Out of the Trenches

I have heard of women who labored in the hospital for upwards of twenty four hours before at last giving the final push and welcoming their newborn into the world after a lengthy and excruciating ordeal. In my mind nothing could be more miserable than laboring for hours (or days) in a hospital, strapped to a bed and chained to monitors.

My own grandmother labored for 24 to 48 hours with most of her 12 children, but at least she was at home. I’d much prefer laboring at home where I can move around, distract myself from the pain of contractions by washing dishes or running a load of laundry, taking a walk, or hiding in my closet.

However, being in this car is turning out to be worse than being strapped to a hospital bed. I’m all kinked behind the steering wheel. I can’t stretch out my legs in the short space between contractions. I’m stuck upright in a seated position which is harder than contracting while lying down. What I want is to pull the car over and walk around, but I’m too scared to change positions. I’m afraid that sitting is the only thing keeping my bags of water intact. Standing up might allow the baby to drop that last centimeter until my cervix won’t be able to withstand the pull of gravity. I’m afraid if I exit the car now, I won’t be pregnant when I get back in.

Growing a human being inside of you is a miraculous thing. Even on this, my fourth pregnancy, I’m astonished by the photos in my pregnancy books showcasing the stages of fetal development from the first division of cells to the beginning thump of the tiny heartbeat.

When I was 10, my 5th grade class took a field trip to our local clinic where the lab director showed us a glass jar with a human fetus floating in formaldehyde. The boys made crude Frankenstein jokes, many of the girls screamed, cried, and turned away. The baby had been donated by a woman who had miscarried at 12 weeks. I stared, feeling appalled at the indignity of keeping a baby in a jar, but also fixated on every minute detail formed to perfection down to the intricately-formed fingernail, as the lab director pointed out, on the baby’s pinky finger.

It would be several years before I got my first menstruation cycle, but even at age ten, I wondered what it would feel like to have something like that growing inside of me, with heart, mouth, nose, toes, and fingernails. Me, the glass jar filled with amniotic fluid, not formaldehyde, encasing a living person that would grow and become a human being. That is the artistic wonder of pregnancy and birth, to bring into existence something absolutely unique, which has never been created before. But I wasn’t thinking about the miracle of life last Fall when (unbeknownst to me) that miracle began taking place silently, the zygote making its journey down the fallopian tube to my uterus while I secured my hairpiece and dashed down the hall gathering the visual aids for my seminary object lesson; cells splitting—automatically, I didn’t even tell them to—from one to two, to four, to eight, to sixteen while I picked up Kate from preschool; the blastocyst naturally dividing to form the basis of muscle and skeleton, spine and skin, stomach and lungs.

Unaware of the intricate chain of mechanisms triggering to form new life, I only knew this: that despite having sheltered, nourished, grown, and brought forth three unique individuals, I still hadn’t achieved a sufficient level of success in my life. Being a mother, no matter how miraculous, just really didn’t impress anybody. 

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