I suppose, as I look back, there was a fair amount of “nesting” going on during the days preceding Mette's arrival. It's just . . . it wasn't the right kind of nesting. (Pause.) No. That's not totally fair. The day before her arrival I pulled the baby car seat from the garage (where it had lain for the few short months since Summer's outgrowing of it) and gave it a good cleaning. And on the very morning of her arrival, I had asked Abe to carry the cradle up so we could wipe it down in preparation for baby's eventual coming. But, instead of scrubbing the bathrooms, I had sorted the clothes in my closet. Instead of cleaning out our truck and van, I had moved Anders' clothes from our closet to the dresser in his room. Instead of washing the windows, I had organized the laundry room shelf.
I didn't particularly need clothes re-folded or laundry-room shelves tidied . . . while “bathrooms”, “windows” and “vehicles” were written officially, in pen, on a paper stuck boldly to our fridge reading: “To Do Before Baby Comes”.
Still, one can hardly blame my nesting instincts. They were obviously trying hard to express themselves despite the stubborn insistence from logical me: there will be no baby for at least another week (and it would be folly to do the things on that list too early). I suppose instinctive me eventually had no choice but to sulk off resignedly (shaking its head all the while at logical me) and settle for sorting closets and organizing shelves.
And now? . . . Mette is suddenly here – two weeks before her scheduled arrival (nearly three weeks earlier than many of my babies have come) – and I have yet to wrap my mind around how exactly that happened. I feel like the whole experience is still bound in a book that I haven't yet read, or wrapped in a package that I may have shaken around and listened to, but haven't actually opened.
I want, of course, to do it justice – Mette's getting here. I don't want to trump it up into something that it wasn't; but I also don't want to tear the package open so quickly that I miss important details by throwing them out with the wrapping. Sometimes life just plays out the way it does – or so I've always assumed – and I bristle occasionally at seeing those happenings shoved into some box to give them extra significance or squeezed too tightly in order to force meaning onto them. And yet . . . more and more I feel life is less “coincidence” than I have always imagined. More and more I think small details that seem to have simply happened involve hands behind the scenes and beyond the veil. And while I may be doing the very thing I dread . . . forcing significance into something that simply was . . . I can't shake the feeling that I don't comprehend everything that just happened here.
Perhaps that's why I feel somewhat lost – and somewhat like I haven't truly opened this gift of an experience yet. I can guess and speculate on maybes and whys. But I think . . . that is what it will be – guessing. And the full story, perhaps, happened too quickly and involved too many things for mortal, blind me to have taken in. It can be told in a quick and wild story. But I feel like . . . I can't quite put my finger on it, but sort of . . . like a little child who, recognizing that something big has just happened, tries to make sense of it; tries to assign meaning; and tries to understand. While someone kind, loving, and all-wise, only pats my innocent little shoulders and says, “Hush hush little one. Some things are too big for you just now. There will be more for you to understand. Not yet. But someday. When you are older. And when you are ready.”
Here, however, are the bits I know:
It wasn't until Monday evening that there was a shift in my pregnancy. I went from feeling that all was as well as it could be, to . . . uncomfortable. It wasn't a clearly defined uncomfortable. And surely “uncomfortable” doesn't mean labor is imminent, nor does it mean anything really at the end of pregnancy. But . . . it was just so sudden. I think it might have been only earlier that same day that my sister-in-law had texted asking how I was feeling and I'd responded that I felt great and not nearly pregnant enough for a baby to ever be coming. And yet, by evening everything felt off. And this little girl (who was still nameless at the time) was wriggling and kicking and moving with such intent and force that it was almost a bit alarming. I woke multiple times that night. Tossing. Turning. Feeling strange. I dreamt that my water had broken. I dreamt a nurse was telling me something was wrong and we needed to hurry. Tuesday I felt all right again. And Wednesday.
Thursday, August 13th, was Mike's birthday. He came home early from work and we took the kids to Salt Lake (where we walked around Temple Square and City Creek and bought the two little boys matching R2D2 jackets that they insisted on wearing despite the 90 degree heat). At around 6:00 that evening, we stopped to visit cousin Blaire who had just purchased a little place downtown. During our hour stay at her house, I had a few strong contractions, but they were far apart and, while painful, too early in my pregnancy game for me to take seriously. We left her place at about 7:00 pm. The car ride home came with more contractions. Uncomfortable enough to stop me from talking and have me closing my eyes to focus through them. Still, I was, . . . I guess, unwilling to allow that I might be in labor. Typically I would be so excited at the prospect of a pregnancy being cut two weeks short. But . . . I had that list. And silly though it sounds, I still felt completely unready for our baby to come. At the very least I needed another day. We'd been wandering in the heat all day. My kids needed baths. Things needed settled and set right at home. We needed to sing around the birthday cake Daisy had made for Mike. He needed to open the Pringles from Penny and the salt gun from me (that's right – a gun that shoots a deadly spray of salt at flies!). I needed one more night to cuddle next to Mike with no new stresses in life. And . . . I really needed to clean those bathrooms!
We arrived home at 8:00. By this point Mike knew I was worried over where these contractions were heading. I drank water in case I was simply dehydrated. I quickly threw some laundry in the washing machine. I put Summer to bed. Mike finally got me to come sit by him on the couch to talk about what was happening, but I simply leaned against him and shed a few tears. I just felt so unprepared. And so scared. And yet . . . four or five times (during the course of that drive home from Salt Lake and anxious readying about the house) I began a prayer intending to ask the Lord to have things wait for even just one more day, . . . and each time I felt a distinct and strong staying hand urging me not to offer that prayer. Not to complicate things with that request. I don't understand it exactly. Surely, even if I'd prayed for another day, she could have gone right on coming anyway. But I felt it was the wrong thing to pray for and that I simply should not ask it.
At 9:00 pm I was still hemming and hawing – still wanting things to just pause (despite all signs that I was already in strong labor) – when I thought I felt my water break. It turns out it was not my water breaking, rather, a tremendous gush of blood, but it was the thing that finally kicked us into action and got us going.
The entire car ride was strange. Contractions were very strong and very close; and I was battling such fear – fear because I wasn't ready, fear that things had progressed too quickly, fear that there would be no period of relief coming before this was said and done (I had very much planned on an epidural birth this time around). It was that same thing I've faced in various forms before – that overwhelming certainty of no quick escape and no way out . . . but through. I managed a call to my parents and a short, choppy text to my sisters – all to call down prayers. And then Mike squeezed my hand fiercely, told me calmly to just “hold on”, and we drove. I don't get loud in labor. I get quiet and go very inward. This was no different. Everything felt so foggy. I felt the “very end” intensity and yet . . . it wasn't followed by the typical sensation to push. (Thank goodness, of course). Something felt simply different, and I wasn't able to place what that “different” was only that I kept thinking a baby should be coming in the car . . . and somehow wasn't.
We arrived at the hospital at about 9:30 pm. As I came in, the nurse began to say, “I'll take her to triage . . .” but, before finishing that sentence, changed to, “. . . maybe we'll just get her straight to a room.” I managed to tell her that this was my eighth and I was pretty sure that was what we needed to do. And we were both right. I was fully dilated to a ten. But, my water hadn't broken. As she began looking for baby's heartbeat she asked if I still wanted the anesthesiologist. I admit, I was very afraid of what was ahead with pushing. Summer's pushing phase had been terrifying; but, equally bad, was the idea of trying to cope with these contractions at a ten while getting an epidural placed. So I opted to just forego medication and get this baby here on my own.
At that same time, the nurse was saying, “Goodness. This baby must just be so far down in your pelvis. I can not get to her heartbeat.” It wasn't long before she discovered that the heartbeat was hard to find because it was not where it should properly be. It was way up high . . . just like her head. Only a week before (at 37 weeks) she'd been in a nice head down position. I'm guessing that was what all that chaotic movement was on Monday – her climbing into a breech position. I'm sure that also explains the feeling of being at the end while still missing any urge to push. No head pushing down. And luckily, no water broken at home like I'd first thought. (Would my water breaking have given me enough of an urge to push – even with just feet causing the pressure -- to have tried to push out a little breech baby . . . to a completely unprepared me and Mike on our own?)
Still, that moment was a bit surreal and wild. Everything felt too sudden and scary to wrap my mind around (it still does really): I was at a ten. I couldn't fathom staying there patiently much longer. Now I would have to have just what I'd dreaded – an epidural (not to mention surgery prep) taken care of while I labored on in this stage. And there were suddenly so many questions. The hospital staff's opinion was certain. Straight to a C-section. But, did I need a C-section? I didn't have C-sections. I had uncomplicated pregnancies and straight forward deliveries. A good friend of mine had recently delivered a breech baby safely at home. Maybe this was unnecessary. My CNM wasn't even there yet to offer an opinion. Maybe a normal delivery was possible. Or maybe it was horribly dangerous. But here I was – out of time for thoughtful decisions. And, while all of this pain and questioning and fear was very real . . . simultaneously, a peace and calmness settled on me. A certainty of prayers being heard and of being in more good hands than just those of the nurses and on-call doctor present. I felt a letting go – a surrender -- an acceptance over whatever might happen.
Of course, “letting go” didn't mean there was nothing further to face. The epidural procedure was horribly unpleasant. I had numerous contractions as they struggled to get it in. I could have used all of my focus and energy to just survive those contractions. Instead I was being instructed to lean forward, relax, arch my back and not move, etc. while they failed to get the epidural in. I was clutching Mike's arm (as well as some poor nurse's -- so fiercely that I am certain she left with bruises), and at one point I cried out that I truly could not face one more contraction simultaneously with attempts to get the epidural in and then, through my fog, I began praying for it to work. And finally it did (which was very good as my CNM told me, later, that if that final attempt hadn't – what with her heart rate dipping, etc. – they would have just put me to sleep).
I stayed calm during the actual process of getting Mette here. Mike was right there with me, smoothing my hair back and holding to my arm where he could. Once little Mette was out (and unraveled from the cord that I could hear nurses and doctor's alike exclaiming over: “How did she do this?” “She must be an acrobat!” “Look, it's like a figure eight!” “It's around her neck, her abdomen, her arm . . .”) she was carted off to be be quickly checked. At that point my resolve failed a little, and, as I waited to be stitched back together, I began to feel dizzy, claustrophobic and a bit panicky. Some of that was caused by falling blood pressure and the like and they were able to give me medicine to combat it. It wasn't until I came out of the operating room to find my parents waiting for me in my recuperating room that I finally cried. I don’t know if it was a cry of sadness, relief, or simply the cry that waits, bottled up, until you’ve come out the other side.
But little Mette is safely and unquestionably here. And now, we’ve lived a new experience. We have new things to understand, and another story to tell. And, as those things go, looking back, the idea of changing anything about it seems preposterous. How then would I know the things I now know?
It’s hard for me not to ponder all the what-ifs and whys. Why did she flip around at such a late stage of pregnancy? Would she have survived a normal delivery just fine? Would the cord all wrapped around her potentially have caused serious problems if we’d had a normal delivery? Did she come so much earlier than most of my babies because she was already in danger from being so wrapped in cord and something bigger than myself intervened to get her here? If there hadn’t have been that gush of blood, would I have stayed home far too long and have ended up in a horrible emergency with no help and a breech baby coming? If it had been my water breaking (like I’d first thought) instead, would it have been a similarly dangerous situation? Why that feeling of “stop” when I wanted to pray for a few more days? How do prayers influence outcomes and why are they necessary to claim God’s will so often?
I don’t know the answers to any of those things. I don’t know what things were meant to be; what things were blessings that intervened simply because of the way things had gone; and I don’t know but that everything might have played out completely fine no matter which of the above things did or didn’t happen. What I feel is that . . . because the situation was so fast and tense and unexpected, and because I was so wrapped up in what I was physically feeling and the shock and unknown of it all, I saw it very firmly from the mortal side of things. But that there was, simultaneously, a very spiritual – just beyond my sight – side of things (the side I’ve been able to grasp more clearly in some of my calmer labors) that was just as busily and actively occurring and just as completely a part of this labor and delivery (and this first truly mortal experience for Mette). And I feel a bit of that old . . . homesick longing sort of feeling of being “close but just outside” that makes me eager to eventually know this story in its completeness.
For now, I’ll take this beautiful, calming little creature . . . and love her fiercely . . . and thank the Lord constantly for not letting me go through mortality without having brought her here to go through it with me.