Today I am 41 weeks pregnant. I took this photo a couple days ago because my belly has gotten so big that I feel just plain silly. To pass the time, I enjoy walking through shopping malls and giving sales women heart attacks when I tell them I was due a week ago. Most of them step away from me as if I might drop a baby on the store floor, and many of them ask, “Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”
Until yesterday I took the waiting in relative stride. However, I went to the doctor yesterday morning and learned that I am not even dilated 2cm. We began the discussion of when to induce, and if the baby doesn’t come on his own I am scheduled for an August 30th induction.
Now all of this is pretty standard protocol. Most doctors won’t let you carry more than 2 weeks beyond your due date, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by the conversation. Plus, the baby is healthy (fluid levels are normal, heart beat is strong!) so there is no immediate cause for concern. However my lack of dilation and the prospect of a mandatory induction really shook me up.
You see, Ike and I prepared for a particular kind of birth. We enrolled in a 10 week class and equipped ourselves with a LOT of information. We’ve spent the last couple months educating ourselves about the birth process, learning what questions to ask, how to advocate for ourselves in the hospital, and the pros and cons of various interventions. Although our birth plan was pretty flexible, we still had some basic expectations about how it all would go.
On top of that preparation, I have been doing EVERYTHING I can to induce this baby naturally. I go on two walks a day, practice my daily squats, ingest copious amounts of red raspberry leaf tea, and see a chiropractor regularly, among other things.
In short, I have done everything right. I’ve eaten healthy, exercised, and educated myself.
But in spite of all that, my body is not cooperating. In spite of all my preparations, I have been unable to make my body go into labor naturally.
With that backdrop in mind, yesterday’s meeting with the doctor has forced me to shift my expectations radically. And I didn’t take it well. I don’t know why I became so emotional about it, but following the appointment I wandered into Land of Nod to buy some crib sheets, and wound up crying with 3 women in the store. I felt out of control, I felt vulnerable, and I felt frustrated.
Although the waiting, has been difficult, that has not been the hardest part for me. For me, the hardest part has been the loss of control. I had expected to labor naturally for as long as possible. I do not want to be induced, and I do not want a C-section. And while those desires might still be met, yesterday I was confronted with the reality that they might not. When dealing with something as personal as your own body, and as urgent as your own child, that loss of control can feel overwhelming.
As I have processed this information, I have come to realize that God is teaching me 3 key things. I won’t pretend to have these down yet, but here is what I suspect God is up to right now:
1. God calls us only to prepare well.
After my doctor’s appointment I was thinking about all the hard work I had put into preparing for a natural labor, hard work that might very well go to waste. As I processed this reality, the strangest verse popped into my head:
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.” – Proverbs 21:31
At face value, this verse has nothing to do with labor and delivery. However the underlying principle behind it has implications for so many aspects of our lives.
In this particular instance, I did everything I could to prepare for this baby’s arrival. I was a good steward of the time and resources given me. Even so, the labor and delivery process is in God’s hands. I can prepare, yes, but it is up to God whether this baby is healthy. It is up to God how my body will respond to labor. I can’t control the “success” of my birth or even my child. I can only prepare well, and I suspect that is a lesson I will need to carry with me into parenthood. There is only so much I can, and am called, to do.
Which leads me to the second lesson…
2. Control is an illusion.
One of the tricky things about our birthing class, and the available information about childbirth in general, is that it can create an illusion of control. In an excellent article for Her.meneutics titled Bowing Down to the Birthing Ball: Dismantling the Idol of the Perfect Birth, the author confronted how thoroughly women have come to idolize a particular birthing experience, believing they can achieve/comtrol it themselves. I thought I wasn’t an idolater of this sort, but yesterday revealed that I was.
Again, it’s not that we shouldn’t educate ourselves, prepare with diligence, and steward the knowledge and resources we have. However, we should not mistake preparation for manipulation. Our efforts are not like puppet strings directing the hands of God. Stewardship and wisdom do not grant us a control that only God has. I am learning to make peace with that truth.
3. Waiting is a spiritual discipline.
Although the waiting has been tough at times, God has used this time to teach me about more than impatience. As Christians we are a waiting people. We are waiting for the return of our Savior, but it is easy to forget that we live in such an in-between state. Instead we settle here on earth, we get comfortable, and we forget that this world is not our home.
However waiting for this baby has reminded me that waiting is not a passive activity. Part of waiting is preparing, a lesson we learn from Scriptural passages such as the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25). In the same way that I have spent the last 9 months anxiously getting ready for this little boy, Christians are to prepare for Christ’s return with the same amount of anticipation and preparation. In this way, God has used this time to teach me HOW to wait for Him.
Those are just the three of the many things God has been teaching me. I still hope our son will come naturally and I would appreciate your prayers for that, but I am letting go of any control I mistakenly thought I had over this situation. This labor and this baby are in His hands, and I want to rest in that. I would appreciate prayers for that peace as well.