I’ve been absent from my blog lately because things with this pregnancy have been complicated, and I have not wanted to write about it. But I couldn’t write about other stuff and pretend everything was cool and easy (that seemed kind of cheap) so I just avoided this space altogether. So, here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on in the Horney house:
-I graduated from college with my BA in English/Writing Emphasis. That felt pretty good. More on that milestone later.
-Clara turned 16 months old, says about 40 different words, and makes us laugh all day.
-Sam has been home for two weeks straight and it has been almost complete heaven (with a few fights thrown in just to keep things even.)
-Clara is in a SERIOUS Mama phase and does not stray from my side whenever possible. She carries her toys from room to room and plays at my feet. Like, literally, on my feet. If I have to go to the bathroom, she waits outside the door. If Sam takes her out to the car before I’m ready to leave, she cries until I buckle myself into the front seat. The last two nights, she would not fall asleep until we were laying in my bed, cheek to cheek, holding hands. This would all be endearing and sweet if I weren’t about to have a new baby and rock her world…we think she senses the change that is coming, and is reacting to our nerves. It’s been a weird and exhausting few weeks.
-We’re having a baby on Tuesday.
Yeah, Tuesday. I’m not due yet, I’m 37 weeks today, but our little guy is not having an easy time in the womb. I’ve been getting ultrasounds every week for a month, and every two weeks for a month before that, charting his growth and wondering what is going on in there. At first he was only measuring a little bit behind, which we were expecting. Clara was born past her due date and only weighed 5 lbs. 8 oz, so we figured we would have another little baby. But then he started getting further and further behind, to the point that he is now measuring 4-6 weeks behind the size he should be. This is, of course, terrifying, but beyond the normal mother response of fear that there is something wrong with my son, I have also really struggled with allowing my doctor to do what he thinks is best.
Doesn’t it seem counter-intuitive that you would induce a baby who isn’t very big? Shouldn’t you just leave those babies alone, let them grow at their own tiny pace and stay in the womb as long as possible? This is what I’ve always thought. When people had babies early because it looked like they were going to be small, I thought it was foolish. The womb is always best, I said, and induction is an unnecessary medical intervention. Just leave the poor kids alone!
And really, truly, up until even this very moment, I have fought the idea that I would be induced early (or at all). I told myself I would not have this baby until he was good and ready, and would simply refuse an induction. Refuse, I tell you. This is my body and my son and I would decide what’s best.
Then on Monday, we had an ultrasound with a technician who we hadn’t seen before. She squeezed the warm goopy lube onto my belly and began the slow rolling of the monitor to chart our son’s size. Sam and I were chatting, pointing out the features of our baby’s face, laughing at the spikes of hair on his head, when the tech turned towards us with an alarmed look.
“We’re here to measure the baby’s size, right?” She squinted a little as she asked us with concern. I told her yes.
“And…you know…I mean, you’ve seen him recently? You know how small he is?” She nodded her head towards the screen, the black and white image of our baby now frozen up on the wall.
“Yes, we know. He’s really small, that’s why we’re here to check on him.” I smiled, trying to reassure her that we knew what was going on. She continued her measurement check with a horrified look on her face.
“He is very behind. Very far behind. I know your doctor will talk more with you about this, but I just think you need to be prepared to have your baby sooner rather than later.” Her voice was serious, but kind. I felt like I was in elementary school again, hearing bad news about a test from my teacher. We told her thank you and met with our doctor, and decided that as soon as I hit 37 weeks (which is sort of a golden number for babies in terms of lung development) we needed to induce labor and get our guy out, to give him the nourishment that he clearly isn’t getting in utero.
I had fought hard against this very moment, for a lot of reasons. First, because I honestly think that most babies are better off staying inside their mothers for as long as possible. I was determined to not evict my own son simply because he looked small, especially because I already had a small baby. Clearly, we just make elves. What I didn’t understand was that the real fear is not that these babies will come out small. It’s that their hearts might stop beating. They are fighting so hard to get fed that eventually it might become too much, and that will be that.
Second, I am prideful. I do not want to have a tiny baby. I do not want to deal with the NICU. I do not want to have trouble nursing because I am having him so early, or be away from Clara even one SECOND longer than I have to already. I want my body to be a beacon of health, to provide for my kids without problem or complication. I am a good mom. And I had the most blissful months of my life after Clara was born. I want that experience again, I want a big chubby kid who loves me and laps up my milk with gusto and who looks cute in newborn clothes, not weird and alien in preemie sizes. This tiny person somehow translates to failure on my part, and to giving in when maybe I should have fought harder to leave him in my belly for 3 more weeks.
Third, I am scared to be induced so gosh darn early. I was induced with Clara, but I was a few days past due and already in early labor. It was a fast 7 hours and then she came rolling out in 3 pushes, and we took her home a few days later. This induction for my son is terrifying. What if it doesn’t work? What if my body rebels? What if my baby won’t come out and I have to get a C-section? What if it does work, and he comes out, and then they wisk him away because there is something terribly wrong? Or what if he comes out and weighs 8 lbs. and we did all of this for nothing??
Which leads us to why I haven’t been writing about all of this. Because I feel crazy. I feel hormonal. I feel panicked and silly and dramatic for worrying at all, and I don’t want people to know what goes on in this anxious head of mine.
But it was the worried face of that ultrasound tech that convinced me to leave myself out of this equation. Something is happening to my baby. Perhaps he is just small. Perhaps we just have too much information, and he would be born the same size as Clara was in a few more weeks. But for whatever reason, he is not getting fed what he needs. I have to swallow my pride and my fear, I have to trust my doctor, I have to trust the signs my son is sending us, and I have to give birth before I am ready.
But guess what?
This isn’t about me anymore.
Or maybe – no, definitely – it never was about me.
Here’s what I’m thinking about tonight, instead of sleeping. Becoming a mother is the closest a human being ever comes to understanding God.
I’m not saying dads don’t have the same love or attachment to their children that moms do, or that God doesn’t show up in the relationships that kids have with their dads. He does. I know that Sam loves Clara like I do and that she will know God’s love through her daddy.
But a father cannot give birth.
He cannot participate in the most grand and elegant and deeply primal of all human experiences.
And I believe, too, that mothers on both sides of the adoption spectrum have this same capacity to know God in ways a man could never understand. Because a mom who carried a child for nine months and then handed him off to another woman? She knows true love. And a mom who opens her heart and her home to a child that her body did not produce- a mom who ached for the phone call that gave her this new life? She knows true love.
A mother’s capacity for sacrifice and fierce devotion is the closest this world can come to seeing the face of God. His love and truth are reflected in the labor room, in the late night tears, in the swift rush and deep still pools of a mother’s loving heart.
And for me, in this cold winter season of worry and angst over both of my children, as I prepare to welcome a son into my arms and pray for his safe arrival, I am understanding a tiny bit more of the heart of my Father. Because for Him, loving me has never been about pride. Or fear. Or worry. He has loved me and loved me and loved me in every way possible since before I was a pocket of cells multiplying inside my own mother. He has given up everything; he gave me the life of his beloved son; because he loves me. Simple as that. He created me. He labored over me. He loves me because I am me. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So, I will have my baby this week. I will pray he is bigger than we think, that he arrives safely, and that we know how to best care for him. I will be thankful for modern techonology, for a doctor who knows what he is doing and who loves the Lord and our family. I will be thankful for health insurance. I will be thankful for a warm home to raise my babies. I will be thankful for my strong body. I will be thankful for my beautiful son, for every second I have had with him already, and for all of the seconds that are yet to come.
I will be a mother. Every moment of every day, I will be a mother. Gladly. With fervor. With thanks. With humility. With one hand on my heart and one hand raised to heaven, I will rejoice to be a mother.