I was perusing a popular pregnancy website the other day. When I clicked on the home page, the first thing I saw was an image of a very pregnant woman (belly button popped out and everything) with the headline "Don't Stress About These Pregnancy Fears".
Hmmm. Well I certainly spend a fair amount of time stressing about pregnancy fears. Maybe this article would be helpful to me! It said it had a list of the top ten pregnancy fears and why they shouldn't be stressing you out. Perfect! This must have been written for me.
I clicked on the article, and with each so-called "common fear" I read as I went down the list, my eyebrows got closer together and my mouth slowly dropped open until I looked as if I was trying to read the article in Swahili (I don't speak Swahili). Let me give you a little recap.
One woman said her number one fear, her number one fear in her pregnancy, was that her nose would get larger. She said she had a friend who's nose nearly doubled in size during her pregnancy, and now she was terrified of the same thing happening to her. The website's response? To validate her fears and let her know that most likely, her face would go "back to normal" once the baby was born. That woman was so lucky she didn't have me responding to her "number one fear", as I would have taken three pages to rip her a new you-know-what and tell her that if her biggest fear is her nose getting bigger, she needs to crawl out of the hole she lives in and spend five minutes with a mother who has buried her baby and would cut her own nose right off if it meant having them back.
Let's move on. I also read a chilling account of a soon-to-be mommy expressing her fears that her baby might be born a hermaphrodite. She had seen something on the Discovery Channel about it and now was gripped with fear that her baby might have the same fate. Oh to have a baby with a pagina. A fate worse than death.
Don't get me wrong, I have thoughts such as these cross my mind now and again. Working at a children's hospital, I see some pretty strange things and now and then I wonder, "How in the world did that happen? I wonder if my baby had nail follicles instead of hair follicles on their head, if they would have caught that on the ultrasound?" It's of course normal to have these fears, I mean I think it is, but to have them be your biggest fears? I wish I could live in that world again.
The article didn't disappoint me entirely. Well, it did actually, but it did at least touch on fears of actual validity, such as losing the baby. Finally, a fear I can relate to! I read on as a woman expressed her choking, constant fear that she might lose the baby, and how powerless she felt to do anything about it.
Yes! I was nodding to myself as I read. That is exactly how I feel!!! What will Dr. Pregnancy Website have to say to this? I read on as they comforted said fearful woman and told her that while her fears may be warranted, she shouldn't let them rule her every thought. Pretty good advice, I suppose. Some I could probably use, definitely. But then...they told her that once she made it past 14 weeks, her risk of loss is actually only around one percent, so fear not.
Well that's just wonderful. And maybe, if I had not been in that one percent, this advice would be comforting to me. One thing I have learned through our losses is that statistics are only comforting if you are usually in the majority. I can tell you right now, Josh and I are never in the majority when it comes to statistics. What are the odds you'd conceive twins while on birth control? Slim to none! Bam! Foiled! What are the odds that after a healthy twin pregnancy, we'd have issues thrice over in having another baby? Boom! Foiled! What are the odds we'd lose a perfectly healthy baby girl to a freak cord accident at 20 weeks, when everything else seemed perfect? Ha! Made the one percent again!!! What percentage of babies are not diagnosed with a fatal brain absence until after they are born? I don't know, but whatever the number is, it is minute, and we nailed it.
So...to be told by pregnancy websites, doctors, friends, and family, that the odds of losing the baby I am now carrying at almost 30 weeks with no previous signs of trouble are slim to none...honestly all it makes me want to do is point out all of the odds we have beaten in the past, and not in a good way. I remember when I was in the hospital bed just after giving birth to Lily, my doctor came in to talk to me about what had happened. I remember asking her if we could try again for another baby, or if that was just stupid, and she told me, "Karen, if this were to happen to another baby of yours, you two should go out and play the lotto, because the odds are a billion to one that it would happen again."
Three months later I miscarried. One year later we sat in a NICU conference room while doctors told us Ember had an incredibly rare brain abnormality and would not live. Maybe we should play the lotto...
Now I understand what my doctor was actually saying, that the chances of another one of my healthy babies dying in utero from a cord accident were so small they weren't even calculable. But when you are constantly beating the odds in a tragic way, that doesn't really help much.
These past couple of weeks have been so hard for me. I don't know what happened around 28 weeks, except the baby's odds of making it outside the womb became really good, but that's when I really started to struggle with having this baby still inside me. I am constantly torn between wanting to stay pregnant forever because I truly do enjoy so much of it, like feeling the baby wiggle and squirm and kick and change positions all throughout the day, how Jake and Eisley moon over my belly and talk to it in these high pitched baby voices that make me laugh, how much I treasure each of these moments because I felt I have been robbed of them with previous pregnancies, and wanting this baby out as soon as humanly possible, because I feel it would be safer in a NICU incubator than it would be trapped in my body that has taken a tendency to destroy my children before they are born. I don't trust my body with this baby, and I hate that I can't tell what's going on in there.
If the baby is quiet for more than 20 minutes, I start panicking and poking and prodding at my belly trying to get just one little movement that tells me it's still alive in there. I literally hold my breath until I can feel something. On the flip side, when the baby is super active and I can feel it flipping around or changing positions, I start freaking out that maybe it is getting itself tangled in its cord and I actually start talking to the baby and telling it to calm down. I wake up at night randomly and wonder how long it's been since the baby moved, and I don't go back to sleep until it does, even if it means crawling out of my warm, comfy bed and drinking a cold glass of water to shake things up in there.
No article I have ever read about pregnancy has been of any comfort to me, because they are always throwing out these statistics, saying how the risk of intrauterine death is so slim by such and such a week, or how repeat stillbirths are virtually unheard of, or how most women experiencing loss go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies. Well...those just don't ease my fears one bit. We've been on the wrong side of those statistics too many times.
While the Bible doesn't say a lot about pregnancy related fears, it does have a lot to say about fear in general. Like, a lot. These are just a few verses I cherry picked on the subject...
Isaiah 41:10 says, "...do not fear, for I am with you..."
Isaiah 41:13 says, "...do not fear; I will help you..."
Isaiah 54:4 says, "Do not be afraid..."
Psalm 56:3-4 says, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid, what can mortal man do to me?"
Well...that's pretty clear I guess. Do not fear. What can man do to me anyway? Not a lot! Except...my fears have little to do with what mortal man can do to me, and a lot more to do with what God will choose to allow in my life. So, instead of dealing with those fears head on and really handing them over to the Lord, I have tried to protect myself from them entirely.
I spent all of my first trimester and much of my second keeping this pregnancy and this baby at arm's length. I wanted nothing to do with the fears of losing it, so I just spent most of my time assuming I would lose it, which in my head would make the loss much easier to bear when I did. But, as baby grew, as my belly grew, as this child's kicks and wiggles and hiccups became completely undeniable as it shouted to me, "I'm in here mommy! You can't ignore me anymore!!!", I simply couldn't shelve my pregnancy anymore. I had to take it down, open it, and deal with all it entailed. And now that I am within spitting distance of the possibility of actually holding this baby in my arms, alive, now that I can actually picture what it might be like to introduce him or her to Jake and Eisley and watch them cuddle and swoon over this baby, I want nothing more than to protect those dreams. When you realize there is something you want more than anything in the world, fear is inevitable. I truly don't believe you can love anyone or anything on this earth without the accompanying fear that it might be taken from you. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."
What that says to me is, when you love, you will fear. But that love should be so great that it drives the fears out, makes them insignificant compared to the love...that love wins. Not that fear doesn't exist, or shouldn't exist, or that we are wrong to feel it or struggle with it, but that fear should never win.
It was a pretty big milestone to come to love and want this baby, but now that I do, I am gripped with fears of losing it. It is a trade off. The verse does not say, "There is no fear when love is concerned." It says that there is no fear in love. I think they absolutely compete with one another daily. But perfect love drives out fear. That's a promise. Would I go back to the place where I felt detached and unemotional over this pregnancy if it meant I wouldn't deal with these fears every day? Let me be absolutely clear when I say...never.
What mother would trade the overwhelming love they have for their children just so that they didn't have to experience the heartache those children bring? When they are hurt, when they are naughty, when they walk away from the Lord, when they disappoint you, when they move far away, when they hurt you...when they die.
As mothers, we know what is on the line. We know how much power our children have to absolutely destroy our hearts, yet we also know what the reward is. We know the power they have to fill us with so much joy we feel our insides might explode. We know how they can create such pride in us that we simply swell up until we're nearly floating off the ground. We know how a hug or a kiss or an "I love you" can heal even the deepest wounds of the day. We know how they can create purpose in us we never knew we were capable of.
And because of that...we take the good with the bad. We fight the fear if it means we can love. We take the heartache right along with the happiness, and we don't even think twice about it. The problem is, sometimes it is just easier to let the fear win. When fear wins, we feel less vulnerable. As if, when things do go wrong, maybe it won't hurt as much if we've already been letting the fear take over. If we love without abandon, if love wins, won't it hurt more if my fears become reality? Honestly, yes, that might be true. But think of all you will have missed out on. I missed out on more than half of my pregnancy because I let fear take over. I refused to let love into that part of my life. That is time and experiences I won't get back, ever. By letting love win, we open ourselves up to so much joy, even if we do open ourselves up to the possibility of hurt. Isn't it worth it? Isn't it always?
Some of my children came to me unexpectedly and quite frankly against my will. Some of my children were so wanted and so desired and so dreamed about that I absolutely ached to have them, while others were surprises that took quite a bit of time to accept. Some of those children I got to hold, some I did not. Some I met, some I won't meet for a long time. Some of them lived, and some of them died. Some break my heart with their absence, and some piece it back together with their giggles. Each of them taught me something different. Each of them brought me their own set of anxiety and worries, joys and happiness. All of them were loved. All of them came with a set of new fears.
And all of them were worth it.
As these last 7-10 weeks of this pregnancy stretch out before me, I know I will continue to struggle with my fears. Part of me is saying, "Slow down and just enjoy this part of your life when you carried this baby! It won't last much longer!". Another part screams, "Get this baby OUT of me where I can see it and touch it and know it's okay and intervene if something goes wrong!!!" Those two parts of me fight with each other daily. What is comforting to me is that this baby is blissfully unaware of the war his or her mommy is fighting with herself. They have no idea about the children that came before it and how my experiences with each of them will shape the kind of mommy I am. At least one of us is sleeping well at night! ;)
Physically, I feel really good, and if you ask me how I'm doing, I will say I'm doing really good. This pregnancy has been very good to me, especially compared to the only other pregnancy I've experienced this long, which was the twins. I tell people this ain't nothin' compared to what I went through with those boogers! But oh my goodness what a difference the two experiences have been emotionally. With the twins, I don't remember ever being so gripped with fears of them suddenly dying inside me. I have no recollection of worrying about things like cord accidents or unexplained intrauterine death, my only concern was that they'd grow big and strong and come out before I killed myself. And they did! So I didn't know any different. This baby has not taken the same toll physically at all, but my emotions have taken quite a beating.
One thing I know for sure is that when I do get to hold this little one, if I am blessed enough to hold them alive and screaming in my arms, it will take half-a-dozen medical staff to rip that baby from my hands so they can clean it up. I honestly don't know if this baby will ever get put down, between his or her crazy mother and Eisley. ;) It will definitely not want for love and attention, that's for sure. Jake and Eisley have no trouble in that department, and they were two of the children who came to us...well...let's just say they were a surprise. ;)
So, as each day goes on, I continue to fight those fears and let love take over. I am working hard to let God do what He does, and remember that I am not in control of anything except my own responses. I'm praying and asking for the safe arrival of this baby, but I also know that God has things in mind that I can't see and can't understand, so I have to trust Him with whatever happens. I know that these fears will only be traded in for new ones after the baby arrives, so I better figure out a way to deal with them! And while I feel my fears of losing this baby might be a bit more valid than being terrified of my nose doubling in size, I think we all have fears in our life that we need to deal with.
So...while fear is inevitable if we love anyone or anything...if there is a desire in our hearts for something and we struggle with the fears we might not get it...if something in our life is causing us so much anxiety and fear that it consumes us each day...we need to ask ourselves...Is fear winning? Or is love?
Let love win today.
1 John 4:18
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."