October 21, 2011

Who's afraid of the big bad birthing room?

That would be me.

Maybe it's the idea of pain so great I would want to inject heroin to make it stop. Or the photo lab I used to work in where, once in a while, a roll of film came through with detailed photos of a birth. Or maybe it's the complete lack of control over my own body, coupled with the thought of being bedridden with a foot-long needle in my back plus a device attached to my urethra plus an IV drip plus.. plus..

Oh man. Just the thought makes me a little queasy and makes my pulse race a bit.

Until fairly recently, a standard blood draw would make me pass out, or at least render me motionless until my blood pressure resumed normality. I would kind of freak out at my own pain, like the time I got two fingertips shut in a car door, or a pinky caught in a heavy door frame (that hurt like a sonofa).

About six years ago, I had an eye test done where the doc shined some light across my retinas to check for glaucoma. I felt okay for a minute, then suddenly I had no idea what happened to me – I couldn't tell if I was about to faint, or run to the bathroom, or barf, or all of the above. She gave me smelling salts to bring me around, and I had to have my husband come pick me up. It was a horrific experience.

I can be calm as a cucumber on the outside, but my subconscious says "hell no, we won't go!"

Yeah, so that's one thing that has intimidated me for decades about having children: Going through the birthing process. I have rationalized that, after all, it's just one day compared to a lifetime of the joy of parenthood; a rite of passage of sorts. Millions of women have done it, stretching out tens of thousands of years before me and without a needle in their backs. But on the inside, I'm freaking out. Last night I was reading through a chapter on birthing methods, coping techniques vs. medication, doulas and partner roles, blah blah.. I couldn't sleep for crap last night.

What in the world is my problem? It's not like I can avoid it – believe me, I would entertain the thought of general anesthesia if it were a possibility (and not just in an emergency).

I think I would prefer to go med-free mostly because I loathe the idea of being strapped to a bed with a bunch of crap attached me, unable to move. But I have no idea what the process will be like – will I manage it, or will I have a breech baby that demands a c-section? Will I have a reasonable labor, or will it drag on for 20-30 hours until I'm so miserable I beg for medical mercy?

This is a problem, and I need to address it sooner than later because time isn't slowing down. Sigh…

Any advice from those of you who have been there?

October 14, 2011

All control is an illusion, and there are no guarantees

This time last year, my life was in ashes. I had just completed a set of fertility tests, and before DH could go through his own tests, the Specialist called us into her office to deliver the news. I had age-related egg quality issues, and our chances of conceiving successfully on our own was… oh, let's just say next to none.

I spent months mourning, grieving, praying, looking for answers, and researching everything I could get my hands on. Add to that professional counseling, peer counseling from church, yoga, acupuncture, prayer from others, and anti-depressants.

Many months later, I experienced incredible physical and emotional healing by the Holy Spirit during a prayer session with my peer counselor. Soon after, I became pregnant.

Today, I still am pregnant: 22 weeks and expecting a baby boy in February.

I could say something pithy like "What a difference a year makes." But the big question is: What happened?

Let me tell you what I believe: I believe that God has chosen to first heal my heart from the years of fear and aching that kept me from wanting to have a baby, followed by the fear to try again and insurmountable depression in the face of a diagnosis of destruction. I also believe that God answered my prayer to conceive a child by healing me.

So what does that mean? That everything is smooth sailing for the rest of my life, that I shouldn't expect anything bad to happen, that this kid is guaranteed to be perfect in every way?

Of course not.

But it does mean something undeniably powerful and true: That God does not give up on us, that real healing is possible – emotional and physical, that there is hope beyond our circumstances, and that the end is never the end if we choose to trust God.

I also know that there are no guarantees in this life. None but one, which is the reality of God and his unchanging, transforming love for us. I also know that I cannot control these things. I can manage some things and even be successful in some areas, but ultimately all control is an illusion.

I choose to put my faith and trust in Him, and to embrace hope and let go of control, and as a result I worry less about what might happen. If something horrible does happen, I know He won't abandon me but will carry me through it.

I think it took the events of this past couple of years for me to understand these truths, and I only hope that my story gives others encouragement – even though my story isn't finished.

October 1, 2011

Multitasking Heart

First the good news: the big 20-week ultrasound was last week, and it was more or less a smashing success. I say more or less because the tech had trouble getting a good image of a couple of baby bits, so I squirmed while she dug in the wand. I have no idea how long it took - 45 minutes? But now I have sore muscles connecting my pelvis to my hips.

Anyway, I digress. She asked if we wanted to know the sex, I said yes, and she said something like "Well there's this thing here between the legs".. I'm thinking yes - it's a dash in a snowstorm - so I said "What is it?" and she kindly pointed out that it's a penis. I felt just slightly silly (but later learned that DH couldn't tell either so we can be ignorant together!).

So yeah. Somewhere around Valentine's Day I'm gonna give birth to a boy.

Me. Give birth. Have a baby. I'm actually pregnant and it's not going away. I feel him bumping around in me, and see (and feel) my body changing rapidly.

I am blown away by this every day. When I thank Jesus for this amazing blessing that I can barely comprehend, I start to cry (usually at a time when I can't like in the car, at work, or outside walking).

Meanwhile, DH is awake at 3 a.m. most nights trying to figure out all the details of the parenting universe while I toss and turn trying to figure out how to stay comfortable long enough to sleep more than half an hour at a stretch.

I truly do not understand how any woman can honestly say she loves being pregnant. Emotionally it's a variety of wonder, terror, and joy. Physically it's a major pain in the ass. But it has to be worth it, right? Just kidding. Sort of.

Rather than ruminating over the complexities of parenthood (which makes my brain go numb), I can't think more than six months ahead. I'm debating what kind of childbirth I really want to embrace. The epidural is fine, though I truly loathe the idea of having a footlong needle stuck in my spine while my pee drains into a bag. Part of me truly wants to feel the act of giving birth, though. Like somehow being numb from the waist down will disconnect me from the experience a bit.

My coworker used the hypnobirthing method with amazing success, which makes me wonder: could I do it? She said it was definitely not pain free, but she was able to manage it and stay calm. She was in labor for all of six hours. Okay, I don't think that means I'd have the same experience but I gotta wonder if there's really something to this. Obviously there is. I will do research.

And now the bad news. My grandmother is dying. She suffered congestive heart failure the day before my ultrasound. She's apparently conscious now but isn't connected to reality at all. I wish so much that I could be at her side, even though she'd probably not know me, and just pray and be there. Death isn't new to me: I've lost a great grandmother, grandfather, and other grandmother not to mention a couple of uncles. I have held a bedside vigil. I don't wish her to recover - her life has dwindled to medication and the white walls of a nursing home while her mind is trapped in the prison of dementia - I wish for God's mercy to end her suffering and bring her home. God's will be done.

So my heart vacillates between joy and sadness, hope and longing, the future of my son and the past of one of my mothers who helped raise me. Yes, it's the cycle of life. No beginning comes without something else ending, does it?