Cotton Leggings, Warm Espresso, and Surgery Scars

From Emily

In my most honest moments I admit, I am a junky for comfort. I always loved wearing leggings and baggy cotton T-shirts to school in first grade (now I have dated myself) and more recently, when it is cold outside, I go out of my way to make sure I can hold a warm drink with the rich aroma of espresso rising from the mug to keep me warm and comfortable. Mountainside became home for me in a period of time when ‘comfortable’ was not easily accessible.

Our son, D, was 4 weeks old on the day of reckoning. I was tired from sleepless nights but totally content holding our newborn son. It was springtime. The blue California sky was shining and it was my first day back to church, which concluded with an outing with friends from church to downtown Pasadena. When we arrived home, I had a stabbing pain in my stomach that made it difficult for me to move and thought there is no way I am going into labor again. After a visit to the Urgent Care and a clear bill of health, relief came. I had one ultrasound and soon found out that the diagnosis was “gall stones.” The doctor indicated that surgery would likely be in store, but not for a couple of months…Phew, more time with our baby.

Within the next few days the pain did not seem to go away. I called health care oriented friends from church and elsewhere to help me sort through the ramifications of the pain I was experiencing and the best course of action to treat it. 48 hours later my skin began turning yellow and eating was difficult. I knew something wasn’t right. Unfortunately, it was Easter week and Brendon and I were scheduled to fly D home to meet his grandparents and extended family. But just the day before we had a flight scheduled, I was admitted into the hospital.

Hospital gown on and IV connected, D was my first priority as my thoughts raced to how I would be able to continue breastfeeding, holding and being present with my newborn. Being new to Southern California, many of my friends outside of Mountainside were away on vacation and our extended family was in the Midwest.

In that hour, we needed a church community like never before.

In that hour, countless friends at Mountainside became a tangible, healing presence for us.

Ari, an excellent nurse was willing to watch D. overnight so Brendon did not have to be alone with an inconsolable infant who was not yet taking a bottle from him. Jenny came to the hospital to stay with me and helped me maintain my milk supply by waking every two hours to pump during her week of vacation from work. Tiff offered to help me with laundry for weeks after the birth and surgery.

After surgery and a four-night hospital stay, we were finally home and the Mountainside meals kept coming in. During those long days in the hospital and recovery, the presence of the Mountainside community was for me like holding warm coffee on cold day, and wearing cotton leggings with baggy T-shirts in the 90’s. I was reminded that I was not alone.

The presence of community, in which people effortlessly gave of themselves, their time, their knowledge, their space, and their presence, was healing in the midst of pain. As I reflect, it healed and challenged me so much more than any medical doctor ever had during that season. And now, the scars on my abdomen are a constant reminder of the love of a beautiful church community.