I woke up at 1:30 am, overcome by a wave of nausea, accompanied by several hours of consistent contractions.
This is it, I told myself.
I didn't panic that Nic was gone, that I was alone, that it felt uncomfortable. Instead I felt relieved by its arrival; those tight waves in my belly felt like the most long-awaited friend, and there was something about experiencing them alone in the quiet darkness, atop my freshly washed sheets that felt serene, primal.
While versions of this have been happening intermittently throughout the past two weeks, this time it felt different. I felt like I knew. I timed contractions for a bit, I peed too many times to count, I thought about future phone calls with the pediatrician in which they asked for my daughter's birthdate, in response to which I'd say, 7-27-19. Eventually I coerced myself back into a few stretches of semi-restless sleep, because if Melby's birth and the last two weeks have taught me anything, it is that, despite how exciting things may seem, sleep is of utmost importance.
I allowed myself into a relaxed wakeful time by 6 or so. Nic is flying, but passes through Charlotte twice today-- just a quick 1.5 hour flight home to Louisville from there. We chatted and I said I'd check in at both junctures. I didn't want him to preemptively miss any work, but more so do not want him to miss the birth of our second child. I texted my doula and friend, Erica, not to say anything concrete except, stand by... maybe. I took a shower and went so far as to dry my hair.
Eventually Melby did her morning calls for MOM! and JUICE! from the cracked door of her stuffy room and I went in and scooped her up with the arms of a woman about to gift her with a pristine baby sister. We laughed our usual morning laugh and she nestled her head into my neck, so full of love, and said it again, her whisper of morning adoration, "Juice."
And then, after 6+ hours, the contractions stopped.
Apparently this is normal. Everyone, everything tells me, it is normal.
And yet, as usual, my brain is full of worry, judgment, and doubt.
One of the things I've been grappling with the last few weeks is the belief, the fear that my body doesn't know how to do this. Before Melby was born, I cherished so vehemently the belief that one's body just does the exact right thing, just exactly when it's time. And then, in real life, everything went haywire, and now I'm left with this lingering feeling that maybe my body is just flawed somehow.
I don't believe that really. I don't. And yet it's hovering there, so easily reinforced by a labor that keeps starting but doesn't progress. It's there with all its ugly friends, who say unhelpful things to me about this whole experience.
I have decided, just now, to leave them all here. I am going to get them out, and then, who knows? Erase them. Burn them. Exorcise them.
Here they are:
I am afraid of Nic not being here. I am afraid in a way that has very little to do with logistics, with his body actually being present or not present at the birth, but in a way that his potential absence digs at some deep feeling of loneliness I carry around with me always, that no one is ever close enough, committed enough, loves me enough, thinks I am enough. I am afraid of seeming silly by calling him home too early, asking him not to go back to work for no reason. I am afraid of him not seeing the process and that having some hugely negative implication that I can't even begin to articulate but only exists as a phantom feeling of doom in my body.
I am afraid of the logistics. Afraid of figuring out the timing of when someone comes to be with Melby; I need it to be at the exact moment I need it. No sooner, no later. I don't want to labor with anyone else in the house except Nic, but I also don't want it to be time to leave and not be able to. I'm afraid of not having the right food for Melby, not having left all the information. I'm afraid she'll be asking for a bandaid or toothpaste or that particular lotion and no one will understand and she'll cry both because I'm not here and she's not getting what she wants and my heart will break from just imagining that. I'm afraid of buying too much food and having it go to waste, but also not enough and everyone not having what they need in my absence. I'm afraid of there being laundry in the laundry basket and dirty dishes in the sink. I'm afraid of waiting two more full weeks and losing my goddamn mind.
I'm afraid it will be awful again. I'm afraid my midwife won't be there. I'm afraid I'll be exhausted and unable to own the moment. I'm afraid of how tired and crabby I already am without a newborn to take care of. I'm afraid I won't seem powerful. I'm afraid I will give into fear. I'm afraid my body has no idea how to have a baby. I'm afraid I'll succumb to some preemptive intervention, because I'm tired of waiting and that will throw things off their natural course, create even more problems. I'm afraid of Nic looking at me and thinking I'm weak; I'm afraid of how much I want to impress him in this experience-- I want to seem fierce and clear and capable, so we can both heal from last time.
I'm afraid of looking at myself and thinking I'm weak, not because I think I actually am, but because I've chosen to give in to fear as a way to live my life. I'm afraid this experience is a glaring microcosm of the misery I've chosen as a lifestyle-- one of doubt, of fear, of negative self-talk, of the self-fulfilling unhappiness of all those things. I'm afraid to let go and be something different. I'm afraid of what happens when I give up the narrative of not liking myself, of being "crazy," of suffering. I'm afraid of suffering and I'm afraid of not suffering. I'm afraid of it all being my fault.
I'm afraid of it all being my fault.
That I am miserable right now, because I have a seemingly legitimate excuse to be miserable, and I am diving into it, swimming around in the gory resplendence of an almost universally-accepted reason to complain and stress and drink up attention. I'm afraid of how terribly personal I've made all of this.
So now. Take that. Burn it. Rip it up. Incinerate it. For the love of God, MOVE ON.
Because it all might be true, it all might be valid, it all might make sense, but it is getting. me. nowhere. It is definitely not getting this baby out of me.
Which leads me to something I've been thinking a lot about lately. As I've been calling it: the unquantifiables. And by that I mean, I've been thinking about the things we can't list on paper. The things to take into account when everything might seem right, but still it's not right-- you might find the house with every feature and square inch of space you asked for, but it doesn't feel like home. You might choose the job with the most money and prestige and best schedule and benefits, but it doesn't fill your soul. You might find a potential partner who checks every box you could have imagined, but still you don't feel drawn to them.
There are things to be accounted for that we can't often actually count or name. It's come up in many conversations lately. I feel like I'm at this point of trying to button down my life, somehow. Tally it up, see if I've hit all the marks, if I'm doing well. Do we have enough money? Own enough things? Have the right titles? Weigh the right number of pounds? Lift the right amount of weight? Can I check a bunch of boxes to say I'm doing well, I'm happy, my kid is healthy, my relationship is good?
And the answers to all of those questions differ, but also, the answers don't matter at all. It's not something that can be charted. Because the real assessment, at the end of the day, is all my own. It's how I feel about it all while it's happening that matters; it's how engaged I am, how present, how comfortable, how joyful, how at ease. It's a lot of things I can't quite put a mark next to, take a picture of, or write on a list.
Which is a very long way to say: part of me believes I am also not having this baby yet, because I have a shit attitude. Because I am wallowing in those aforementioned fears and anxieties, because things start happening and then I flood that happening with anxiety and fretting and fear, instead of just letting it flow, and I'll be damned if this little girl wants to come into the world that way.
So let me challenge my own ugliest self for a moment and assert what I actually believe to be true, what I feel at my core, when I strip away all the drama:
She will come when she comes. She will come how she comes. Everything will be fine-- regardless of the logistics-- because at the point of its eventual unfolding, it will be whatever it is and the only option is to move through whatever circumstances present themselves.
While I am indeed carrying this baby, doing the work, I did not create the cycle of life. I did not create the rules of science that lead to conception, I did not imbue that creation with the magic of all of those unquantifiables-- attitude, energy, intention-- that eventually lead to the actual implantation of a baby. I am not the creator. I am not in charge. I was not in charge of the moment this baby came to be inside me, nor am I am in charge of the moment she joins us in the outside world. I am a channel of expression, a vehicle for perpetuating life and love, but I am not the boss of it.
I am not a victim. I am not in suffering. How many times I have looked back and realized the thing I resisted, often most vehemently, the thing that I fought like it was attacking me-- in this instance, waiting, not knowing-- was just the exact thing I needed, that it had its place, that it couldn't have been more perfectly planned, and, indeed, it wasn't. At least, not by me.
When we tried to get pregnant the first time, it took a handful of months. It is surely sacrilege, borderline painfully offensive to suggest that that small amount of time was difficult for me. I know many families suffer through so dramatically much more to conceive. And yet, it was still hard-- the waiting.And then, after however many months of waiting, plus however many months of growing, our Melby arrived. And every single day of her life, I have understood that whatever waiting, whatever exact movements, both in terms of conception and literally every other moment of my life, were right because they resulted in her. I waited for that girl; I moved here to create that girl, every single second of existence has been the right thing because she is my daughter. Nothing has ever felt more crystalline to me. Her cherubic face, her wispy hair, her defiant tone, her silly attitude, her engaged mind, her always remembering, her head in the crook of my shoulder: everything about her is so right that I am reminded, I am not in charge. I could never plan such a divine unfolding.
This isn't a religious statement necessarily. It can mean whatever you want. It just means: I relent.
I don't have to fill everything with meaning. I don't have to try to guess about the implications of small moments in a tremendously far-reaching orchestra of existence. Each pang doesn't mean labor. Each moment of comfort doesn't mean "nothing" is happening. I am too small to see the bigger picture; I just have to remember that it's there. And trust it.
I need to trust it.
My job is this: to make space, to welcome change, to accept the unknown portions of the unfolding. That's my unquantifiable.
Whenever I get wound up so tightly, I feel like I work through all this mentally and at the end of it, the message I need to give myself is: I AM NOT GOD. Whatever that means to you, personally, I think the message is clear. I am not the master of the universe, I am not science, I am not nature, I am not in control of every moment and system and chain of events. My job is to relax my body, breathe into it, and get out of the way.
She will come.
My baby girl will come.
Baby girl, I have spent so much time worrying and trying to control that I've spent very little imagining you, loving you, welcoming you. We are so excited for our second girl, for a sister, for a whole new person we will not insist is one thing or another, but just allow to be. We are excited to have you be a part of our family. We are excited to hold you, to love you, to make space for you. We are excited to see your eyes for the first time, touch your skin for the first time, to introduce you to our world. But I will stop trying to rush it.
I trust that you will come when you're ready. I trust in a much bigger picture than I could ever imagine. I trust in your safety, my own, the evolution of things, the process, our love, the rightness of things. I promise to stop talking about it any other way.
I trust our place in things. I trust us.
See you soon, little girl.