Following the birth of my most recent baby, I wouldn’t stop bleeding. Anxious medical personnel weighed Chux pads and injected me with various medicines to stop the hemorrhaging, but to no avail. The blood kept flowing. The doctor found some placental pieces left behind and worked quickly to remove any others, but the bleeding still continued.
I remember laying there, feeling the life draining out of me, weakly praying.
“Please God, I’m not ready yet. Let me have more time. I want to live.”
Fast forward through one surgery and several bags of blood later. My toddler woke up, again, at three in the morning. It took nearly two hours to get him back to sleep, just in time for my newborn to wake up. She had a messy diaper and was hungry. By the time I got her settled back to sleep, laid down and tip-toed out to the kitchen, the older kids were waking up and drifting into the living room. I hadn’t yet had my coffee when the questions and tattling started.
“Can I have some juice?”
“What’s for breakfast?”
“So-and-so is sitting in my chair.”
“So-and-so said I got up last.” (Which was true, he had gotten up last.)
“How did the baby get out of your belly?”
“Can I hold the baby?”
“So-and-so keeps calling me Tree.”
“I want to grow up and become a school janitor.”
“Can I have a hamburger for breakfast?”
I did what I could to fake humanness until my coffee was brewed at which point, feeling a full bladder, I remembered I hadn’t gotten to the bathroom yet that morning. I popped the muffins into the oven and headed to the bathroom.
The back toilet was stopped up. It always stops up no matter what one is trying to flush. That toilet stops up on its own water.
There was urine all over the toilet seat of the front toilet. I grabbed a Lysol wipe I’d bought exactly for this reason and wiped down the seat.
I let out a long, low sigh before leaving the relative quiet of the bathroom to head back to the kitchen only to be greeted in the back bedroom by my newly awake toddler who was still fussy, probably because he’d been up for two hours in the middle of the night.
His fussing woke up the pre-schooler who, with an impish grin, immediately took off her night diaper and threw it across the room. I grabbed a pair of her undies and chased her around the room to get her little butt covered with the toddler hanging on to my right leg screaming for attention.
Once I’d tackled pre-schooler and got her underweared, I picked up toddler and carried him out to the kitchen to pour him some juice and put on Thomas the Train on my laptop to distract him while I cleaned up the kitchen.
No one had rinsed off their plates or the soaked casserole dishes the night before so I set to scrubbing at dried food after pouring juice for all who wanted it after picking up the baby to settle her back to sleep against my chest after wiping up a spill after stepping in a spill and sliding halfway across the kitchen.
A fight broke out in the living room over one long, blue Lego with calls for me to referee. The pre-schooler pulled open the fridge and I had to wrestle her out before she got the ketchup, which she likes to drink. This woke up the baby I was holding, laying against my chest. She started screaming and bouncing her face off my shoulder with her mouth open in her primitive sign language for nurse. Seeing I was going to give the new baby attention, the toddler started fussing, ran over and grabbed onto my leg.
There I was, holding a crying, hungry baby in one arm, wrestling with a ketchup-crazed pre-schooler with the other, a toddler clinging to my leg, a group of boys fighting and tattling on each other over a Lego, breakfast smelled like it might be burning which reminded me that I’d forgotten to set the timer and then as my pre-teen daughter was walking into the kitchen, the melee of fighting boys bumped into her, knocking the glass of juice out of her hand, sending juice flying right into my face and all over the various children attached to me. This started everyone touched by juice crying.
I looked up to the heavens in frustration.
“Why God?! Why is this my life every darn day?”
“You asked for this,” He replied, which startled me because He doesn’t usually answer my shouting to the heavens.
“When did I ask for this?” I asked.
“When you were bleeding to death.”
“Really? I asked for this?”
“The chaos? The fighting? The crying? The tattling?”
“Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep.”
“The whining? The juice spills? The sleeplessness?”
“Yep. Yep. Yep.”
“The frustration? Did I really ask for the frustration?”
“But there’s so much frustration.”
“I know,” He said. “I was surprised you asked for it.”
I was at a bit of a disadvantage. I was kind of in and out during the whole post-birth hemorrhage thing and I couldn’t really remember exactly what it was I prayed for.
But it was God and God doesn’t lie, so I must have asked for all this.
“Let me jog your memory a bit,” He said.
Then I had a flash of memory. I was laying there as they prepped me for surgery and I was thinking about each of my children and how much I wanted to see them again. How I was worried that I would never see them again this side of the grave.
“Remember this?” God asked.
I had another flash of memory. Being home the first morning after getting discharged from the hospital. As the kids woke up, they all rushed in to my bedroom to see me and the new baby. I couldn’t stop hugging them and I couldn’t stop crying from joy at getting to hug them again. The kids thought I’d lost my mind.
“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life…”
I’d become so overwhelmed and frustrated and bogged down by the trivialities of my life I’d lost sight of the fact that every breath is a gift. God had to take me to the brink of death to remind me of the most basic fact: that it’s just good to be alive.
“You’re right, God,” I said as the epiphany dawned. “I did ask for this.”
I looked through juice dripping from my eyebrows at each of them and my heart swelled with gratitude.
This was exactly what I asked for. The chaos, the fighting, the crying, the tattling, the whining, the juice spills, the sleeplessness and the frustration. I was alive for all of it.
I was alive to wrestle that ketchup away from my pre-schooler, to have my toddler clinging to my leg, to be able to answer the cries of my hungry newborn, to be able to referee the fights of the older children, to answer their questions, to forget to use the restroom, to get up all night with one child after another.
I was alive and ecstatic about it looking at it all through juice-drenched eyes.
I hadn’t been ready to leave all this. I’d wanted more time. This was living, frustrations and all. And I couldn’t have been more thankful for all of it.
Except for the back toilet clogging all the time.
“Okay,” God said. “You didn’t ask for that. That was Saint Michael’s idea. He’s a bit of a prankster.”