Friday, June 12, 2015

The Home Stretch

I am contemplating the fact that our son could arrive pretty much any time in the next three weeks. This, however, is balanced by the fact that my older sister doesn't arrive until three days before my due date, so if he wants to come early it will have to be in spite of all the prayers that he'll stay put in time for Emily to arrive.

How did we get here?
I am officially over being pregnant–  hopefully that's not a shocking statement. Out of the past eighteen months I have spent fifteen being pregnant. Perhaps that's why being this close feels so surreal, why I still can't quite believe that sometime in the next few weeks, there will be, Lord willing, a newborn in the house. I have told Nate I feel ready for labor, ready for birth, but after that? How do you ever feel ready to care for a tiny human being who is 100% helpless and 100% dependent on you... all the time? I was thirteen when my oldest niece was born and I got to watch her and my other nieces and nephews growing up throughout my teen years. But "auntie-ing" and "mothering" are leagues apart, I know. Nate will occasionally glance at me quizzically and say, "Are we qualified to have a baby?" I usually say, "No. But that's okay." We remind ourselves that the human race has survived this far, and we're not about to die off, either, so clearly parenthood must not be something that only the experts can achieve (no matter what the Internet tells you).

We're now in the "safe" zone for our planned home birth (in the state of South Carolina it is legal for a certified professional midwife to attend a home birth when the client is between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant.) Our midwife and her assistant came last week to our house for the official home visit, so that they know how to get here and are already familiar with our house and where everything is. Emily shipped me one of her own birth pools (I love having an older sister who is a midwife!) Tadpole's clothes are all washed and ready and waiting in the new chest of drawers in the guest bedroom. Nate assembled the co-sleeper last weekend; it's living in his office until the baby arrives, since once it's attached to my side of the bed I will have to crawl in and out of bed from down at the foot, and that's next to impossible in my current hippopatomus state. I have the recipe for the Tadpole's from-scratch chocolate birthday cake on the refrigerator: my plan is to make it during early labor. I have joked with Nate that if I have a hard time during labor, he can encourage me by reminding me that once I'm finished I'll get to eat cake!

We are mentally framing the labor as my marathon. When people wonder why anyone would want to have a natural birth without drugs, I think perhaps they forget that not all pain is bad. I've labored before and I know it's hard. But it's hard like running a marathon or climbing a mountain is hard– the pain is (usually) productive. With the girls, I had to have Pitocin to help augment my labor, since my body at 22 weeks couldn't make my contractions steady enough for them to arrive (though it was trying hard). But I chose not to have an epidural because I wanted to be as present in their birth as possible, even though I knew there would be no "birth high" at the end. I've never run a marathon, but Nate has, and he's described the "runner's high" that comes at the end with the flood of natural endorphins that are the reward for the hard work of running so long. Because Livia and Lucy were stillborn, and because of the Pitocin, there was no birth high. In fact, remembering the labor and actual moments of their birth is not hard for me– it's the hour immediately after they were born that was traumatic. Where there should have been baby cries there was silence– and the weeping of all the rest of us. Where there should have been life, there was death. My soul felt dead. It is that hour which I need to be redeemed in my son's birth, a redemption of those post-birth minutes which left wounds in my heart that still bleed. And so we pray for redemption, and we pray, sometimes hopefully, sometimes numbly, nearly every day, that this birth will be a healing birth. 

A lot of the natural birth blogs and crunchy-mama blogs talk about having a mantra during labor– a short statement that you can cling to in the midst of the hard work and pain and exhaustion, to tell yourself and have your birth team say to you. Something that my friend Beth, who has been counseling me since the girls' death, said to me a couple months ago has stuck with me and become my mantra for pregnancy and for this birth– God will meet me. I have struggled with surrendering control of our son's birth, in realizing that though we have laid our plans and done everything we can to ensure it will go as we envision, but ultimately our son's life and birth is every bit as much in the hands of God as Livia and Lucy's was. I don't know how it's going to play out. But I know that God does, and I know that He will meet me in it and give me the grace that I need– even if that grace doesn't look how I expect. He did not abandon me in the birth of the girls; He was not absent when my soul felt dead as I held my dead daughters. He is not absent now in my insomnia and tiredness of these last weeks, in the hope and fear of anticipating Tadpole's birth. He has met me. He will meet me. He will give me the grace I need.

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