Last week I had a pregnancy scare following our doctor’s appointment. The appointment itself went perfectly fine since everything is as it should be–healthy weight gain, healthy belly growth, and healthy pee!
However, during the appointment my doctor instructed me to begin counting our son’s kicks. If time has passed without movement, she told me to eat something or drink some juice to see if it stimulates him. If I don’t feel him move 10 times in an hour or two, then I need to call her.
I don’t know why, but her words really got into my head. After we left, I began scrutinizing the baby’s movements constantly. Later that night, when he didn’t seem to be moving as much as usual, I became really nervous. I ate some chocolate and a little caffeine to see if that would wake him up, but he didn’t respond the way I thought he should. It’s not that he wasn’t moving at all, but he wasn’t moving as much as I thought he should be. After all, the doctor said to watch out for decreased movement–whatever that means!
I went to bed that night extremely anxious. I didn’t sleep well at all. I woke up every hour or so to check on his movement, and while I did feel a shift or a roll here and there, none of it eased my fears. I never thought it was enough movement.
By the next morning I was in a full-on panic. Many mornings the baby wakes me up with his own stirring, but he still wasn’t moving much. I told Ike I thought I should call the doctor but he encouraged me to eat something first. He wondered if the doctor’s appointment the morning before had psyched me out, and that I should wait a bit longer. Of course, my internal response to him was, “Wait longer? YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!!!!!” Fortunately I didn’t say that, and instead I ate my breakfast.
About 30 minutes later, the baby began to wake up and wiggle and move around. Gradually my fears subsided.
The whole experience had me so exhausted that I hit an emotional and physical wall in class later that morning. I was so tired and so worn down from the worry that I had to excuse myself. My professor understood because, apparently, I “didn’t look very good at all.” (Ha! Gotta love it when you look so bad that your teacher notices!)
There is a lot of fear in pregnancy. Mothers-to-be are bombarded with information that communicates the illusion of control, but in many ways it only makes me feel more helpless. There is so much that is out of my control, so the extra knowledge about when and if something is wrong only gives me more to worry about without a tangible outlet to address those worries.
As I’ve written before, surrendering control to God has been a persistent lesson throughout my pregnancy. However, last week’s experience taught me a second lesson as well: gratitude.
I am currently in the uncomfortable phase of pregnancy. Because I am short-waisted the baby has very little room to grow so he is now pushing up on my ribs and lungs all the time. It makes it very difficult to breathe and sit down for any lengthy period of time. The right under-side of my ribs feel sore almost all the time. In fact, I’m pretty sure he just stands on them, occasionally tap-dancing on them. And with all these aches and pains, it’s easy to wish those discomforts away.
However the scare I experienced last week has instilled me with a new gratitude for the pain. I am glad for the discomfort of punches to my bladder, or kicks so hard that they literally take my breath away, because it means that he is alive and doing well. When faced with the alternative, I will take the pain ANY DAY.
The pain I feel during pregnancy is a productive pain. It is the sign of new life and growth. It means that something good and beautiful is happening within me. And the more I’ve reflected on that truth, the more I’ve realized that pain can serve a similar purpose in the spiritual life as well. Although pain is not something we should seek after, it can be a sign of pruning, of personal growth, and of God at work.
As God makes each one of us into new creations, there are sure to be growing pains. So I have found myself asking whether I will ever be able to welcome pain in my life the way I have rejoiced over the pains of this pregnancy. I don’t know the answer to that because it’s easier said than done, but I hope one day I can. There is so much hope, and even joy, in pain that we know to be productive.