I'm a big advocate of low-tech pregnancies and low-tech births. With my first baby, we had one quick sonogram during the first trimester to rule out twins and then we never saw him again until he was born. We didn't even know he was he. With my third baby, we had a sonogram at sixteen weeks (again to rule out twins) and they saw signs of Trisomy 18. They told us we may never take him home from the hospital. They took another look at 24 weeks and all was well. That was probably the longest pregnancy of my life until now. And that was also when I began to look with skepticism at the world of perinatology. It's amazing how negative perinatologists are.
The baby I am carrying is easily my most scanned baby ever. She has been followed so carefully through ultraound that I really do know what she looks like. I've seen her gymnastic antics in action. I know she loves to touch her toes to her forehead. My growing series of sonogram pictures brings to mind the verse from Psalm 139~ For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Isn't that an amazing image? God didn't just snap His fingers and create us. Instead, He carefully knits us; we are an artistic process at His hands. Week by week, I watch her grow. Week by week I marvel at His artistry.
With every sonogram, after the baby has been properly praised (we have had four separate sonogram techs in four different places comment on how extraordinarily beautiful this baby is to scan--it's weird really), the talk turns to placenta and cervix. And every time, they affirm that the placenta is not in a good place. Then there is talk of very high tech delivery, banking 6 units of blood, hysterectomy, and whatever else the perinatology gloom and doom guys can think to throw in there. To their credit, they always add: or it could just move up, away from the old scar and you could have a VBAC at term.
I am left to wonder, until the next sonogram, what has become of my prayers. Ever since the beginning of the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer last year, I have prayed every novena for the intention of a happy, healthy, holy beautiful pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery. All through the liturgical year, calling upon each saint as they are celebrated with the universal Church, I've asked the same thing. And I've maintained a perpetual novena to St. Therese and to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had it all planned out: I'm due on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception but I always go late (famous last words), so I figured God's poetic timing would have this baby born on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I thought that would be just perfect, really. I even thought that it might be my easiest labor yet. All those prayers, you know.
The high tech scenario just does not sound beautiful to me, no matter how I turn it in my head. Of course, delivering a healthy baby, no matter how one does it, is a very beautiful thing. But a bloody mess in the operating room does not sound like a thing of beauty to me. When I was in the hospital, every nurse who took care of told me about a remarkable woman who had been there for six weeks on total bedrest for the same condition. She had nine homeschooled children and somehow she and her family endured six weeks of hospital bedrest and went home with a healthy mom and baby. She had a messy delivery. But she survived it well and baby was perfect.
She left a legacy in that hospital. In an astounding turn of events, her daughter-in-law had the same midwife. The younger woman wanted the older one with her during labor. So, the midwives brought her down to the Birthing Inn, still on bedrest, and she was a labor coach. It is truly testimony to this woman's faith and extraordinary grace that all the nurses who knew her have commented on how much they learned from her. They came away with a living example of faith. From what I understand, they also came away with armloads of books and lots and lots of conversation. It sounds like a beautiful pregnancy to me, despite the bedpans and bad hospital food.I want to be that kind of witness to this life of faith. Still, I wrestle with my fears and my aversion to bloody messes.
Around the time of the 28 week sonogram-the one that indicated that this placenta thing was stubborn--three separate friends told me that they were taking my intentions to St. Anne. Two of them live at opposite ends of the United States and one lives on the other side of the world. This seemed to me to be more than a coincidence. So, I began a novena to St. Anne. I was five days into that novena when I was admitted to the hospital. It was a scary day. When I was all settled late that evening, before the second scary episode began, I took up the novena to pray the day's intention. It was an act of sheer will. Certainly my heart wasn't in it.
One thing I love about praying novenas is how, unfailingly, they change me during those nine days. It's truly a remarkable phenomenon. I never know at the outset where it's all going. But now, I know, it's going somewhere. The fifth day of the St. Anne novena I was praying read:
Great Saint Anne, how far I am from resembling you. I so easily give way to impatience and discouragement; and so easily give up praying when God does not at once answer my request. Prayer is the key to all Heavenly treasures and I cannot pray, because my weak faith and lack of confidence cause me to fail at the slightest delay of divine mercy. O my powerful protectress, come to my aid, listen to my petition. (request) Make my confidence and fervor, supported by the promise of Jesus Christ, redouble in proportion as the trial to which God in His goodness subjects me is prolonged, that I may obtain, like you, more than I can venture to ask for. In the future, I will remember that I am made for Heaven and not for earth; for eternity and not for time; that consequently I must ask, above all, the salvation of my soul which is assured to all who pray properly and who persevere in prayer. Amen.
This week, the sonogram showed us the hair on the top of Baby's head. I could see little tiny wisps of downy newborn hair! They were knit there by the Father whose Word reminds me Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father: but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
God has this all well in hand. He has not overlooked a single detail. I know. I saw those hairs and I am assured that each one of them is intentional and numbered.
I have asked myself on countless occasions what God's plan is in all of this. I've asked myself why this scenario seems to be diverging from the one for which I prayed. And, I've been granted plenty of time and space to pray for the answers. I want that beautiful, healthy birth. I want my will to be united to His even more. And I am assured that if I persevere in prayer, with faith, I will receive more than I can venture to request.I lay here, still while He knits, and push away fear in order to make room for hope and to look with anticipation to what the Knitter has planned for us.