Friday, September 13, 2013

Preparing for Labor

Hanging on the door of the baby's room :)

The hospital bag is packed. The children's bags are packed and ready for them to head over to my brother's house. Now we wait.

Preparing for labor is similar to preparing for homeschooling with an infant. I obviously just don't know what to expect! Making plans seems foolish in a way as there is no way to know what to predict.

I've spent a lot of time contemplating labor and trying to prepare for it - ironically more than I ever have. By preparing, I don't mean learning about labor really. I know about the different stages and what is physically going to happen.

I have mixed feelings about labor. There is most definitely part of me that is scared. It's difficult for me not to be afraid when I know of the pain that is coming. In some ways, knowing what I am about to go through is a blessing, in other ways it causes more anxiety. I have been through it before. I know I can do it. I have learned techniques that help me to cope. But at the same time, labor is hard! While the past two labors were successful VBACs without complication, they were quite long, both lasting 35+ hours. It is hard not to be intimidated knowing such a feat lies before me.

Labor is equally, if not more so, mentally difficult than it is physically. It seems like an endless marathon, requiring an almost impossible amount of perseverance. I have been trying to ready myself for this any way I can. For the past month or so, I have been working on a Birth Playlist on Spotify, which you can click on and listen to if you have an account. It is a very eclectic mix of songs that inspire me in different ways. Jason has been given the task of "Birth DJ," making sure that we are listening to tracks that are helpful to me during labor.

Above all, I have prepared spiritually for labor this time, much more so than I ever before. I have spent time reading and studying Scripture that I think will be helpful to me while in labor and printed out verses that I would like to have with me at the hospital. I learned that St. Gerard is the unofficial patron saint of childbirth. There is a web site dedicated to him where I learned his story and discovered a novena to him. Jason and I have been praying it together at night and my mom and Jenny, who will be present at the birth, have been praying it as well.

The owners of the St. Gerard web site will send you a free medal when requested, so I have received one and have been wearing it. While it doesn't really matter, it is a bit large for my taste. I was expecting the usual small saint's medal. This is like a large medallion! But no matter. It is a good reminder of where I want my heart to be at right now.

I have finished reading A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy, which I really enjoyed and found very encouraging and inspiring. Each week, I read a different chapter and contemplated further the miracle of life and the blessing growing inside of me. This book helped me to reflect on Mary as a mother and how I can include her in my journey.

I have found prayers to help me center myself and offer the discomforts of pregnancy up to the Lord, rather than wallowing in my frustration.

I have also written two very short prayers. They are very concise and when I am struggling, I can pray them and immediately feel God's grace.

The first prayer helps me to focus on God's will for my life rather than my own. In my prayers, it can be so easy to focus on my needs and desires and those of my loved ones. We are so abundantly blessed and there is so much to be grateful for. Ironically, sometimes this creates anxiety in me. I can worry about the days and years to come and what our crosses may be. When I worry about what God's plan may be for us, I pray to the Lord:

May it all be for Your glory. 

This gives a purpose to my life, to the creation of our family, to our joys and to our sufferings.

My second prayer was inspired by the book I mentioned above. In it, Sarah A. Reinhard speaks of how we receive God's grace through the trials of life, and more specifically, how if our hearts are open to it, we may receive grace during labor. In that vain, I pray to the Lord:

Help me to see labor as an opportunity to receive God's grace.

This helps me to overcome the fears I have about labor and to look forward to it. 

So far, I have focused on my feelings of apprehension, anxiety and fear. But thankfully, that is only one part of my mixed feelings. Another very big part is my excitement. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that I've experienced, that compares to the joy that is felt when I first see our newborn child, when I first get to hold our baby. That moment is coming soon. To know that one of the best days of my life is so near fills me with such happiness and anticipation.

Lately, it occurred to me that in most circumstances, you don't know when you are going to meet one of the most important people in your life. You don't know when you are going to meet the love of your life or someone who will become a dear friend for life. When you are a baby, you do not understand that you are about to meet your parents and will never recall doing so. They will just always have been there. As a child, you do not understand the significance when you meet a new sibling.

Having a baby is entirely different. For nine months, you are aware that you are going to meet one of the most important, influential people of your life, one of the people who you will love the most and who will have the largest impact on you as a human. How incredible!

As we have had more children, this experience has become more amazing for me. We have thus far been able to witness three children be born and transform into completely different people with different personalities, a miracle in itself. During this pregnancy, I find my thoughts often drifting to wonder, the wonder of the miracle of life and of who this next person will be. Will they have Joshua's strong will or intelligence, Noah's imagination or love of music, Veronica's sweetness or easy disposition? How will they be the same? How will they be different?

So close to the day of birth, I feel as prepared as I possibly could. I look forward to the day with some fear, but mostly with excitement to meet this new being.

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