Dec 5, 2011

Valuing the Very Small But Most Important Things

I started this pregnancy planning to blog about it, out of deference to my sweet husband. I protested "how self indulgent to just talk about yourself! There are people who are offended by the thought of anyone having thirteen children, why go out of my way to offend? How cares about a regular ordinary pregnancy? People have them all the time!" His contention was that no, people do not have thirteen babies all the time, that people will be offended if it is talked about--or not--and what people find offensive is beyond our control. His conclusion was that we might as well be open and forthright. He also encouraged me to enjoy what may well be our last pregnancy by journaling about it, if you will, on the blog.

So I decided to blog this pregnancy. Although this will be baby number thirteen, this is actually pregnancy number nineteen, We have had six losses along the way, ranging from very early, five weeks (pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks, total) to a loss in the second trimester. My first pregnancy was a loss, at age 19, when Tim and I were newlyweds. The most recent was earlier this year.

What happened to cause there to be over a month between the first time I mentioned being pregnant until now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This has been, up 'til now, one of the easiest pregnancies that I have ever experienced. Very mild morning sickness, easily dealt with. Fatigue is usually severe for me. I remember one time when I was expecting Grace, our third. I had a three year old and a two year old already. I remember one particular instance of coming home from a Bible study about one in the afternoon. We were active in apartment ministry at that time and lived in a second floor apartment. I remember to this day, twenty years later, standing at the base of those steps, fifteen in all and thinking "I can't. I just cant. Cant I just lay down here, on the bottom step and go to sleep right now?" There was also a particularly embarrassing episode when I was pregnant with our oldest and I fell asleep at Christmas dinner while we were guests at the table of one of my pastor father-in-law's parishioners. This time? I am usually in bed (or wanting to be) by seven, but other than that I have managed quite well.

To what have I given credit for this easier pregnancy? Well, this has been the first pregnancy that I have actually been consistently taking my prenatal vitamins. I have also been quite conscientious about watching my diet, making sure that I am getting good probiotics, essential fatty acids, ample protein, red raspberry leaf tea, you name it. And hey, guess what, it has been working!

Until my first prenatal visit last week when all of my confidence shipwrecked against the sharp rocks of reality.

I was greeted with enthusiasm at the doctor's office. This pregnancy marks the tenth with this obstetrician, and the month I am due will be the twentieth anniversary of having met this very patient man who puts up with a great deal to have me as a patient. (Can you imagine being a highrisk OB having to deal with the demands of a homebirth midwife? One who routinely brings in a half dozen children to her visits?) They have missed us, we are like family, they say. I confide that I have been somewhat uneasy about how smooth the pregnancy has gone and we move straight to an ultrasound where my fears are confirmed--the pregnancy--no, the baby--is in trouble.

The baby is measuring several weeks behind what it should be, but most ominous is the fact that the heart is not giving us the strong measurable beat that we should be seeing even for the smaller size but is barely discernible as a flutter. What to do? Nothing. I am already taking progesterone as we determined almost a decade ago that this made a big difference for me. Continue taking progesterone. Continue taking those prenatal vitamins, probiotics, EFA as before and wait. Two weeks to be exact. By the time two weeks fly (or drag) by, the baby either will have grown two more weeks worth and developed that galloping and loud heartbeat we long to see--or not.

In the meanwhile we share the news with the baby's siblings. They worry and pray. We share the news with our church--they worry and pray. I cannot bring myself to discuss it with customers and friends who are still full of congratulations although each kind word twists worry deeper. This is actually something I have grown to fear each time we share news of a pregnancy. What if we have to unshare the news just a few weeks down the road? how much easier it would be to just keep quiet about our joy until we are further along in pregnancy. I know of many who do just this and I understand and respect them for this decision but for me--I cannot.

You see, we feel that we are taking a stand by having this large family. Our society tends to relegate children into the category of a nuisance or a trap to be avoided. Even once we have children we are surrounded by the message that those eighteen years are simply to be endured. We do the right thing, we toil away until we can send them away--to college or other adventures. At the very least, the number of children is to be limited.

We feel that our children are the best, the brightest, the most glorious gifts that we have or could ever be given. We spend our lives on so many things--yet how many of those things are eternal? Our children will live forever. They will, God willing, spend eternity in the presence of God. Our influence will be felt long after we are gone through them--like arrows shot from a strong bow. Our children are our vote that there is still much in our world worth the investment for we hope to raise our children to go forth and bring change by touching the world around them. Our children are also a sign to us of the trust that we have in God. We trust Him to send us children and we joyfully receive them. We believe that He created the entire universe--He set the stars and moon and sun in place, He orders the seasons and tides and life. If He is in control of all of life that we see around us, how can we think that our own best decisions would be better, wiser than his? We believe that there is not a child in our home that was not a purposeful gift, handcrafted by God. And we believe that this gift is in effect from the moment that we first realize that we have been so blessed.

There is no denying that it would be much easier, emotionally, to keep private the news of a coming baby until we have more assurance that the baby has a reasonable chance of reaching a point of viability--but is that the joyful acceptance of God's gift in our life? This baby, as an eternal being, is a priceless treasure to us from the moment it was created. What does it say to the giver of a gift if the gift is received--and closeted away? We also desire to share the joys and sorrows of life with our children--part of why we have done hospice care not once, but twice in our home for our own parents as their lives came to an end. This is harder to do if the baby lives--and dies--without the older sisters and brothers even being aware of it's existence. We also believe that allowing them to experience this teaches them of the fragility of life and how much it should be treasured.

Mainly, though, sharing the news of the baby even though we may not be able to share the news of the birth of the baby is our way of loving the baby. We recognize the life that is present by the sharing of the life. We give value to this tiny--possibly too short--life by acknowledging it's presence. This is our child and we will love it everyday--whether those days number only a few short weeks or many decades. We invite others to share in the life of this baby as well even though it is hard to face sharing the bad news so quickly after sharing the good.

In a few weeks we will rejoice again, either that the baby is ours for while longer or that the baby is in the presence of God. Until then, I will revel in being pregnant with baby number thirteen, or as he/she has been dubbed, our little "Cotton Ball".

1 comment:

Kim Foley said...

I heard from Dee on Sunday about your post. I lost one two months ago, so early we hadn't told the kids. I have been praying for you, and will continue to do so!