I’m typing this lying in an extremely awkward side-slump while I should be asleep in bed, because for the sake of all that is good and holy, it is 10:17 pm. But, my husband is lying next to me watching Duck Dynasty and what can I say, introverts come to life when the sun goes down.
I am approaching that point in pregnancy where it’s big and serious looking, and by that I mean the belly. I can’t see my toes, I can’t lie on my stomach to troll Pinterest, and I certainly can’t keep my maternity jeans up for more than 15 minutes at a time without a good, earnest hoisting.
I also can’t go more than an hour or two before I feel her roll from one side to another or sweep a tentative foot or elbow across the stretched canvas of my abdomen. I’m loving this part of the pregnancy, aware that in a matter of weeks I may be too uncomfortable to wax poetic about wandering elbows and baby hiccups.
I can’t believe how much more gentle this little girl is than her older brothers, even in the womb. I also can’t believe that at 31 weeks she won’t flip upside down and press her booty firmly against my diaphragm, lodging in the correct position for entry into the outside world. I’ve never had a baby in breech position for any amount of time in the third trimester, at least not that I’ve been aware of, and it kind of disturbed me for the first week or so that I knew about it.
My mind immediately started down the path of nuclear options as I agonized over the inevitability of a c-section, never mind that my little summer squash has 9 solid weeks to upend herself. And never mind that this entire pregnancy has been a series of ‘what-ifs’ where my mind concocted worst-case-scenarios ranging from being unable to hail a taxi on Christmas day in Rome and therefore giving birth in my favorite bar adjacent to St. Peter’s Square (a legitimate concern, truly) to spending an agonizing 24 hours worrying that she had Down Syndrome after a 24 week ultrasound revealed that she had short femurs. Which I then googled and, halfway down page 2 of the results, noticed someone in a chatroom somewhere mentioned this could possibly be included in a list of characteristics of DS babies. So naturally I went there. Never mind that her 5’11” father has a 29 inch inseam. The father in question forbid me from googling anything further about ‘short femurs’ and a follow up ultrasound a month later to check her growth revealed nothing but normal, short legs and all.
Dave tells me I’ve always been this crazy during pregnancy, and maybe he’s right. But this one feels a little crazier. Perhaps it’s the double dose of estrogen on board? I just cannot shake this impending sense of ‘gotcha’ coming our way from God because surely, surely, one family could not be blessed with three healthy babies in a row.
My trust is so little. My love is even littler. I have a completely warped sense of God’s mercy and His love, and so I bathe my brain in anxiety as I wait in fear for the Next Bad Thing to happen. The fact that nothing really bad has actually happened to us? Proof that we’re due for a big, fat dose of redemptive suffering.
Never mind that 3 babies in 4 years has come with plenty of its own suffering, or that the very real sacrifices of parenting small children have the ability to sanctify even the most hardened sinner. I’m still that servile, crouching older son, living in my Father’s house and resenting the hell out of my position, not recognizing that I have truly been given everything that is His. Everything. But I’m still afraid.
Late last week I got a call from a girlfriend of mine who is newly pregnant with number three. She was worried, she’d seen something on facebook, and had I heard anything about the pregnant wife of our mutual family doctor? I’d been to a prenatal appointment the day before and chatted with this good and holy man who delivered my first child and both of hers, and everything had been fine. I was sure of it. The text I got from her later that night stopped my heart beating; their little boy, 39 weeks in utero, had suffered an umbilical cord accident and been delivered via induction, stillborn, earlier that afternoon.
With the hands that had guided hundreds of babies in our community safely into the world, he had baptized the lifeless body of his own son, whose life he was powerless to preserve.
I wanted to die when I heard that something so horrible had happened to someone so good. I don’t understand this kind of suffering. And I don’t understand how I could possibly waste another minute of this pregnancy, worrying over one million possible outcomes while the present moments slip away, kick by kick.
And so even though I cannot fathom their grief or lift a single ounce of the burden from this family’s shoulders, I can commit my mind and my heart to fully embracing this pregnancy, and the little life within me, for the only real certainty any of us has: the present moment.
Sweet Genevieve, please forgive me for all the nights I’ve worried over you and tried, by the force of my anxiety, to will your safety into being. I’m ready to surrender the illusion of control that was never mine, and to try to answer St. Gianna’s challenge to ‘Live holy the present moment.’ Pray for your mommy, won’t you? I’ll see you in a couple months.