Every night I've gone to sleep for the past two weeks thinking this might be the night that our baby comes. I've been happy about that. And every morning I've woken up (and usually multiple times in the night to pee/comfort a child) and realised I was still pregnant. And I've been happy with that. It's a good place to be, this cozy spot somewhere in the midst of hope and belly-bulging expectancy resting up against contentment. I can't remember the last weeks or days of my other pregnancies being like this and I may not feel this content in another week or so.
In the day to day I'm tired, I'm often uncomfortable and my cortisol levels are through the roof, I'm pretty sure. I become very upset at my children when they are doing things that suddenly feel extremely dangerous - like chasing each other up the stairs to our apartment or slamming each other into couches and coffee tables. They've noticed my temperament shift - my husband was home for lunch so I had a lie down for a few minutes. When I came out, my nearly 4 year old said, "NOW will you be LESS grumpy with us?" He also dictated for my mother's day card, "I hope you feel better once the new baby comes out." mHm. Let's hope so.
But in the deeper places I feel really peaceful. I feel joy. Friends and strangers say I look great, so relaxed for someone who is a couple days away from being 40 weeks pregnant (although they should probably check in with my husband about that). I'm under no illusions that labour will be easy and I'm under ABSOLUTELY no illusions that three kids on the outside is going to be easier than having two on the outside and one on the inside. My children are a beautiful rip tide and I am only just learning how to swim horizontal. I watch them grow while they grow me up, the most sanctifying mirror I've ever had in my life. I remember what I wrote a few years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter,
Asking God to come and plant His dreams in us is costly - to carry the things of God we must be willing to change, to grow, to stretch and ache; our bodies will never be the same, our hearts will have a new capacity for love and for pain. We will steward an exciting and terrifying responsibility - one we will only be able to parent and never control.
Whatever it is that God lays before us, I think we can never truly grasp what the cost will be. And still we say yes, we are willing, because we know it will be Good.
At 37 weeks I found out that I'm not eligible to try for a home birth through my local hospital's program that I've been apart of through this whole pregnancy. It was reviewed by multiple people and because of my 900 ml blood loss following my first birth I am not eligible. I have had so much peace with that decision.
It was massive for my husband and I to spend the pregnancy deciding together whether we wanted to have this baby at home. I really did. I was certain I would labour more effectively at home, not having to transition to the hospital where I had a very traumatic first birth. My husband was scared, having seen our baby almost die and his wife lose a large amount of blood quickly, he wanted to feel like someone was going to be in control, that emergency personnel would be right at the door if need be. We had some very difficult conversations over the months, spoke out lots of fears, read articles and watched documentaries, talked to friends who had given birth at home. We explored the many factors that contributed to our previous births and ultimately we decided, together, that we did want a home birth. We decided to not only trust my body and the birth process, but trust the systems that were in place - my midwives and the hospital twelve minutes drive away.
And part of us trusting the hospital is submitting ourselves to the decision that I'm not eligible. I appreciate that I was even considered seriously and that Chris and I were able to make our own decision first. I think it was a very important road for us to walk and I honestly believe that it would be extremely safe for me to have this baby at home. But I barely feel disappointed, especially in light of pregnant and labouring women around the world. I'm going to have my baby at a world-class hospital, my birth covered by the same midwives who helped me deliver my daughter and I've known now for almost three years. I don't want to find myself complaining about being so well cared for when many women have no access to the healthcare they need to survive.
I'm so grateful for the friends who have been praying for us through this pregnancy, and even those who are in places of longing and grief when it comes to babies of their own, have supported and reached out to us. I've felt acutely that our ease and joy throughout this pregnancy could cause others whose hearts are broken and arms empty to feel their grief even more deeply. Somehow there is grace to journey together, carrying each other's burdens and celebrating each other's expectancy. I think the healing reign of God is there, arriving gently and quietly when we open up our hearts to make room for someone else, even when it's really, really hard. I have some really beautiful friends.
On Mother's Day at church a woman shared about losing her first child, a baby girl, a few days after her birth. The baby had a congenital heart problem and her mother, left with no picture of her, has written her a birthday card every single year, her fortieth birthday would have been this month. As she spoke I cried quietly and didn't know how I would get up and sing when she was done sharing. I pulled it together somehow and sang a song I had written in 2005, while volunteering at a hospital in southern Nigeria. I made it through most of the third verse,
"Emmanuel, can you hear us now? The whole earth groans in labour. Can you birth your kingdom here? Will heaven come despite our fear?
And we pray to you and we hope in you and we wait for you expecting you to come."
I sang the word 'come' with all of my greatly pregnant body and heart, broke a string on my husband's guitar and broke down into sobs. I kept strumming and after a minute or so I continued to sing …
"Come Lord, Jesus
We need you to deliver us
We are exhausted and the pain is strong
Tell us it won't be lo-ong
For the pain is strong"
I want to allow these labour pains, whenever they come, to connect me into creation's own labour pains - in the lives of people I know intimately and my sisters and their children around the world. There is something beautiful and holy, not in experiencing pain, but in choosing to share it. It's something of God born into the world.
(this is a very rough and old recording of the song, with my friend Cale on the harmonica)