I'd never lived a Resurrection Day like that one.
In 2002, I spent a week in the hospital. It happened to be Holy Week.
It was the first time I ever “got,” even for a moment, how all suffering can be an entering into and sharing in Christ’s passion.
At seven months pregnant, I willfully and stupidly carried two huge loads of laundry up two flights of stairs. I tore my cervix. I knew it. I hoped I was wrong, but the doctor confirmed it the next morning and I was confined to the hospital.
I spent Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week away from my husband, my children — from what felt like all of life. I was alone.
Wednesday, the hospital intercom announced a “Code Pink,” which meant a mother and child were in danger. I offered a prayer as I overheard the nurse frantically trying to reach someone, and I thought of the mom and the Agony in the Garden.
I was lonely but that mom was afraid. As I said more Hail Marys, fear crept into my head too. I was at the hospital because the doctors thought I could, in an instant, turn into a Code Pink. I prayed, “My will please. No Code Pink!”
The next day, Holy Thursday, the doctors placed me on absolute bedrest. They put an IV line in one arm, a blood pressure cuff on the other, and a baby monitor on my belly.
My room was double occupancy and I felt surrounded by strangers. I did not want to use the bedpan in such a scenario so I rebelled. I unstrapped everything and scuttled to the bathroom for privacy.
When I returned, the nurse lectured me on the dangers my disobedience caused for my baby. I wept. I felt ashamed I’d been so selfish.
A friend showed up to visit: I told her she was my Veronica.
That evening, the doctors got more serious, suggesting that due to my past medical history, I might need to have a tracheostomy to secure my airway in preparation for any eventual Code Pink. (I was born very premature and wore a trach till I was 8. Subsequent situations worsened my larynx and even under good conditions, anesthesiologists start hyperventilating over how the strain of labor might affect my airways.)
Panicked, I tried to call my husband. I tried to call my parents. No one answered and I was left alone in my distress. Could no one watch with me, I thought.
The nurse came to announce that I was being moved to a different room. Once the bustling was complete, I was crying again. The mother of my new roommate, a stranger to me, came and held me.
On Good Friday, the doctors told me they had to test the amniotic fluid. I’d be “pierced in the side” for the good of the baby.
My Veronica called our priest and told him to come see me. “Follow the stations of the cross,” he counseled, giving me Anointing of the Sick.
The next day, more news: My baby was almost out of amniotic fluid and she’d have to be delivered early. I felt desperate to move, desperate to be free of all the wires and monitors and tests, desperate to flee and desperate for it to be over.
Yet more was to come. A nurse was now reporting that I was scheduled for a tracheostomy the next day.
No one had told me this. It was a Friday night, but I called my doctor and left a message. This couldn’t be the plan.
On Holy Saturday, my doctor came and explained what was happening. The anesthesiologists wanted a secure airway for an eventual Code Pink, and felt the only way I could have it (at this point), was a tracheostomy.
The doctor had convinced them to hold off; I’d weathered four births before, and she didn’t think this necessary, even for a premature birth.
But, she told me, the longer we waited, the harder it would be to keep the medical team on board. They’d requested one more test, to see if the baby was in the right position for birth. If she was, we could proceed without the trach. If she wasn’t, I’d have to agree to it.
I prayed. I watched Easter Mass with Pope John Paul II, not understanding a word of Italian, but knowing that God knew how I was longing for Easter.
“Thy will be done” floated to my head. I had to mean it.
I swallowed and prayed it with my husband.
We both felt so afraid: What would His will be?
It might mean a tracheostomy, and if it did, it would be my fourth, and probably permanent.
It would be a surrendering of my style of life for this baby’s life.
If I refused it might mean I’d lose my daughter.
There was a moment of exquisite agony when I saw myself not wanting to surrender and the pain of knowing I could be that selfish. I could want me more. It’s very easy to take the 30 pieces of silver. It’s very easy to say, “I don’t know him.” It’s very easy to fall into the crowd and say, “Crucify him.”
That evening, the doctors took me for my MRI to verify the baby’s position. They wrapped me in a blanket and I saw the scan tube. “A tomb,” I thought, “one more station to go.”
And a deep peace filled my heart. Even before the doctors came back with the report on the baby: “She is ready. She looks perfect.”
Not only was my child in ideal position to be born, her birth the next day came easy. The doctor barely had time to get into scrubs before we were hearing her cry.
All the worries were whisked away on that Easter Monday with her birth, just as they are for all of us with Jesus’ Resurrection.
We named her Faith, to remind us that we are always an Easter people, and that all suffering can be united with the Way of the Cross.