The doctor tells me I’m good to go– no more tests or appointments until my first ultrasound. But I’m skeptical. Should I request more blood draws? Should I keep a stock of pregnancy tests to take every now and then just to be sure things are still okay– just to be sure the baby’s still there before I start getting too attached?
After all, that’s what I did last time— weekly monitoring of HCG levels just to be “sure” (as if I could do anything about it if I wasn’t sure)—keeping a list of all the people we had told so I would be ready when the time came and it would be easier and quicker to “un- tell”— running to the bathroom with every cramp or twinge for fear I would discover the worst.
I had no significant reason for monitoring as closely as I did, no real signs that anything was amiss, and no pre-conditions of having a high-risk pregnancy. And yet I still prepared myself to hear that my baby had fallen into the 20-30% of babies who don’t make it to their birthday. I spent my whole first trimester preparing for a death that thankfully did not come.
Before we knew the gender of our first baby, our little Joseph, we nicknamed him Baby Hope because every time I built up a wall of fear and detachment he broke it down. When I was convinced we’d see nothing on our nine week ultrasound, he showed up in clear view— and he was dancing. Early on and throughout the days and nights he kicked with unusual determination. I couldn’t be a pessimist while carrying Baby Hope within me. I couldn’t resist taking the leap of faith and falling in love with him.
And it’s not because I learned that everything was okay. It’s not because I learned that after the twelve week mark we were finally “safe.” No, rather, I learned that we are never safe. First it’s miscarriage. Then it’s premature birth. Then it’s stillbirth. Then it’s SIDS. Then it’s toddler accidents. The list never ever ends. We always have a reason to be fearful for our children and our loved ones.
So, no. Baby Hope didn’t teach me that he would always be safe. Baby Hope taught me that going back and forth between obsessive preventatives and insistent detachment about death wasn’t healthy. In the end, I wanted to prepare myself for my unborn child’s death. But the truth is, there’s no way we can ever prepare ourselves for a sorrow that we do not understand or have not ever experienced. It’s a waste of time trying. It’s a waste of time ruining the moments we do have.
And moreover Baby Hope taught me that he was bigger than the danger— he was bigger than whatever could happen to him and he always would be. He reminded me that the life he had was an eternal life that could not be constrained by birth or death. When I watched him and felt him, and eventually held him and heard him, I was reminded that life was bigger than death. He taught me that we can choose to embrace the unpredictability of it all wholeheartedly, fully aware of the possible pain, but convinced the risk is worth it. We can choose to believe there’s some sort of plan at work and some sort of eternity to follow. We can choose to rejoice in life, despite death’s possibility, believing that life has conquered death already.
And so with this pregnancy, I’m not going to obsess over what this or that symptom means. I’m not going to Google miscarriage rates by week. I’m not going to count down the days until we are “safe,” spending the “unsafe” days in fear and detachment. I’m not going to hold back on joy because I’m scared something will steal it from me. No. I’m going to relish in the moment that I have now with a new life, a beautiful life, a miraculous life within me. A life that is already changing the world— changing our world. A life that, despite the dangers that may await it, is eternal– a life that has a plan and a purpose. That’s something I can’t help but celebrate. That’s something I can’t help but hope in. So this time, I choose to cast my fears behind me, trust in the plan at work, and rejoice with Baby Peace.