Earlier this year, when I had my baby, I went through what was probably one of the most difficult weeks of my life. My pregnancy was high risk and my birth, a c-section under general anaesthetic, was in complete contrast to all my other births. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there, and without going into too much detail my baby ended up in ICU after breathing difficulties. It was one thing after another and I was just embracing each hurdle that came my way because, the way I saw it, I had little choice. But when one of the doctors witnessed a suppressed cough, suspected pneumonia, and I was told that I could no longer visit my baby, I was at breaking point.
I remember laying there, the nurse trying to insert yet another cannula, my arm by this point resembling a pin cushion, tears streaming down my face. I was in hospital, I was in excruciating pain, and I could barely move. I had no recollection of giving birth, I was only with my baby for a few hours before he was whisked away, and although I would go down and visit him for his feeds the pain made it difficult to stay long. To make matters worse the painkillers were messing with my head and when away I could barely remember what he looked like. And then the last straw – being told I could no longer see him.
It turned out that I didn’t have pneumonia after all. The doctor panicked after hearing my cough, but I was fine and I was free to see my baby. My baby was fine as well, all the tests came back negative, and his breathing episode was not due to an infection, probably a combination of being born by c-section, being early, and a side effect of the strong painkillers I was taken. After jumping over a few more hurdles I was able to have him by my side again and after just under a week at the hospital, I was finally able to come home.
As the weeks went by my hospital stay haunted me, and when I would think back about that time I would more often than not feel tears welling up in my eyes. Sometimes I would wonder if I was ok. I had gone through a difficult period and I think it’s normal to feel saddened by it, but occasionally I would wonder if maybe I would need some help to get through it all. I just decided to keep an eye on it, and it appears that time does indeed all wounds – at least to some extent.
About 6 months after his birth I was speaking to a friend about it, I told her about some of the difficulties I went through, and then I added: “in a way, I’m kind of glad it happened, it helped me to realise what people go through”. As soon as the words left me I realised it was a bit of a strange thing to say. I mean who is glad to face hardship? Who reflects back at the most difficult time in their life with some satisfaction. But I also realised that it was true, a part of me did find something positive in the experience. It was puzzling.
Then one day, a couple of weeks later, I found the answer. I was reading ‘The Conscious Parent’ by Shefale Tsabary, and I came across a paragraph that explained my unusual feelings. Tsabary writes:
When you experience everything as a potential teacher, you embrace anything life sends your way. You cease either being at war with life when it presents you with a challenge, or being in love with it when it treats you kindly. Rather, you see both the dark and the light as opportunities for becoming a more conscious human being.
This dark time in my life was humbling. It showed me the fragility of life, it helped me to understand what others go through at difficult times, and it allowed me to realise how blessed I truly am. Just like a butterfly struggling to squeeze through its cocoon, this dark time in my life nurtured something in me which was not there before.
So from now on, whenever life throws me a curve ball I will try to remember this experience. I will strive to remember that with every hardship there is the opportunity for growth. Instead of wishing it away, I will endeavour to recognise that maybe an experience that I would never choose for myself is exactly what I need to teach me exactly what I need to learn. Maybe it is only after the darkness that we can regenerate. And maybe it is only with adversity that we can truly flourish.