Tuesday, February 26, 2013

31 and Counting

Not my age--Weeks of pregnancy of course! ;)
3 weeks of the third trimester down and a few more to go. I've noticed subtle differences throughout my pregnancy between carrying Abi Kate and carrying Abram, and I'm afraid I'm going to forget them if I don't write them down... I've always heard that repeat pregnancies have a tendency to be more trying, particularly if they happen within two years of each other. I definitely don't think that's a hard or fast rule, but it has applied to me more often than not these last 7 months. I don't really think there's such a thing as an "easy" pregnancy. It's just not easy to develop and grow another human being. But in saying that, with the exception of our miscarriage, my pregnancies have been very uncomplicated. They are not easy, but they're also low-risk and very healthy-- fair trade off.

A few days into my third trimester, I started feeling pretty confident that yes, I had escaped the return of sickness....by midweek, my boy reminded me that I would not be escaping it for long. ;) When I was pregnant with Abi Kate, I was very sick in my first trimester. It tapered off around 16 weeks and just came occasionally (usually once or twice a week) during my second trimester. It returned with my third trimester, though not as intensely. Abram's pregnancy followed the same pattern, except more extreme. I was sick from 3 weeks pregnant with him until 20 something weeks. Very sick. Almost around the clock sick. There were times in those first 15 weeks that I wondered if I was toeing the line of hypermesis. It slowed down significantly around month 6, with mostly just nausea in the morning and sick a few times a week. However, I didn't get sick at all from weeks 26-28 (minus the stomach virus- seriously?! How fair was that?), and so I blissfully thought I was going to ride smoothly on into my final weeks of pregnancy. Just kidding. ;) It's still nothing like those first several months of sickness, so I'll take it.

 I remember around week 30 with Abi Kate telling Tommy that I was so unconnected to what was going on in my body, which was a bit unsettling for me. I've always felt ridiculously aware of my body's natural rhythms, what's going on with it and what isn't going on it whether I'm pregnant or not... but the third trimester really challenged that for me as my body prepared for labor and delivery. This time, I don't really have that same sense. I've done this before, so I usually know what's going on. I can tell relaxin is doing its job already (and I'm pretty sure my chiropractor can tell as well!). I can tell that my boy is growing hard and fast as my body and my physical abilities slow down. I really have to fight discouragement hard from that, but my head knows it's just an outward sign of what's going on inside my body-- and that is a very good thing. And my uterus has been reminding me for weeks that it remembers what to do when inhabited by a baby-- thanks, sister. No need to jump the gun on that one. ;)  I did a lot of contracting with Abi Kate in the weeks prior to labor so this is not a new sensation for me, but the intensity in progressive pregnancies has made me stop-- literally-- and say whew- again literally ;) Basically, everything has just happened faster and quite a bit earlier and sometimes a bit more extreme than it did in my pregnancy with Abi Kate. I anticipated the majority of that in my head, but my body is still usually shocked by the difference.

I carried Abi Kate down low and out front. I've carried Abram similarly, though shockingly enough, even lower. I feel sure that once I'm in labor and complete, he's just going to tumble out (wishful thinking, huh?!) His positioning and the fact that this is a repeat pregnancy have brought with it some new sensations that totally freaked me out when they first started happening-- like "OMG. There is so much pressure that if I stand up he IS going to fall out..." Thank goodness for great health care providers who know what's normal and who listen and encourage.

I get a little tickled by their differences in utero though and while I could be 100% wrong, I do feel it's the earliest indicators of personality. Abi Kate was so busy in the womb. She moved a lot and she was pretty fierce with her movements. If you pushed on her, she'd push right back. This is SO very much how she is outside the womb, too. She rarely sits still, takes curiosity to levels I could never have imagined. She's incredibly opinionated and bold in her emotions. And while I'm not usually a fan of stereotypes, she's definitely got the "red head" stereotypes down to an art form. When I carried her, I felt like she was going to be very sweet but very savory... and she is. Abram is her opposite. He does move more often now (though nothing compared to her) but rarely are his movements hard. If you push on him, he just gets still and relaxes. He's just more laid back, and I feel like that's how he is going to be on the outside as well. I'm certain he'll have baby and toddler moments like every kid does, but it's just the sense I get from him overall. Time will tell...
Abi Kate found our old fetal heart tone amplifier, and she runs up to me every day and says "I want hear Abram's heartbeat". Precious. (Please forgive the background-- that room was being emptied that day!)

I can feel the pull of myself switching gears this week, as the sense to begin preparing for his birth has moved to the forefront of my mind and my heart. I got out our Alpha Childbirth workbook so Tommy and I can review some things together in the coming weeks. I've been setting up my Itunes with the spiritual and scriptural affirmations to ready my heart. This is one area that's the same and yet different altogether once again. I remember anticipating the pain of labor, the process, all of it when I was pregnant with Abi Kate. I remember feeling fearful if I would have what it takes to make it through from beginning to end, what would unfold, how my body would respond and how her body would respond. This time, I know in general what to expect. I know how contractions feel inside my body. I know how to make it through them, one by one. I know the importance and support that will come from my birth team--they were hand picked for that moment when I hit the inevitable wall, the one that will make me say, "I can't do this anymore."  I don't have the same fear of the unknown anymore. I don't have the same amount of  concern of "can I do this at all, can I handle the pain". I've done it before and I will do it again. But I do know how hard those hours will be. I've thought in the last few days, "Are you sure you can do it again?" I remember well the pain and the surrender that has to come. And then I remember that the question of if I can do it, is all about me and the answers come...

One of the things that I treasure so much about birth is the preparation for it. Tommy and I were very selective in our choice for childbirth classes several years ago. I'd looked into several different types, the "big" ones that most people recognize by name. But all of them were missing the biblical aspect. Different methods work for different people but I just couldn't sync myself up with most of them until we found Alpha. Because the truth is, I don't believe in the power of suggestion. I don't need to retrain my mind for birth, I need to retrain my heart. I don't need a birth coach telling me what to do(not even my husband as fabulous in labor as he is) , I need the author and designer of birth guiding my spirit. I don't need to follow a set breathing method to make each contraction bearable, I need to rest in the promises of the one who has made a way for me already. I don't need human created phrases and sayings to empower me, I need the genuine power of God-breathed scripture. And I don't need to trust that my body is capable and strong because I'm a woman, I need to trust that my body is able because of Christ. And that... all of that... it takes preparation. It's like preparing for Easter with Lent, preparing for Christmas with Advent. And that's where I'm at right now. Yes, readying my mind with basic reminders and logistics and refreshing Tommy's memory as well, but really  readying my heart and my spirit for the task at hand.

I've often heard it said by people out in society, "Why does birth even matter? It's just the one day. It's the other days that matter." And in a culture that spends more time researching the type of television they're going to buy than how they're going to prepare to meet their child for the first time, I can't say it's that surprising of a response.  I always think about my grandmothers as to why it matters.... they may not remember what they did last week. But you know what they do remember with vivid detail and emotion 6 decades later? The day they met their babies. The way they were made to feel by the circumstances and the people surrounding it. And some of it is not so lovely. So the simplest answer for me is that yes, it does matter. It matters to me the way that I feel when I meet my babies for the first time. It matters to me that the people supporting me understand that this is not just a physical journey but a spiritual one as well.  It matters to me.... in infinite proportions. Just like parenting matters to me- it's my first day of parenting, and that one day with that one child, when I look into their eyes for the first time, it is never repeated. So for me, it matters-- a lot.    

And it matters because it is a sanctifying process and often a redemptive process, particularly when Christ is welcomed into the experience. It doesn't look the same way for everyone, nor would I assume that it would-- we are all different, with different bodies and different needs and different spirits. The place and the actual way a baby arrives, is not key.  But for the believer, birth (however it takes place) is simply faith in action. The same way that we take our faith and apply it to the workplace or to school or to difficult situation-- this is really no different. And just like surrender happens in our hearts at the precipice of decision and difficulty, surrender happens in birth too-- and when it does, the Spirit is active, so active. It is why I like labor and delivery, and why I look forward to Abram's. It isn't because the pain feels wonderful. It is pain and pain hurts. And it is the type of pain that doesn't matter what your pain tolerance level is at all- that just has nothing to do with it.  When I say giving birth to Abi Kate was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I mean it. It challenged every physical marker, every emotional and mental wall, and every spiritual stronghold I held in my life. And when all of that was laid down-- because it did have to be laid down-- the pain was met with peace, the sin of control was met with the grace of surrender, and the most natural process in the world, the one that happens with or without or say, became supernatural instead. This is why I'm readying my heart now, because I know myself. I know my desire to control. I know my hunger to dictate the circumstance. I know my heart is prone to wander, and I know it is hard to spiritually rest in the midst of physical pain. But if I want to be met by the Savior, if I want those moments to be filled with worship instead of filled with myself, and if I want to be taught and restored, then I have to prepare for that. My heart just doesn't naturally fall in line with those things.  

In her book Redeeming Childbirth, Angie Tolpin says it so beautifully and simply--
"It is not where the baby is born that marks a birth as redeemed. It is the act of surrendering our agendas to The Lord, seeking His will for our childbirth, and then experiencing His presence working in us, through us, and around us that makes it a redemptive milestone in one’s life.”

I love that because it's simple truth. It's not about specifics. It's about the intent and surrender of the heart.

We got to meet with our midwife yesterday and hear our little guy (who was not posterior!-- he might be the compliant child) ;) I don't care how many pregnancies I have and how far into them I am, the sound of their heart beating is incredible to me.. every single time. I can't ever just stop myself from laying there and smiling while she finds him. He/I measured exactly 31 weeks. It was such a blessing to speak honestly with her about my uncertainties and concerns and to not be rushed or discouraged. It's so important to have a care provider who just gets it.... and she does.

And it is indeed a super crappy picture, but here's a picture Em (and only  4 days later haha)
If you know much about positioning, you can tell from the lumps and bumps of my stomach how he's laying in this picture. So neat ;)  And the next thing I do will be to clean the mirror and make sure I don't leave streaks this time :/

He is growing :)

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