"...Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:24b-25

28 March 2012

38 Weeks

I cried today over the thought of delivering the baby.  
I wept bitter tears.
I sobbed for so long and so hard that I ended up with a rather large headache.

Am I scared? Am I dreading the delivery process and the pain? Are those the reasons I cried?  The answer is, No.

I cried today over the thought of delivering the baby because it seems like she only just began existing.  I feel that I haven't had nearly enough time with her...with DH and me both enjoying the pregnancy, together.

I hear that most pregnant women, by the time they reach their 38th week, are beyond ready to get the baby out of them.  So much so that they grumble and complain and do silly things to try to get labor started.

I, on the other hand, am wanting to extend the pregnancy as long as possible...not yet ready to sever this connection I have with the life that is growing inside of me.

I am looking forward to meeting her and to seeing what she looks like and discovering all the amazing things about her that I can when she's here...but (God willing), there will be plenty of time for that after she arrives.  However, once she is born, there will be no talking to my belly, no mystery of what's going on inside of me, no feeling little kicks, squirms, wiggles, and hiccups.

I told DH all of this as he supported me in my less than rational state of mind.  And then I said, "She's safe inside of me.  Once she's born, she's not safe."  And that's part of it.  Granted, a lot can go wrong on the inside just as it can on the outside, and her being in me doesn't keep her any safer than she would be outside of me.  But there's that sense that right now she's protected.  She's protected from my mood swings, from temperature changes, from hunger, from diaper rash, from the cat's curiosity...  

And in a way, I'm protected, too.  I don't yet have to be "super-mom."  Sure, right now I have to take care of my body, but I do that anyway.  Once she's born, I have to be available in ways I'm not accustomed to.  "But didn't you realize that when you embarked on this journey toward parenthood?  Didn't you consider the cost?" you may ask.  Of course I did!  None of the things we've been preparing for are surprises to us.  We have diapers and wipes and an entire array of baby things we will need to meet the needs of this little girl once she makes her appearance.  We recognized almost a decade ago the challenges that come with parenthood.  We counted the cost and are still more than willing to meet those challenges head on.

But today, as I complete the last day of my 38th week, as my hormones fluctuate in preparation for labor, I realized how fleeting these 38 weeks have been.  I look forward to seeing our daughter face to face.  To cuddling her, nuzzling her, caring for her, hearing her precious newborn cry...

But as much as I want to meet her and see her in my husband's arms, I'd be okay with her hanging out inside of me just a little bit longer.

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Lynn Photography

27 March 2012

What Is Normal, Anyway?

* This post was written roughly a week before it was posted, when I just completed 37 weeks.

It's as if I tried to live like everything's normal.
We have contenders for names, but haven't really chosen one or made great efforts toward choosing one.
I haven't yet packed a bag for the Birth Center.
We haven't focused on reading books to learn about parenting or even pregnancy and childbirth for that matter.
I didn't maintain my exercise routine like I imagined I would.
I haven't made many physical preparations for natural delivery as I originally expected and planned to do.
I haven't knit one single stitch for the baby.  Not one.  I always imagined that the minute I learned I was pregnant I would pick up my knitting needles and not put them down until I had completed a layette, a stuffed animal, booties, a hat, and a blanket for the baby.
Instead, I picked up the TV remote, slept a ton, or went out of the house as a distraction.

I have spent most of this pregnancy distracting myself from the abnormal...even while the abnormal is a type of normal for our family.

We decided to pursue IVF just before we moved into a house that was damaged by our previous tenants.  We scrambled to restore a sense of order to it while DH was away in California for a month of training and prior to him leaving for Iraq. 

He left for Iraq just after we learned the IVF was unsuccessful and we had lost and were grieving the loss of 14 of 15 embryos.  We count them in our hearts as 14 children we have yet to meet.

DH deployed and a few days later I started another round of hormones for the Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).

A few weeks after the deployment began, we had the procedure to transfer our one frozen embryo into my uterus. DH was there via Skype.

DH and I learned we were pregnant "together" over the Internet...a new kind of "normal" for us.

I went through cravings, morning sickness, mood swings, and physical changes in my own house, by myself, without my support system/partner/best friend/husband.

I often forgot I was pregnant when I was at home because DH wasn't there to remind me by making sweet comments that expectant fathers make to their wives.  Even after I started showing and could feel the baby move, I would forget for large portions of the day that I was pregnant because it wasn't part of what was "normal" in my world.

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Lynn Photography
Only when the baby moved or when someone outside of the house commented on my appearance would I remember I was pregnant.  I didn't have a husband doting on me at home, putting his face to my belly and talking to the life growing inside of me.  Our baby didn't really hear her father's voice until well into the 8th month of pregnancy.

My battle buddy, the cat DH and I had learned to love in spite of all of it's awful habits and personality traits...the cat God had used to test our metal, to strengthen our resolve, and to prove our dedication, commitment, and loyalty...the cat that had provoked me to cuss on a regular basis but over which would rise up in me a fiercely loyal defensiveness if anyone spoke an ill word against it...the cat family members insisted we get rid of if we were to have children...the cat that we had FINALLY rehabilitated, FINALLY convinced it was safe and not in danger in the world, that could FINALLY be around children and behave almost as a normal cat...this cat we had poured our time, love, and money into for seven and a half years...died.

Normal was slipping even further away.

I became ill with what felt like, looked like, and yet wasn't the Flu.  There was no one there to bring me water when I needed a drink.  No one to bring me something to eat, much less prepare it.  I ran fever for six days, by myself, in my room, yet I still had the other cat to take care of.

I seldom get sick.  When I do, DH is usually there to care for me.  It's also usually normal for me to let my fever run its course and for me to sleep as long as I need to without worrying about eating.  With the baby on board, I HAD to eat and I NEEDED to keep the fever down.  But, because the baby was on board, a simple cold that wouldn't have phased me normally, knocked me on my rear and had me bedridden for days.  I praise God for my mom who was able to go out of her way to stop by my house twice during that time to bring me medicine and to do what she could to set up my room where I would have to get up as little as possible. 

For once, the baby was constantly on my mind as I feared I wasn't staying cool enough with my temperature spiking so frequently, and I feared I was starving the poor child as I was unable to prepare much to eat or even stomach much of anything.  

Normal was the farthest thing from my world at that time.

I recovered physically and then the holidays came.  Not only was DH not here for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, but my hormones were changing as I settled into a new trimester, my body was expanding as the baby grew, and I foolishly planned to spend every free moment of the holidays with family...first with DH's, and then with my own.  I don't even do that when DH is here to help me keep perspective.  I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea in his absence.  Normal was non-existent.

The holidays were an emotional disaster for me personally and there were several casualties of my internal war who were deeply affected.  While I've recognized, repented, and done what I could to set things right again following the aftermath, there is still healing that will have to occur before any real sense of normal can be reestablished with some who were involved.  On a positive note, my relationship with my mother is stronger than it's ever been before and I'm excited for her to be involved with us as the baby arrives.  But there were deep wounds elsewhere that will require more than time for healing.

At some point in the midst of all of this, DH's unit said they were coming home.  Then they weren't.  Then they were, then they weren't again.  Meanwhile, my support group at church had the other unit's wives in it, rejoicing when I was sad and sad when I wanted to rejoice, as their husbands' unit was the counter-tug in our tug-of-war of who gets to come home and who has to stay.  When one woman whose husband is enlisted brought up the accusation that I couldn't understand something because my husband is an officer, I had to quit going to the group.  I had enough in my life working against me negatively to subject myself to such accusations and lack of support in the very place I was seeking support.

DH's unit was finally chosen to stay and I was finally able to rest in knowing when he would return.  There were some good days, but I was tired a lot and found it difficult to eat.  I learned I wasn't getting enough protein, so I found a new resolve to get more creative and was able to remedy the situation.  It's difficult to have the motivation to prepare ample, healthy food for just myself, especially when I'm already lacking energy.  Had DH been home, cooking would have seemed more necessary, and would have been easier because he would have helped either pick up groceries or taken care of the dishes...most likely both.  As it was, it was easier for me to eat the bare minimum after my pot of stew for the week ran out when I didn't even have the energy to clean the now-empty pot.

Word came that DH was coming home early and that we would be in another town for a couple of months just as the baby was due.  Hello, Normal!

I scrambled to get things in order, attended a birth class (sans husband) meanwhile dealing with the aforementioned aftermath of the holidays.  During this time, I learned of some very difficult news involving two of our closest friends.  DH and I were floored and longed to be there for them in any way possible, yet we were extremely limited in our options.  Fasting (from media, not from food) and prayer became the new normal for me.

Meanwhile, as my heart was aching for these dear friends, my life was suddenly a whirl of baby showers and last minute repairs and preparations on the house.  I attempted to get the nursery as ready as possible and make the house feel as put-together as possible, even though there was still much to do to restore what the renters had ruined.

Finally, DH was due to arrive!  Yet even that had its drama, requiring me to reschedule plans with the hotel at least three times.  And while I had trepidations of what it might be like for my husband to see me for the first time in 8 months and for us to be "reunited" (ahem) for the first time since becoming pregnant, at the 8th month mark, I didn't allow those concerns to overshadow his homecoming.  I looked forward to finally regaining a sense of normal.

But, as any good military wife knows, so much changes over a deployment.  Obviously my body had changed.  But the REASON behind my body's changes was going to be the biggest adjustment.
I was excited to have him home and couldn't wait for him to talk to the baby and help me feel pregnant, help me feel like being pregnant was normal.  Neither of us had had any idea how strangely difficult it would be to overcome seven and a half years of thinking of ourselves as incapable of being pregnant.  While embracing the fact that we were pregnant was not at all difficult, embracing the pregnancy and all that it involves as something WE were privileged to experience was beyond surreal and far, far from normal.
Copyright 2012 Rebekah Lynn Photography
So, here we are...in an RV my parents so graciously allowed us to borrow so our cat could stay with us, in a town three hours from my nurse-midwife and the hospital I originally expected to deliver at, three weeks a way from the 40 week mark, completely unprepared for what is to come.  As my friends who were due the same time as I am either have already given birth (prematurely) or are experiencing symptoms of labor, I am keenly aware of how much preparation for DH and me there is still to be done.  We have contingency plans in case our ideal plan of delivery doesn't pan out, and the baby will have all she needs when she arrives...but this is not where or how I imagined I would be at the nearing of our first child's arrival.

For me, it seems, "normal" is the lack of normalcy.  And trying to cling to my idea of normal only muddies the water and delays preparation for what is to come.

I am thankful to be expecting this child.
I am thankful DH is here to talk to her, to lead, support, and encourage me, and to physically represent God's continued faithfulness and steadfastness in my life.
Neither of us really knows what we will do when the time to birth this baby comes, but that's pretty much standard operation for our lives.  The plans we have set in advance often fall by the wayside and we usually have to adjust at the last minute to the way things actually pan out.  We are planning to prepare better for the delivery, in what little time we have remaining...at the very least, I will finally pack a bag ;-)  
But I've been reminded over these last nine months that, while normal is in no way overrated, it is not something that is always beneficial to cling to.  Part of why I love the life of being in the military, why I love marriage, and why I longed to experience pregnancy is because of the adventure of it all.  
"Normal" tames adventure, and let me tell you, this year has been one wild ride!
Copyright 2012 Rebekah Lynn Photography