Our first child was born October 3, 1998. We had been married 2 years. It was an unexpected, terrible birth. She was an ugly, horrible baby. She’s an awful demanding 17 year old. And while we’ve made peace, most days I fear her.
My first baby’s name is Pain. She was born the night I was hit by a drunk driver.
That day, my sister and I were hit from behind, pushed into oncoming traffic, and crashed into a second car. The guy who hit us side-swiped 3 other cars and sped off. My sister was covered in sparkling glass, we had some cuts, headaches and big bruises, but the paramedics couldn’t find anything severely wrong with us.
But there was. Pain had arrived. She was an insufferable colicky newborn for 2.5 years. She demanded my full attention day and night. It felt like a steaming hot iron was being dropped on my tailbone every 10 minutes. To keep her quiet, I carried a pillow and ice packs to client meetings. I tried 8 different pain meds.
We saw many doctors and had so many tests. One resulted in a 14 day post-dural headache. That is like an unrelenting migraine dialed to 10. I could not move my head. I crawled like a dog to get from room to room and needed help sitting on the toilet. Sometimes I just laid on the floor, like I’d been shot.
Pain didn’t want me to bend to brush my teeth or put on mascara. She wanted me to hold only her, and would scream if I pulled clothes out of the washer, or put a pot of water on the stove. She wasn’t happy if I sat, stood, laid down, or drove. She ruined our sex life. She demanded to sleep with us on a 12×12 ice pack in our bed for 3 years.
She came with us on our anniversaries, vacations, and dates. I would give her stern talks about her behavior and coddle her before we went out, but sometimes she flipped out. We’d have to leave the party early. Such a b*tchy little brat.
We finally found the best doctor and the best physical therapist. They knew how to handle my devil child. Within 3 minutes Dr. Weiss said, “were any of your MRIs standing up? because your pelvis is fine lying down, but separated, lopsided, and tilted standing up.” Pain had literally pulled my bones apart. Julie, the PT, rebuilt my pelvis, posture, strength, and endurance 3x/week for 16 months.
None of my appointments were covered and cost double our rent. We tried to get help covering Pain’s costs. We got a lawyer. We spent hours of time trying to put a price on my suffering. Boxes of files. We went to depositions, courtrooms, and lawyers’ offices. We got nothing.
Early in the process the Drunk Driver showed up in traffic court. I was sitting on a bed pillow in the courtroom pew, trying not to vomit from Pain. He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry” in broken english. I’m ashamed to say I could not forgive him that day. Pain, and my anger at her, crowded my heart.
Some days I would get up at 4am, get ready, go into the office, work a bit, go to PT, quickly get dressed, and then work until 10pm. It was too much. I was healing incrementally, but my relapses were severe and long. Before my next doctor appointment we literally prayed on our knees together for the first time:
Chris: “God, we’re tired. Speak to us through Dr. Weiss. Tell us what we can do to heal Aim’s back. We can’t take this it anymore.”
Aimee: “I will do anything, God. I will do whatever Dr. Weiss says. If he tells me to me to wear a Chicken Suit, I will. Anything.” [*true story!]
We went to the doctor that day expecting to learn about an experimental treatment or new pain meds. Instead, Dr. Weiss walked into the room, put his charts down, rolled the stool up next to the exam table and said,
Dr: “Aimee Fritz, you have so many gifts and abilities. Are you sure you’re supposed to use them at Accenture?”
Me: “What? What are you telling me?”
Dr: “I can’t believe it, but I’m telling you you need to quit your job immediately.”
It was a very hard financial decision, because we had just bought our first house. But we did it. I slept, did PT every day, laughed a lot and healed more in two months than I had in two years. I was released from the doctor’s care that summer. Pain was quiet.
I have been doing physical therapy for 16 years to keep her quiet. It’s sometimes not enough. Pain is angry and high maintenance. I have large bins full of PT gear, electro stim equipment, back braces and vests, orthotics, ice packs, and 4 notebooks full of exercises. We are well trained in caring for our firstborn.
Before Chris and I got married, we were so in love it grossed other people out. We were so confident about our love, faith, and future. We naively prayed after premarital counseling, “God, make us wise beyond our years. Help us be a gift to others with our marriage.” And then went back to making out.
I think we were hoping to avoid Pain with that prayer. But that’s not how it works. We didn’t know that our Faith only goes as deep as our Pain. We didn’t realize that all we hoped to be could only come through suffering:
“knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:3-5)
I really love who we are as a couple. We delight in being a safe place for broken people to be their true selves. We are better listeners and steadfast hope-ers. We’re not easily scared away. We look for God even when it’s dark.
For a long time I said that car accident ruined our lives. But that’s not true. It was answered prayer.
[Note: The paintings in the post are by Danielle Crilly. To see more of her beautiful work go to: Danielle Crilly Artworks.]
I began unfolding the idea of Surrender throughout the month of October, 2015.
More thoughts about Pain: Scabs & Scars
For more about our shared spiritual journey and questions, you can read here: Soul
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2015.