Just over a week ago, I could feel your elbow and shoulder down near my left hip. I was lying under this same pink blanket at this same lazy mid-afternoon time, as your middle brother slept beside me. I know it was your arm because I analyzed your movements for the past month, trying to move you into a better position. I also know because now I’ve watched you sleep on the outside, and I see how you keep your hand under your face and your elbow stretched out to the side.
I didn’t realize that I forgot your due date. I drew a heart and wrote “baby” inside it on August 15 on our calendar. Based on traditional dating, you were due August 8 (though I was fairly certain that was not accurate). Based on the ultrasounds, you were due August 12. And based on my previous pregnancies going one week overdue, I supposed you would come somewhere around August 15. In the end, I forgot that I would already be overdue at that point.
The day we came home with you, I saw an old pregnancy test strip on the bathroom floor way behind the toilet, those two pink lines faded to almost nothing. It’s odd to see it there, as now the bathroom trash is filled with pads and newborn diapers. It seems like late November was a long time ago.
This pregnancy in many ways was an anxious one. I remember the desperation to see two pink lines and testing way too early. I remember the joy I felt one night as we walked to a Christmas tree lighting and I felt nauseous and just instantly knew (the test finally confirmed it the next morning).
This is a blunt way to put it, but I think that for most of my pregnancy, I assumed something would happen to you—that I wouldn’t get a chance to meet you. Maybe I didn’t feel strong, maybe I didn't feel that I deserved a third healthy baby, maybe I'm just fearful. Often I felt that my anxiety alone would harm you.
This was the pregnancy of a cold, long winter (at least for the southern girl in me). I longed for sunshine and summer in a deep, craving sense. While the boys made trampolines out of couch cushions and raced through the house, I was desperate for the outdoors, desperate to put away fuzzy boots and coats.
At our first appointment, they couldn’t find your heartbeat with the doppler. I waited, shaking in the waiting room and texting friends for prayer, until they called me back for an ultrasound. There you were, your little heart beating away. I felt so undeservedly grateful.
We found out at our anatomy scan that your cord wasn’t totally centered in the placenta, and words like “growth restriction” and “slight chance of the cord detaching” were thrown around, and I didn’t know how those fears would wind themselves into my head even during birth. I remember wondering even in those final pushes if you would be okay, if I would be okay.
The whole time, my Google search history embarrassed me. And it turns out you can Google anything and add the number of weeks and Baby Center pregnancy posts will pop up. “Eccentric cord placement 21 weeks” “Gestational diabetes 27 weeks” “Anterior placenta and movement 30 weeks” “Transverse baby 36 weeks.” Even looking at these I feel crazy and a little ashamed, and I always looked forward to clearing my search history.
This was the pregnancy where the stray cat who had been hanging around brought kittens to our door on a cold March morning, and I had a panic attack about toxoplasmosis. I remember the relief at giving those kittens away eight weeks later.
Then there were other complications and stresses with jobs, our house, and trying to be a good mom to your brothers. Our van was broken into after one doctor’s appointment, and my diaper bag was stolen. These things are all probably very normal, adult stresses, but they often felt insurmountable as you grew inside me. It felt like one thing after another.
I remember around 34 weeks, we found out your cord was causing absolutely no issues. But she said you were lying with your head at my left hip and I would have a C-section if you remained that way. The next two times I took your brothers to the pool, I did handstands. After the second trip, I felt something change, and my belly looked lower. I was triumphant. Then through Google, I realized maybe I had turned you breech and worried about that for the weeks until my follow-up ultrasound.
At the end, you were not breech, but I was so desperate for you to come—to come while you were in a good position, to come while I might have energy. My joints ached when I woke up in the morning, and it was a chore to get up from your brother’s bed at bedtime. I longed to meet you in a way I hadn’t with your brothers because this time, I knew the joy of a baby and had somehow lost my fear of labor. But also, I wanted you safe on the outside.
I kept telling your dad I just couldn’t go into labor—the days were too long, and I was by myself with your energetic brothers for most of them. I was too tired, and every night, I would feel contractions start and then stop as bedtime stress began or I just grew too exhausted. I said, “I can’t labor at home; I’ll end up being induced.” And your dad tried to reassure me. But I just wasn’t having it. (This conversation went on for days).
I faithfully did yoga and Spinning Babies and drank red raspberry leaf tea and went on walks and swayed my hips. I Googled things like, “Will baby come when you relax or when you exercise?” I cleaned the house and then had days when I didn’t and wondered if either would mean labor would start.
The night before you came, I was on the phone with my mom telling here I just couldn’t be pregnant for another day. She tried to be calm and reassuring, but I was so discouraged.
I had a Biophysical Profile and non-stress test scheduled for the next day. I told my mom not to come, since your daddy was off of work and could stay with your brothers. But for some reason, she still got in her car and made the almost-two hour drive, texting me when she was on her way.
After my ultrasound, the midwife walked in and said, “It’s time to have a baby.” The amniotic fluid levels were much too low, and it didn’t seem like I was going into labor on my own. I wept openly through lunch, dreading another induction, thinking that this wasn’t the story. We went home, said goodbye to your brothers, and headed to the hospital.
Oddly through prayers of friends and encouragement of nurses, I found peace. I had been dilating on the way to the hospital. The nurse started Pitocin and the contractions began almost immediately. And it felt like time. The little box with the heart on the calendar with Baby scrawled inside.
I walked the halls through labor, swayed on the exercise ball while listening to salsa music, and ended up listening to Andrew Peterson while leaning on the ball. I was optimistic that you would come before midnight.
But pushing was hard. I was still dilating as pushing contractions started, and that made it incredibly painful and frustrating. Finally (and this word encapsulates hours and struggle and work!) you moved down, and your head came out. I could see your face for the first time, so much bigger and more human that I expected.
The midwife told me to give one more push so she could get your shoulder out. And I don’t remember this, but your dad said that for a terrifying moment, I panicked. I started shaking all over and said I couldn’t. Even your dad felt afraid for those seconds.
But in spite of me, that shoulder came out. And in that moment, I felt a change. I scooped you up and held you, so warm and real, and the anxiety was gone. You were here.
And I don’t like to leave it this way because I wish I could have conquered the anxiety. I don't like the word "anxiety," and I don't like anxious people (like myself). I wish I hadn’t had to fight, that my prayers would have been enough. Yes, I learned about God and myself through this. But I also have so much left to work through about theology and I hesitate to sum this up with “God is good”, because God is good however this story ended.
Parenting always increases the worry--there's the normal concern, the concern that prompts healthy research and helpful effort. There's the soberness we feel when we read tragic stories that reminds us to increase our own vigilance and make necessary changes. But we always grapple with the truth that we have way less control than we ever thought, and when we gaze into these tiny faces, that feels weighty. Sometimes it's hard to know what's healthy and what's not when it comes to raising our children, what is trust and what is negligence, what is action born of faith and what is action born of fear?
You weren’t born on August 15, the day I marked. Rather, you were born less than one hour into a new day, as if you wanted the delight of having a whole day for your birthday, as if you yourself were helping usher in something new.
Your name means “God’s gift,” and that’s how I feel— you are a gift that came after a rocky year of life and an anxious pregnancy. You are a gift that came just into the start of a new day.
You stretch that arm out now as you sleep beside me, and when I see your little movements, I recognize them as a dance that went on inside me for the past nine months, a dance you were making in spite of my fears.