Thursday, August 21, 2008

Part 2: The Great Physician

In the first joyful mystery we ponder the events of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of God’s own Son. The angel speaks of the glorious heritage of the Child, as a descendant of King David. He tells her of His ever lasting reign.

Mary does not scoff. She questions only the practical issues – how she will conceive a child while she is a virgin and has vowed to remain so. She is told that God’s mighty power, through the Holy Spirit, will bring it about without the loss of her virginity. The Child’s miraculous conception assures us that He is not the product of human desire, but of divine intervention. Nothing is impossible with God.

The angel gives her further example of God’s power in the news that, Elizabeth, an elderly relative beyond her childbearing years, is six months pregnant.

Mary consents to this mission with a humble “Fiat.” – saying: “I am God’s handmaid. Let it be done as my Lord asks.”

Mary trusted that God would work out the issues. She gave her consent knowing that an unmarried woman found with child could be stoned. Joseph, the man to whom she was engaged was a pure and holy man, who would know the Child was not his. He certainly found himself in a quandary, until God made known to him his part in the plan of salvation.

Read the details in the first chapter of the Gospel written by St. Luke

I do not even pretend to be a pure and holy as Mary, nor as ready to do what God asks of me. In meditation of this event in the life of our Savior, I found myself pondering the circumstances leading up to the birth of our first child: Arif:

“Bottom line,” the doctor said, “the best treatment for endometriosis is to get pregnant. But with the diseased tissues, it will be difficult, if not impossible to conceive. When and if you do, however, there is a good chance you will miscarry.”

The doctor, a specialist in gynecological complications who came highly recommended, offered three alternative solutions:

A hysterectomy would essentially remove the problem tissues. But the wise doctor felt that would be too radical for a woman in her mid-twenties. I have always been extremely sensitive to medications, so surgery posed some greater risk.

He did recommend some exploratory surgery. I submitted. Instead of an hour in recovery, as was typical, I spent four hours in recovery, then got sick on the way home. During our post-op consultation, he confirmed the diagnosis of endometriosis.

Another common treatment was to administer male hormones to overwhelm the production of female hormones, thus shrinking the displaced tissues. The side effects of hormone treatment are daunting – even dangerous, according to this doctor.

We opted for treating the pain as I had for the past twelve years. The Motrin I took caused a severe reaction. When I called the doctor about my symptoms, he took me off the Motrin immediately. He said it had already caused damage to my liver. He also recommended that I not take Motrin ever again.

Aspirin made me sick to my stomach. Tylenol didn’t even touch it. When I was a teen, my doctor prescribed Percodan. I still had severe pain, but it provided bizarre hallucinations. Back to chamomile tea or skullcap, the best relief I found through the years. Only a hot bath followed by a heating pad and my herbs made any difference.

I once noted to an older relative that the cramps were like having a baby. She declared that could not possibly be true. I later found out that labor was indeed less painful, not to mention shorter in duration.

Eight months before our impending marriage, endometriosis was not good news. Both of us loved children. We were looking forward to starting our own family.

“Then, I can not marry you.” Joe said. “I always planned to have my own children.”

“What about adoption?” I replied.

“No, I want to raise my own children. Let’s just enjoy this relationship while we have it. I can’t promise you ‘ever after’ but I can promise you ‘happily.’”

However, our bond was forged from above. The power of the Holy Spirit goes beyond that of human preconceptions. Over the next few months, it became more and more obvious that our union was meant to be.

A few months later, when I worked at a therapeutic massage center, we met a naturopathic doctor. She put me on a deep cleansing and rebuilding program for six months to get to the root of the problem. In the process of carrying out this plan, I found a return to health in many other areas as well.

I had a background in natural healing, starting with my grandfather. Now I realized that I needed to return to it in earnest.

My last painful period was the day before my wedding. What an ordeal! But it did not ruin the honeymoon, or any other encounters that we had.

Each time we celebrated our marriage, we prayed that if it be God’s will that we have a child, we would dedicate that child to God’s service.

Eight weeks into our marriage, we received a positive pregnancy test.

What joy we had when we found out we were pregnant! The joy was not even dampened by relatives heartily declaring that it was too soon to bring a child into our relationship. They declared that we needed to spend a couple of years getting to know each other better, first.

We responded that only God can create life and He does not create without rhyme or reason. So, who are we to tell Him how to do His work?

Around that same time, I had the most wonderful dream of baby hands scooping away the damaged tissue. Joe always says that Arif opened the flood gates. We now have five wonderful children with us and several more in heaven waiting and praying for us.

As he grew, we often told Arif – and pretty much anyone who cared to listen – of his miraculous conception and of the promise we made on his behalf.

Several years later, when I consulted a doctor after the conception of our fifth child (two of whom miscarried at six and eight weeks), he declared that the diagnosis must have been wrong (imagine that: a specialist in the condition mis-diagnosed me). He declared I never had endometriosis at all. I am glad I put my trust in the Great Physician, Who knows my history and my needs in greater depth than any other.

I prayed that the Great Physician take up Arif's case once again.

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