Mama Bear

We hear her little coos from the monitor, her way of soothing herself to sleep at night. At seven months old we’re teaching her to sleep independently, and she’s done so great. It’s as if she’s saying, “Yes, mommy, I like peace and quiet, too.”

My husband and I smile when we hear her. I’ve got a glass of red, he’s got March Madness.

“Do you ever think about her dying?” I ask. She’s not sick. She doesn’t have cancer or one of the eleventy billion genetic disorders you learn about during pregnancy. She hasn’t even had a cold yet. So I’m trying to gauge if this is my post-partum anxiety speaking or if it’s just part of being a parent.

“Yes, actually, I do,” he replies.

Oh. So it’s the latter.

****

Everyone warns you about the worry that comes with being a parent. You worry about them falling, about them sticking their finger in a light socket (what is a light socket, even?), about them getting their feelings hurt by Sassy Sally in the second grade.

But no one tells you about the quiet moments where you’re studying their little features: the way the tips of her fingers are redder than the rest of her hand, the way she scrunches her nose when she smiles, the way her belly button looks like an upside-down smiley face—no one tells you that when you’re studying them, you’re begging for them to imprint in your memory in case one day they’re gone. Really gone.

It’s too hard to talk about these things, these fears. We talk about our babies growing up, “Oh these sweet little toes won’t be around forever because you’re going to grow up and be a big girl with big toes!” But in those quiet moments, studying their features, we’re begging God to let them grow up. To keep them safe. To not let them die.

****

I start crying. My husband mutes the TV. I’m overwhelmed by the fear of my losing my baby. He grabs my hand, “She’s not ours, you know. She never was, and she never will be.”

I know what he’s talking about. She’s God’s child. We have no ownership over her. We only have the distinct honor and privilege of being her parents here on earth. “We just have to be grateful for the time we have with her until she’s gone, or hopefully, until we’re gone. God has a purpose for her life here until she’s back home with Him.”

No one warns you about these conversations. No one prepares you for the anger you have at this truth, that they’re not really yours and that one day she will go home to her Father. You can only protect them from so much, Mama Bear.

****

I think about how brave she’s been in these first seven months of her life. The trauma of being born, the shots, the painful reflux, the learning about the world and that mommy and daddy willcomebackwepromise! How stinking resilient she is, how resilient all children are. And I think about how very not brave I’ve been. How very scared. How very not resilient.

It’s so backwards, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be armed with resiliency as adults? I’d love a big glass of toughness with a side of quick-to-recover and roll-with-the-punches when I sit here thinking about my baby girl dying and what that would be like.

I sit with these fears and try and plan for how I can prevent them. The measures I can take to protect my children from the destructive hands of death. The food I feed, the car seats I choose, the cribs, the safe sleep, the germs, the watchful eye, the GPS.

But she’s not immune, and I can only do so much. And that’s scary. It just is. There aren’t words to soothe that fear, there aren’t classes I can take or books I can read. But I must remind myself: it’s okay to be afraid of that. It’s all right to just sit with that fear, studying her toes and her wisps of hair and how she kind of snort-coughs in her sleep.

Because she’s not really mine. She’s His. And as scary as that is, it really should be the most comforting thing in the world because His love is greater. His love knows no end, no beginning. He formed her in my womb and He calls her His own.

And guess what? He calls us His own, too. He knows our mama hearts. He knows we’re scared and would do anything to protect our sweet babies. We’re His daughters, and He is holding just as tightly to us as He is our babies.

So let’s study their features. Let’s hold them tight. Let’s face the fear head on, knowing that we have the God of Angel Armies by our side, regardless of the way our story, and the story of our babies, writes itself.

 

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The First Trimester

Matt and I were celebrating our one year anniversary when I woke up feeling…off. I had had a low backache a few days before, and that morning I woke up with a wave of nausea–the kind where you feel it in the back of your neck and feel like you might pass out. It passed as quickly as it came, but when Matt left for work I decided to take a pregnancy test.

We had been trying to get pregnant for months. And months. And months. I was so used to a negative pregnancy test, I just thought I was going through the motions (again). It was also the day before my missed period, so I knew I might be testing too soon. And, to top it off, I’d been charting my temps and thought they weren’t high enough. I had already given up on this cycle.

My friend Katie had recommended these ovulation predictor strips that came with pregnancy tests. These are waaaaay cheaper than the kind you normally buy at the drug store, so they were great for my monthly habit of peeing on a stick.

I waited the two minutes and came back in to check. SUPER. FAINT. LINE.

Cue test #2.

SUPER. FAINT. LINE.

Cue trip to the drug store, where I bought two more pregnancy tests that I thought might be more accurate. I knew that a line is a line is a line but I needed another brand to tell me that! So after another test: TWO. PINK. LINES. Clear as day.

But, of course, that’s never enough, so I took the digital test. Within a minute, it read: YES+

I was shocked. Genuinely. After you see what feels like a million negative pregnancy tests, you’re convinced you’ll literally never see a positive one. But there it was.

Matt came home for lunch and I was able to give him a “gift” for our anniversary: the positive tests. We were both ecstatic and overjoyed, and Matt said, “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

That was December 12th, and to say that I’ve enjoyed the first trimester would be…insane. Here’s our first trimester update:

Feeling: The first few weeks my pride got a hold of me. We found out just before week 4, and I was feeling great. I just knew I’d have an easy pregnancy.

WRONG.

Weeks 6-12 were full of nausea; all day, every day. There was just no relief. Weeks 8-10ish were also full of vomiting that never brought any relief.

I was also wildly exhausted, and sleeping a lot. To those of you who have to go to work every day feeling like this, I applaud you. #badassery

Appointments: We got in with my OB’s office pretty quickly, but didn’t have our first “real” appointment until week 8 where they did the dating ultrasound. Seeing that flickering heartbeat was…surreal. I know a lot of people say that, but it was honestly still kind of shocking. I didn’t even cry, and I am a CRIER. Matt and I were just so happy to see Little Bird’s heart beating away at a rapid 178bpm.

We had another ultrasound at 12 weeks to check for Down Syndrome (negative), and this time Little Bird looked much more like a baby! As soon as the wand was on my belly, she started jumping and dancing. The heart beat was still strong and beautiful at 161bpm, and we were able to see baby’s arms in little fists by the head and how she was laying.

I had recently read a study about how ultrasound techs were challenged to guess a baby’s sex between weeks 11-14, and how the techs were 98% accurate at 12 weeks! So we decided to have our tech take a guess.

She knew immediately what Little Bird was (girl), and was very confident! Later that week, our genetic screening blood test (also negative, thankfully!) confirmed the sex of the baby. (Side note: isn’t it crazy that they can tell the sex of the baby by drawing MY blood?!?) Knowing what Little Bird is has made this so much more real.

Finally, we made the decision to transfer care to Gainesville Midwives for the rest of our pregnancy and have a home birth since we’re low risk and I don’t love hospitals. My dear friend Kerri is a midwife, and we’re so excited to have her caring for us and Little Bird! We’re prayerful for a smooth, uneventful pregnancy and birth so that we can do this in the peace of our home.

Craving: Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich // Sonny’s BBQ // crab legs (I put away 3lbs of these) // fruit // french fries // McDonalds (can’t you tell I ate really healthy in the first trimester?!) // phô // anything vinegar-y

Hating: Coffee! I can’t stand it. // eggs

Other thoughts on the first trimester:

  • My friend Madison keeps telling me, “pregnancy is NOT for the faint of heart.” And she couldn’t be more right. The worry is insane. The first trimester was primarily filled with worrying about miscarriage and whether or not the baby was okay. Now that we’ve moved into the second trimester, the worry has simply shifted to hoping that baby doesn’t have any diseases or growth issues. I know worrying is a new constant since I’m a mother now, so I’m trying to settle into that and lean onto my Heavenly Father who loves this sweet baby even more than we do!
  • Creating a registry is overwhelming.
  • Natural birth books are wildly outdated. Someone write a new one!
  • Not 100% if we will share baby’s name. The name is something so personal and I love the thought of announcing along with the baby’s birth. Seems so regal. (I know we’ll miss out on monogrammed gifts, but I’m so particular about monograms anyway that might be a good thing!)
  • I’ll share more about why we’re choosing the home birth route and what that looks like. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s so important to know that you have options in birth!