A Birth Memory from Shelley Abreu

April 25, 2012

Julia has developed mucositis — a painful inflammation of the mucous membranes. Basically it means she has sores all along her digestive tract from her mouth to her bum. She’s on a morphine pump, and I can tell she’s miserable.

Martin Luther said “If you could understand a single grain of wheat, you would die of wonder.” I thought of this quote yesterday, and it made me think about my first time giving birth. It was such a brutal and magnificent experience all in one. I pushed for four hours with Julia. I was in agony.

When she crowned, the pain felt like fire moving through me. I was not focused on the delivery room. I was outside of myself. Then, with the final push, she arrived. And that surge of energy that moved through me was holy. God was everywhere. There was all this commotion and raw earthy energy, but when she came out all the noise in my head stopped and all the pain in my body vanished and for a second I felt like I glimpsed inside “a single grain of wheat.”

I think this is what T.S. Eliot described as “the still point of the turning world,” the moment when you experience the kingdom of God within yourself. It’s the moment when you see that God is the universe, and the universe goes on forever, and it’s also bundled up inside of each of us.

I was thinking about all of this last night as my first born was sleeping. I was thinking about her pain and how hard her journey is right now. I remembered that moment when she arrived — how there was a single second of time where I thought I understood everything.

Then I thought about right now – how none of this makes sense. The whole thing is painful and wrong and terrible. But maybe the sorrow and grief is in the single grain of wheat as well. Because all of it is connected to the way we love. Maybe I didn’t understand everything that day. Maybe you have to walk through sorrow to really understand how the universe works.

From Shelley Abreu of A Story About Faith. Shelley’s oldest child was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, then 16 months later she relapsed. This year she received a bone marrow transplant from a non-relative. You can read more of her story here.

P.S. — Here’s the story of Rachel Olsen’s 4th baby and 3rd unplanned c-section.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rachel schindler April 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

Thank you for sharing this story. Having a child with special needs, this really touched me. Her blog is amazing and now I will spend all day reading it. Thank you!


2 Christa the BabbyMama April 25, 2012 at 7:24 am

Wow, that was so powerful and moving. Prayers for her and her family!


3 Cecilia April 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

this is so powerful. amazing perspective. thanks for sharing.


4 rose April 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

I randomly signed up to be a marrow donor about one year ago, I hope someday I can help someone like this. Powerful, moving, lovely.


5 Denise Laborde April 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

Thank you for this post. From the first sentence I was drawn to Shelley’s story. Her writing is perfect, her words reached me so deeply. I’ve already clicked three times deep into her blog. I plan on sharing this gem!
Warm thoughts for her and her Julia.


6 tere April 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

Such a moving and inspiring story, Shelly! I’ve had that same feeling a couple of times in my life, so warm and strong. We don’t have to fear anything if we walk side by side with Him. A big hug and Thanks!


7 Shelley Abreu @ A Story About Faith April 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

Wow, thank you everyone. I was surprised to find my story here on Design Mom today but so honored–thank you Gabrielle! I’m blessed to be a part of this amazing tribe we call motherhood!


8 julie Dumas April 25, 2012 at 11:56 am

This was an incredibly moving story. Having lost a child in his teen years, I was so touched by Shelley’s insights into that moment of mystery. She says of her daughter’s suffering, “The whole thing is painful and wrong and terrible. But maybe the sorrow and grief is in the single grain of wheat as well.” I believe, Shelley, and that is the only thing that gets me through. We don’t know the answers but we can trust the One who does. God bless your daughter and you.


9 Jen April 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm

This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I will pray for Shelley and her family tonight. Thank you so much for sharing this.


10 christina April 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Beautiful and incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing, and God Bless.


11 Rebeca April 26, 2012 at 6:26 am

Shelley’s: You’re story is so moving and sincere… Thanks for everything you say. It’s amazing how much we can learn from someone else’s experience. I wish you and your family all the best.


12 Mau April 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Only a mother could have described childbirth the way she did. Simply beautiful! And I hope her daughter is better soon. I can’t imagine the pain they are both going through.


13 marilee pittman April 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

This was such a timely story. My best friend’s daughter just gave birth. The miracle of birth never grows old…


14 Anneliese May 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

This is so beautifully written. I think it’s true that you have to experience the beauty and the sorrow to understand…


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