IF that meant pulling this dear one out of my dead body.
I wanted nothing more than to edify this soul that was growing inside me, and remind it - that it has unrivaled WORTH and is so precious. I told her that she needed to stay away from me, and that I would be requesting a new doctor immediately. All of this was said with fire in my eyes and the potency of a mama bear defending her cubs.
Please know that I recognize that she was only doing her job and trying to make me aware of the risks of moving forward... I understand that - but, this is not her story... it is mine.
I walked into my next appointment with my jaw set. My (NEW) OBGYN sat in front of me, and said, “So, I hear you’re keeping the baby? ... how ‘bout we try and keep you both alive, hmm?”
Music to my ears, doctor.
I had tests run probably every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks for the entire duration of my pregnancy. Each one gave me despairing news... other than one bit of exciting information... we were having a girl. A girl who was supposed to be cognitively dysfunctional, who would have Down syndrome, who would have a congenital heart defect, whose heart or other organs would likely be on the outside of her body post-birth, meaning an immediate surgery, or possibly antenatal surgery, which simply means the baby would be operated on before birth, and then able to heal and grow inside me for the rest of gestation.
When I started hearing about all of the things that were supposed to be wrong with her, I looked up names that meant ‘healed’. We settled on “Emma”, which means whole, and “Faye” which means loyal belief.
And so, when I spoke her name, I spoke to her as though she was lacking nothing.
Fetal assessments came and went, and it seemed that for any piece of good news I was able to glean, I was hit with more unwelcome findings.
Some of the fetal assessment technicians were amazing... utterly encouraging people, and then the next would speak to me as if I had writhing maggots growing inside me instead of a beautiful daughter.
I often think of the time I spent with those technicians. It was so polarizing. It gave me such a clear view of the difference between believing the good, against all odds or worrying about everything despite all the good there is.
... And so, interestingly enough - the very voices that were seemingly meant to spark doubt in me, actually fortified my resolve.
Through all of the assessments, one thing never changed. I would be unable to deliver vaginally, it would have to be another C-section.
My surgery was scheduled, and I prayed for two things:
That this baby would be strong no matter what kind of life she was about to face
And, that I would - at the very least, be in the beginning stages of labour when she was scheduled to be delivered.
I desperately wanted to know that she was ready to come into this world, and that she wouldn’t be forcibly removed.
September 23rd came.
On the way in to the hospital, I started feeling some pressure in my abdomen. I waited for the fear to take over - for my mind to be swept away into a million places, where focus was lost and oxygen was hard to come by. I waited for that throat-closing panic... but it didn’t come. Instead, I spoke the words from a JJ Heller song based entirely on Psalm 23:
I don’t need a thing
My Good Shepherd brings me all
You are all I need
You let me catch my breath
Even in the Valley of Death
You are all I need
You lift up my head
You provide the wine and bread
You are all I need
There’s no need to fear
Even with my enemies here
You are all I need
Tears rolled down my face as I realized that God had answered my prayers. I was in the beginning stages of labour.
I was heard; I was answered. It was so faith building.
I wasn’t afraid.
Once again, I was strapped down to the table in the operating room, this place where all my fears began - now - where all my fears were somehow put to rest.
She was delivered. I heard her.
No emergency surgery.
No defects, and no delays - she was a bright little fighter.
There was nothing faulty, nothing out of order - there never was.
She was perfect.
Some women, like Naomi, have no doubts that they want to carry their child to term regardless of health complications and recommended termination, and there are many stories of women who went on to give birth to healthy babies despite diagnoses given them in pregnancy. Some women desire to end their pregnancy when there are potential complications, and many others in similar situations are struggling somewhere in the middle, trying to determine what is best. They wrestle with fears, disappointments, hopes, dreams, and a myriad of emotions. If this describes you, we are here as a safe place of compassion to help you sort through everything going on in your head and your heart as you face an overwhelming pregnancy decision. And no matter what a woman’s decision is, we are always available for support, both before and after.