I had an ultrasound today to see how the baby was coming along and if everything was still ok enough to keep waiting for a natural start to labor, instead of forcing him/her into this world. I'm currently 11 days "overdue" but I am a firm believer that some women (like me) just have a longer gestational time than others, and so maybe I'm not even really "due" yet at all. And so we continue to wait.
But this overdue/due date business? It's nasty stuff. It doesn't matter HOW HARD you mentally prepare to go overdue, because trust me, from the moment I saw that little plus sign on a pregnancy test, I began coaching myself to expect, prepare, and plan for going overdue again. I even told people "early September" when they asked my due date, instead of August 29. I tried as hard as I could to mentally prepare. But guess what. You can't trick your mind into un-knowing what it knows. And as soon as I heard August 29, a part of my heart accepted that as my "date of full term". And so when the days of September stretch on and on and each morning you wake up a little more stiff and uncomfortable and stretched thin than the day before? You begin to break a little.
I was determined to weather this pregnancy with gratitude and grace, because it may be my last. And in the case that it is, I wanted to cherish every single moment. Appreciate it for the gift that it is, and truly live out those 9 months in joyful anticipation. I can't say that I succeeded completely, but I tried, so hopefully that counts for something. And I'm not sure why this is, but the end of pregnancy always feels especially isolating and alone. I know that so many people care, and it's an obvious lie and trick of the devil to make me think otherwise, but it always seems to happen just the same. You feel forgotten. Drifting in this gray area of suspense and hopefulness and anxiety and weariness and ache and inner turmoil. Stumbling through your days, trying to stay positive, failing. Worrying. Abbot the safety of the baby, about crossing through that valley of Pain again, about life afterwards with 4 little ones who need you.
In so many ways, I do not feel ready for this baby. Jocelyn is 5, and doing kindergarten at home this year. Charlotte is 4 and will probably do school right alongside with her. William is 1, but not walking yet, and so he still very much needs me throughout the day and feels like my baby. He IS still my baby. And then here we are, days or hours or moments away from adding to the family again, and I am SUPREMELY grateful, and scared spitless at the same time. Will I be able to do this? What if I fail? What if I am only half (or less) of the mother I hope to be? Will everyone think "Serves her right for having babies so close together" or worse to themselves? Will I miss out on too much of these precious stages in my babies because they all came so close together? When things finally slow down and I catch my breath, will I be filled with regret?
And then there is the anxiety of labor. I assumed that by the time I was having my 4th, I would be a pro. Labor wouldn't scare me, I'd already been through it 3 times! What's the big deal? But on the contrary, I find myself feeling more anxious about it than ever before. William's birth was fast and furious, a runaway freight train I could not seem to gain control of. Wave after wave of pain and agony swept over me as the contractions slammed closer and harder and more fiercely until it quite literally knocked the breath right from me. Jocelyn and Charlotte's births were also natural, with no epidural or pain medication, and with Charlotte I was even induced with Pitocin, and I still don't remember that level of pain. With William, it was like physical pain had crested a whole new plateau in my body, and it left me shaking with terror at the thought of encountering that again.
And if you're no stranger to the modern-day birth movement, than you know all about how NON-KOSHER it is to talk about pain. We are supposed to pretend that pain doesn't exist in labor, using phrases like "birth without fear" and "trust your body" and a host of other words that specifically avoid using words like HORRIFIC, MIND-NUMBING PAIN. Yet that's what it was for me.
BUT. Even in spite of the pain, I treasure my birth experiences. I do. They were all magical and miraculous and beautiful, even though it felt like I was going to die. I just don't see any reason why we can't admit both. Birth isn't this illusive, pain-free, goddess, out-of-body experience that only some enlightened people manage to figure out, and those of us wallowing around in our mere humanity and pain are just missing it. No. We live in a fallen world, and pain is part of childbirth now. The end. Sure, you can prepare, focus, breathe, and strengthen your body and mind, and try to keep fear from being the mantra of your pregnancy, but in the end, there will be pain. That's just all there is to it.
And maybe the moment we stop trying to avoid it at all costs in both language and mentality and EMBRACE it, maybe that's the same moment it becomes bearable. Not gone, but bearable. You will get through it. You will survive. At least that is what I am telling myself, here on the precipice of plunging through those dark waters once more.
I went back and re-read my friend Esta's blog post about being 33 weeks along and facing the fear. It's so good. Just go read that right now. I loved how she said, "I think I’ve come to accept that experiencing the overwhelming power and overwhelming fragility of life all in the same moment is why most women count, in the end, birth to be a miracle, no matter what the outcome."
Isn't that a beautiful thought? And how true it is. That no matter whether your birth took place in a hospital or your living room, on a surgery table or in a pool of warm water, that power and fragility of life added together equals a miracle, straight from Heaven, every single time. I love that. It removes us from the equation a little bit. It makes it not so much all about us and our "birth plan" which, by the way, I think is a bad idea. I think every woman should write a detailed birth plan and then ceremoniously burn it.
Because while I think it is VERY important for women to be informed about what/how/where/when/why they want certain aspects of their labor to be, I think it is even more important to realize and admit and SURRENDER to the fact that ultimately, we are not in control. It is so good to be informed and educated and aware of your personal plan for your birth, but it is better to be open. Open mind, open heart, open body, to the journey of your own particular baby's birth, in whatever shape or form that may take place.
And while we're at it, we need to let others walk their own journey. I am just SO OVER the mom-shaming that we like to do so much these days. Baby-wearing, breastfeeding, vaccinations, homeschooling, natural birth....and about a million other hot-button issues that get everyone's panties in a wad and start the mud-slinging and accusations and judgement....I tell you, nothing gets me going faster than moms on soapboxes with the sole intention of dragging down everyone else around them.
You do you.
I'll do me.
And let's just admit that we all love our kids a whole HEAP and are trying our UTMOST to do right by them, and love them, and nurture them, and keep them whole, and that is going to look so different for all of us. And then let's just LET IT GO. Let it be. And the world will be better off because of it.
Well I need to wrap this up. Time for the drive home and the Birth Story podcast. Listening to other women's experiences when I am here on the verge of my own again makes me close my eyes and catch my breath sometimes. It is so near, I can feel that pain on the tip of my tongue. I can feel my body go cold at the thought of What Lies Ahead. But it also sparks a hope in me, a small, sliver of courage....they've all been through this. I can do this. I can do this again.
And now, there's nothing left to do but wait.
, by Shelley Smucker