We are at EDD +4 today. Surprisingly, my calm increases as the days pass, as the inevitability of little Pat’s birth draws comfortingly closer, and as pre-labor progresses at its own impossibly slow rate.
I think, with N, I just didn’t have time to get this uncomfortable. She was breech until 39 weeks, so I really had no longing to go into labor before she was turned. Then when she did turn, I was happy to let her stay in there as long as she needed, enjoy the new feeling of having a head-down baby, and make the most of having no little ones to be responsible for. Don’t get me wrong; I was uncomfortably pregnant, didn’t really want to be pregnant any more, and tried plenty of natural labor stimulation stuff at home. But when 41 weeks came along and the midwives started talking about all the things they should try before scheduling an induction at 42 weeks, I felt a little pushed.
But this time around, I have been much more committed to good positioning,* which has been successful, but makes my waking life much less restful. This time around, I have a toddler who will demand my time and attention no matter what else is going on, and who is plenty sensitive to the impending transition in her own difficult ways. So, this time around, I was begging for the midwives some natural induction stuff at EDD +1.** They had to say no, since they already had two women in labor (and they only have three birthing rooms).
*[I’ve been much more committed to good positioning this time around, because quite frankly I do not want to go through another posterior labor if I can avoid it. I’ve had a lot of success; baby girl is positioned perfectly, but this means I am limited to the following postures: (1) Sitting up straight and a little forward, (2) Lying on my left side, and (3) Standing. When I play on the floor with N, I have to be up straight on my knees, or on hands and knees (needless to say, I don’t spend a lot of time on the floor). I have been faithful in my pelvic tilts, and walks when the weather permits.]
**[I’m talking about a membrane sweep, if you want to know. Now that my disappointment at their “no” has worn off, I’m actually grateful. Since I had a sweep to get started with N, I realized I had been thinking of a membrane sweep as a normal part of natural birth, and expecting my labor would not start without one. Now I realize that, natural and relatively safe as the procedure is, it is an induction technique. Labors do start on their own, and since I am a purported advocate of letting things be as natural as reasonably possible, I would genuinely be happy to let this labor start on its own if it can.]
I have been done with this pregnancy for a while now. At thirty-seven weeks, I could barely face the possibility of being this pregnant for three more weeks, possibly up to five. Now, I’m not afraid of labor. I never have been, and even after having a particularly rough go of it last time, I am not intimidated by the idea of pain. I am afraid, however, of discomfort without a foreseeable end, and three to five weeks seemed like the rest of my life. I was already just so tired. I hit an emotional wall that was almost like transition in labor: I faced the inevitable and said “I don’t think I can do this!”
Since surpassing our due date, though, being well done with my big interview and having nothing to do but wait, I’ve hit another wind. I can pace myself, and take one day, one morning, one afternoon at a time. I try to stay active and upright and moving, but I attempt a nap every day. I take a Benedryl to sleep more, but not every night. Every day that passes has to be one day closer, and the number of potential days doesn’t seem so scarily large a number any more.
And there is progress. Real progress, if impossibly slow. There was the day I felt what I realized was a “real” contraction, and almost every day I have had a few more than the day previous. It doesn’t feel like much. Every night for weeks, my body has been in a state that it could go into labor. So every morning that I wake up and nothing has happened, it’s disappointing. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and my mood fluctuates with how tired/sore I feel, and whether or not N decided to take a nap that day.
I’ve also started, very slowly, to see and accept the gifts of this season. I realized that every day that passes will have its own little gift. One day it was a bit of discipline with N that was well discerned and actually succeeded, and I saw her learn and grow through me being persistent and loving. One day it was a walk in the sunshine. One day it was both of us girls melting down when Jared got home from work, and seeing him more than willing and able to care for us. One day it was a shopping trip to buy cute baby clothes at the mall. One day it was me breaking down in tears while I sang N her naptime songs – just songs from a musical that I’ve sung to her a hundred times before, but “Something’s Coming” and “There’s a Place for Us” took on new meaning that time – and having her ask me to finish anyway. Today, it’s Jared taking N shopping for the morning, so I got to nest and clean like a fiend, and have time to sit down and write.
There have also been gifts of compassion and connection with little “Patricia.” At first, in my discomfort and frustration and despair, I wanted to blame her for not coming out, or (in what was probably the same moment, as I find resentment against another is usually displaced resentment against myself) blame myself for being so emotionally imbalanced that she could sense it, and wouldn’t want to come out!
Then I realized, why wouldn’t she be afraid to come out? She’s a little squished in there, sure, but it’s cozy. It’s warm. It’s comfortable. Few sounds can be heard above my heartbeat. She doesn’t have to deal with complex, overwhelming sensory input to her eyes, ears, nose, skin. The temperature doesn’t fluctuate. Coming out into this great, big, open world is terrifying.
So I started to talk to her about all the reasons it’ll be worth it. Her eyes will be filled with light and insane swirling images, but she’ll learn Mama’s face. She will hear too much noise, but she’ll hear her family’s voices so much clearer. She will feel cold air on her dried-out skin, but she’ll have Mama to hold her close. This world is big and scary and too much, but we will meet it together, bit by bit. It’ll be hard, but it will be worth it.
Then I realized, maybe she isn’t afraid to come out at all! Maybe she is ready and willing to make her grand entrance, and in style, but is just as limited and frustrated by our bodies’ unreadiness as I am.
The real epiphany came when we were reading the story of Jesus calming the storm, going through The Jesus Storybook Bible during N’s bedtime routine. Jesus says to the storm, “HUSH!” and that’s all it takes, because they recognize their maker’s voice.
The triune God is, just as surely, my child’s maker. He can say to her, “COME!” and she will come. He can say to my body, “GO!” and it will go. The limits of our bodies are nothing to him. The storm of my emotions is nothing to him. It is nothing for him to reach through it and touch my heart with his relentlessly calm smile, daunted nothing by my sin and fleshliness, smooth my hair, and say again that it will be okay.
At a prayer meeting on Tuesday night, which happened to be our due date, one woman prayed for me that God would give me a symbol, something to cling to, to help me be patient and rest in Him. I thought immediately of what was hanging around my neck. I finally took my wedding rings off a couple weeks ago, not wanting to struggle to get them off if they suddenly got too tight. I had hung them around my neck on the most convenient chain available – the one already holding my baptismal cross.
I don’t wear that cross all the time, but I haven’t taken that chain off since I put my rings on it. It’s a simple, empty, 14-carat gold cross, a gift from my grandmother. It has my name etched in one side, and my baptism date (7-21-91 – I was five) on the other. I have found myself reaching for it often in the last few days, fishing for it around the clasp, feeling its smooth surface and simple angles.
It’s no magic trick, and Benedryl still works better to get me to sleep. But it’s hard to go wrong in clinging to the crucified and risen Christ. I see him hanging from the cross in my bedroom, a wordless testimony that no suffering is too great for him to bear. It amazes me that, with the weight of all the wrongness of the world on his shoulders, it was not enough to overwhelm him, to make him despair. He suffered and died, but he killed all the wrong with him; it had no power to keep him dead.
And even my suffering, piddling though it is – the discomfort and impatience, the self-pity and confusion brought on as much by my own poor attitude as by the wrongness of the world – it is not too small for him to take up on that cross with him, and make it into nothing. I have to be present to my feelings, to accept them and feel them and not run from them, in order to bring them to him. That is hard enough for my squirmy flesh, which hates emotional discomfort as much as physical. But once there, he dispatches of them. He takes away any shame, any fear. He does not take the pain away, but he voids it of its power. To die with Christ is better than to live in the flesh. In his death I have nothing to fear, nothing to lose, and everything to gain from his rising again.