When my son was born, the experience was anything but what I anticipated. We planned for a natural birth, but 12 days before his due date an ultra-sound told us he was breech, amniotic fluid was low, and the cord may or may not have been wrapped around his neck. We were already in the maternity ward for an external version, so within an hour Jack was delivered via c-section.
My memory of that hour is fuzzy as my eyes blurred, my heart pounded, my anxiety built. I held my breath during the spinal and tried to control my body one last time as I lay down only to be reprimanded by the surgeon. I searched my husband’s eyes for hope as they put the pressure on my belly needed in order to squeeze Jack’s 6 pound 12 ounce body through the incision. My ears strained to hear my baby’s first cries from the other side of the blue sheet which divided me from him.
As they wheeled me from the operating room I wondered, “Did I just give birth?”
It was hardly the story I envisioned and, in a state of shock, not one I could rejoice over.
But I had a healthy baby. And that’s all that mattered.
Or so they said.
What do you do when life should be joyful, but it’s not? A fight breaks out the third day of your honeymoon, your beloved infant develops unexplainable colic, a dream job turns out to be beyond your ability to handle?
As Christians we are often taught to bite back the tears, cling to “the joy of the Lord,” put on a happy face, and move on.
But according to Margaret Feinberg, “When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve well, something inside us dies.” (Fight Back with Joy, p 79) Grief is not an experience to be swept aside, but an opportunity that is vital to our ability to have joy.
“Sometimes we need to give space for grief in order to make room for joy. No one is immune to sorrow, and only those who learn to grieve well can recapture the healing it brings. Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief.” (FBWJ, p 72)
At the end of my pregnancy with Ben, I received the news that he was also breech. After many failed attempts to flip him (including somersaults in the pool, standing on my head, and an external version), I faced my second unwanted c-section. For the first time I let myself feel. Feel the disappointment, the pain of Jack’s delivery. I wept over my sense of failure. I lamented my fear and shock. I mourned the loss of a vaginal birth (which I still inexplicably desired).
Grieving the painful circumstances of Jack’s birth freed me from the negativity of my past. Mourning my experience enabled me to see God’s work at the time. Fear of my feelings was replaced by confidence in the good grief brings. For the first time in three years I was able to say with certainty that I gave birth to Jack. And I would give birth to Ben the same way.
If anyone knows about seeking joy in the midst of the worst circumstances, Margaret Feinberg does. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer before the age of 40, Margaret decided to not only fight the cancer, but to Fight Back with Joy. Her new book (Fight Back with Joy) documents her journey through the diagnosis, chemotherapy, grief, loss, and pain all with the firm belief in the power of joy.
I am treasuring her words as Margaret shares her story in Fight Back with Joy with vulnerability, courage, and hope. She is teaching me, the often pessimistic, perfectionistic, mother of two, that Joy is possible. Even when it is least expected.
To win a copy of Fight Back with Joy, comment below on how grief and joy have coincided or collided in your life, subscribe to The Toothless Grin blog, share this post through your favorite social media, like my page on Facebook, Follow Me on Twitter. Up to five ways to enter! Be sure to let me know how you have entered by writing a comment below! (if you already subscribe, like, or follow me, then just tell me!) Giveaway ends on January 22, 12:00pm MST.
This post was written as part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob blog tour for the release of Fight Back with Joy. To purchase a copy of Fight Back with Joy check out Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Or for the 6 week bible study DVD series for your small group, click here.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Jesus (Matthew 5:4)