Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 29: Anxiety and Rest

Pregnancy has, blissfully, continued to be boring these last two weeks. Two weeks ago saw me at the office of the maternal-fetal specialist with nothing to report except a perfect health score for my baby. He's got a name now, a couple great godparents, a baptism date, a place to sleep, and a borrowed infant bouncy seat to rest in provided he'll let me put him down at all during the first few months and his 2-year-old brother doesn't show his affection with excessively strong gestures. (Clothes to wear will be forthcoming as soon as I can find the box in the basement).

But the stakes are so high with pregnancy that it can often feel like a constant test or a disaster that is just about to happen. By this point in pregnancy (30 weeks), I know women who have miscarried, mothers who have given birth to children with severe defects, babies that have suffered a fight for their lives because they were born too soon, women who have given birth to children they already know have died, children that have died during labor, children that have died shortly after being born. These are not simply stories that I have heard about women I do not know personally, and they are not stories about women who are otherwise at risk for any complication with their pregnancies. They are healthy women, and they are women that I know: friends, neighbors, acquaintances, family members. These stories are everywhere you turn, at least if your friends have as many children as mine do and you have the habit of asking (politely) probing questions about your friend's experiences with motherhood.

So the more time I've spent listening to stories about pregnancy and birth, the more sober I become about the whole process. The rewards are very great, but so are the risks. And the fear associated with these risks is something that has not left my side for long during this particular pregnancy. My pregnancy has been the picture of (physical) health since the very beginning. It is has not varied dramatically from any one of my other pregnancies, at least as far as pregnancies can be measured through blood pressure numbers, A1Cs, weight gained, baby's growth percentiles, and so forth. Each one of my other pregnancies turned out well, and I have no concrete reason to believe that this one will not likewise turn out well.

If you've read my posts, you'll notice that I have tended to blame my doctors for the extra anxieties attached to my pregnancies. While I've written a great deal about that, I still don't think that quite tells the whole story. Every doctor has to be on the lookout for complications; that's just a hazard of the job. Perhaps I could blame whatever existing anxiety and depression I had prior to the pregnancy for my present anxieties. But I also don't think that tells the whole story, since the anxieties I had prior to pregnancy related to my competency as a mother, not the terrible things which happen to women and their children that cannot be attributed to anyone's competency or lack thereof. I suppose it could be thought of as a premonition of some terrible way in which this pregnancy will end. But I have not received any special revelation about this baby and this pregnancy indicating an unfortunate outcome here, unlike St. Joan of Arc (whose biography is well worth reading. See! I'm so relaxed I even have time to cultivate my interior life by reading!).

For now, it simply remains a curious fact of this pregnancy that I am exceedingly aware of everything that could go wrong...and still, nothing has. Nothing! Baby has a name, some great godparents, a perfectly average size, all major organs in their proper places, brothers that are very excited about his arrival, a tiny little basket lying on the floor next to my bed, and some clothes somewhere in this house which will be pulled out by the time he is.

There is, at least, some rest from the anxiety to be found in those facts.

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