The tyranny of freedom, the empowerment of surrender, OR, this was easier when I wasn’t in charge

I’m nine days “overdue.” When I first started reading up on natural childbirth, I never thought I’d be seriously considering getting induced at some point because I just assumed that, with this kid being my fourth, and having had one baby (Callie) come early, that things would just happen on their own, in an acceptable time-frame. Now I’m past the part where I can chit-chat cheerfully with the neighbors about “any day now” and I find myself wondering if I really am doing the right thing. What if something happens to the baby and I never forgive myself for not inducing when everyone said it would be a fine time to do it (last Friday, at 41 weeks)?

I’ve had more monitoring (a couple non-stress tests and an ultrasound to measure amniotic fluid) than hardcore natural birthers would request; my midwives are supportive in waiting till 42 weeks, if things stay as good as they are now. The baby moves, a lot; more than they’d expect of a baby that we estimate to weigh over nine pounds. So there’s no reason, no medical or scientific or objective reason to induce. (Not even to mention whether 42 weeks is really overdue or not).

Why am I doing this, again? Is it because I trust God, my body, the baby? This is a lot harder when it’s me making the decisions. When I’m responsible, when everyone from my husband to my medical providers is happy to do what I want to do. (How do I know what I want to do?)

Also, it felt pretty good when I suggested or agreed or whatever, to be induced with Lucy at 39 weeks last time. It was what I wanted, it was fine. She was out in five hours and two pushes. That epidural worked better than the previous ones because we knew how to get it working on both sides.

Reading all those books and practicing pain management and relaxation — that all felt so empowering a month ago. Now, overdue and second-guessing, waiting, waiting, waiting, this surrender to a timetable I can’t begin to guess at — this doesn’t seem empowering at all.

It makes me wonder what other areas of my life I allow, encourage, accept others to make decisions for me, and do I do that out of fear, or ignorance, or laziness, or apathy?

If she’s born on Wednesday she’ll go to school a year later than if she’s born tomorrow or Tuesday. Does God care what day we’re born? Does He care (do I care?) if my daughters are old or young for school? If she’s born tomorrow, I can decide in five years whether to send her early or late. But wait until Wednesday and it’s not a choice. Do I trade this choice for that choice?

One thing I do believe — it’ll be easier to labor and birth if I’m not induced — even if it means her gaining another pound, so that’s not an issue. Another — even a “mild” induction (breaking my water but not hooking up pitocin unless things weren’t moving along after two hours, which is their limit and seems a really short time) would most likely set off a cascade of interventions that I would have no control over, and perhaps rightly so, having taken that first step of relinquishing autonomy.

Perhaps this is only cosmic justice, meant to be, the only way it could ever have turned out once I decided I wanted to do things a certain way. Oh really? You really want to do it your way? Good luck with that. Are you sure? How sure?

The longer it goes (and I know nine days isn’t the record or anything, but holy crap it seems a long time), the more surreal it seems that we will ever have a baby, a new person in the family. It felt this way before each of the other births, like we couldn’t really believe there was a whole separate person floating around in there, but this time it seems even more so. It’s easier to just accept that I’ll be pregnant forever, because all evidence points that way.

I’ve always been fascinated by why we do what we do. It was part of the motivation for the electricity fast, part of the delight in living in Japan and Cairo and New York City. Part of the simple pleasure in moving furniture, painting walls, changing things. If we change this or that, will we change? Does anything ever change? Will it make a difference in ten years, to me or to the baby, if I choose this or that? Will I feel empowered if I surrender? To what? To who? To myself?

Can you live deliberately if you stop making choices? (Why does everything have to be a choice?)

Does it matter how you give birth?

Birth Plans

The (un)Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday after a long wait and quick visit at the midwife, I was in a sketchy-ish part of town I’d never been in, tracking down a cheap box spring mattress for Avery’s bed (her old one splintered when she “fell” on it; she denies “jumping”). Callie and Lucy had been pretty patient all afternoon, eating lunch in the car and keeping relatively quiet about how gross it is that the baby is going to come out of there.

Suddenly they had to pee. Both of them. Emergency-like. Because they each have bladders the size of 5-gallon buckets, which is nice most of them time, but means that when they have to go, they have to go. The thrift store I was at didn’t have a bathroom, and I hadn’t completed my purchase so I didn’t want to leave the area. Next door was a Spazazz place. I reached for the door, planning to throw myself on the mercy of the two nicely-dressed women sitting at the reception table. One shook her head and mouthed that they were closed, quickly looking back at her important business.

I stood there for a second, outside the locked door, considering. I knocked again, hoping I could convey that I just really, really needed a bathroom. This time both of them shook their heads frantically, avoided eye contact, and made throat-slashing motions with their hands, not interested at all in the terminally-pregnant woman and her two small daughters.

Today I ran more errands, going to Callie’s kindergarten assessment, picking up my reserved copy of Mockingjay, and getting last-minute food and supplies for school. By the last stop, my feet were swollen past all recognition as feet, my toes like exploding Vienna sausages. A guy in his late twenties hesitantly approached me as I loaded stuff in the car. I turned so sourly to him. He said, “You were ahead of me in line, right?”

“I don’t know.” (and don’t care.)

“I think you left a bag, of binders and notebooks or something?”

I sighed, hugely. All I wanted was a nap. Not to have to thank some stranger for going out of his way, not to have to walk ALL THE WAY BACK INSIDE. But I did, and claimed my stuff. Then I noticed that the guy had also walked back inside to get a Redbox movie. By then I realized what a (self-absorbed, entitled, put-upon) complainer I am, and thanked him nicely on my way out.

Of course the ladies yesterday had no obligation to help me out or even commiserate or anything. But neither did the guy today.

He can have no idea what a difference it made in my thinking. At least for today.

The first time

Not the first time I worried about it, not the first time I knew something was wrong, not the first time I knew she was different. Not the first time I knew it couldn’t be fixed. Not the first time an adult asked me, in hushed tones, careful that she wouldn’t hear. Not the first time I realized there are some things she’ll never be, she’ll never do.

Not the first time that she asked me what it is (she doesn’t know about it yet). Not the first time I caught her in front of the mirror, trying to capture just at what angle her eye stops tracking (she hasn’t done that yet). Not the first time she wants to know why she’s different, why a doctor can’t fix it, why Heavenly Father would make her body not perfect (she thinks it is, so far).

Just the first time someone her age — that age when little kids guilelessly, relentlessly point out the fat lady withthe big bum, the girl who jumps and shouts at church, the old man whose legs don’t work — the first time someone her size asks her mom why Lucy’s eyes look funny like that, and the first time I hear a mother shush and whisper that it’s a lazy eye, and some people have eyes like that, not unkindly, both of us hoping Lucy hasn’t heard, or hasn’t understood.   

I say, it’s actually the opposite of a lazy eye (though really I don’t know what the opposite is). It’s that one of her eyes can look to the left, and look straight ahead, but it can’t look to the right.

But I don’t tell Lucy that. She doesn’t know she’s being discussed. She’s not even four yet.

It could be worse, of course it could be much, much worse. But the first time she realizes what it is, what her eye can’t do that most people’s eyes can do, won’t be the time to tell her that. I hope by that first time I’ll know the perfect thing to say, a thing that doesn’t sting her heart like this first time stung mine. 


Lucy has Duane Syndrome.

In defense of helicopter parenting

This morning I sent Avery off to church day camp on her bike, and then worried whether she had made it. Our church is a block away, I can see the steeple from my kitchen window. Avery is nine, she as been to the church back and forth by herself before, and still I worried. Maybe it is just paranoid pregnancy hormones? 39-weeks-and-dying-of-impatience nesting instincts?

Yesterday I sent them all off with their father to the county fair, and then I worried. He doesn’t always watch them as closely as I do. I don’t always watch them that closely. I was glad to see them go — told Tom that a few hours to myself was a very good use of one of his precious vacation days. Still, I worried. All those strangers, all those blinking, flashing, catchy carnival noises to distract them.

I walked to the church to make sure Avery had gotten there okay. You know, just in case. She was there, laughing and hopping around and not noticing me.

Sometimes I want to strangle them myself (metaphorically: like, I wish they came with an off button, or a least a volume control). But whenever I think of something bad happening, someone bad happening, I don’t know how we bear it. How do we let the out there? They’re so precious, so innocent, so fragile.

They’re also so, so loud. Maybe that’s how we bear it.

BlogHer syndicated my Nine Lessons From an Electricity Fast post. I thought of a tenth lesson, and not just for symmetry’s sake. One thing I expected was that I would talk on the phone a lot, see people in person, be more social in real life, when my virtual world was cut off, but I didn’t. I indulged my hermit-lik tendencies even more. Maybe it was the heat, or the pregnancy, or having the kids around all the time, but I didn’t do any of the relationship building/real-life connectivityness that some say the internet has cost us — except with my immediate family, and since they’re the most important, maybe it did serve its purpose, but as far as women needing friends and all that stuff, I’m glad to be back online (though I haven’t been every active in recent weeks, and that is definitely an are-we-ever-going-to-have-this-baby?-I’m-going-to-be-the-first-women-in-the-history-of-the-world-to-be-dilated-to-3cm-for-a-year thing).