Part Two: The Pregnancy
Welcome to the second post in a series discussing birth in general, my special relationship with Emi, and being present at the birth of her third child, and the first birth I’ve ever attended.
Have you read Part I?
Back at the beginning of the year, when Emi first found out she was pregnant, it put a bee in my bonnet. It spurred me into action. Shaun and I had been talking wishy-washy about trying to start a family, and suddenly, the knowledge that Emi was pregnant made both of us realize how much we wanted this, how ready we were, finally. In January and February, and even in March, we had been kinda half-hearted in our attempts, still scared, still unsure, still feeling young and immature.
As Emi’s pregnancy progressed, we wanted that same experience for ourselves, more and more. Back in spring, I dreamed of spending most of the year pregnant with Emi. We’d talked about it all winter, imagining what it would be like to prop our feet up together and make our boys cater to us, we dreamed about our bellies growing together, our babies being born with in weeks or months of each other.
Turns out, that’s not what God or Nature or the Universe or Fate had in mind for us – and that’s been a difficult reality to accept. A difficult dream to let go of, especially as it felt like every other woman around me was getting pregnant, and I was left behind. I’ve come to terms with it – I think, I hope, I pray. I know Shaun and I are busy, we work opposite schedules, we’re seldom home together, we don’t get a lot of privacy. I get so emotional (SURPRISE) about everything (SURPRISE) that periodically, we’ve had to take breaks from thinking too hard about it, trying too hard — I just get so disappointed and tearful, even though I think our situation is fairly common and we’re not concerned, just impatient. Our time will come, but it wasn’t over the summer.
One of my Goal Words for 2015 has been Trust, and Lord, have I been tested this year. This year has tested me and challenged me, and at first, I always try to control everything. I research, I plan, I make goals and then I break those goals down into smaller goals and I turn those smaller goals into To-Do lists and then I make a Plan of Attack so I can achieve my goals as efficiently as possible.
And the Universe says, nuh-uh. Ain’t happening. You’re not in charge, I am, and the more you try and force things into place, the more you hammer and yank and stomp your feet – the more I am going to challenge you. Calm down. Be patient. Surrender. Trust.
(It’s a lesson I’m still learning.)
As Emi’s pregnancy progressed and mine was no where to be seen – I decided to focus more and more on Emi and her pregnancy. Look at this as a learning experience, I told myself. And as the months went along, and especially now that I have witnessed her giving birth, I began to see that this really was a learning experience. I don’t know how the timing will work out for Shaun and for me, but back in January, February, March – I really was unprepared, although I didn’t know it. I knew a lot about pregnancy, and birth – for a non-pregnant, non-mother, non-doula, non-midwife or nurse or doctor. Now, on the other side of Emi’s pregnancy, I do feel so much more prepared, both in knowledge and in faith and experience – because I haven’t just read about it – I have now seen it. I have witnessed the necessary physical strength as well as the emotional, I have witnessed the sacrifice and the depth of love and the rewards that come at the very end, after the mother has faced her biggest challenge, stopped fighting, and surrendered to birth.
The idea of me attending Emi at her birth started very casually – before she was even actually pregnant. As I’ve said, Emi, Jeannie, and I were all self-diagnosed birth junkies, we were the women who asked other women for their birth stories, their complications, their fears and their successes and their reflections. But I was the only one who had never attended a birth. I had wanted to – for a long time. But again, I don’t have any nieces or nephews. Any cousins I have live hours and hours away. I just hadn’t known pregnant women close enough to me that they wouldn’t mind me being there. There had never been any opportunity.
And I felt like I was missing an essential piece of the puzzle because of it. I had felt this pull, like Emi and Jeannie, to be more involved in birth. Once, a couple years ago, I was on the verge of getting my doula certification, or at least taking a training course – and for some reason, that dream as a priority slipped. Life got in the way. Work and a strict schedule got in the way. The fact that I had never given birth or attended a birth seemed to stand in the way – how could I spend significant amounts of money on a training or certification when I didn’t even know if I liked birth? If I could stomach it? It seemed foolish, and I felt foolish for dreaming it.
Well, you’re certainly welcome to come be in the room the next time I give birth, Emi told me, once or twice, before she was even pregnant again with SB. If you can be there, I don’t mind – and I’d be a good person to watch, for your first birth. I stay pretty calm, I handle it pretty well. It wouldn’t be scary.
I jumped at the idea, and once she was pregnant, I hoped she had really meant it.
Turns out – she did. Turns out – because of her year in Uganda and the closeness between us after she returned home, we were both keen to get me in that labor room. And this year, working with photography – at whatever amateur, learning level I could – was a major goal of mine. I started with a decent camera, then I learned how to work with it. I started learning about simpler ways to edit them, and then I took the plunge and invested in Photoshop, started teaching myself step-by-step. In the weeks before Emi actually gave birth, I had managed to create a few really decent pictures here and there, captured a few really special moments, including her maternity and family session.
Suddenly, it was more than just me being present in the room, a silent observer, an audience member – suddenly, there were perks on both sides.
I was thinking, Emi said, somewhere around May or June, maybe you could come to the birth? Be my sort-of doula, and since you have a nicer camera – this conversation was pre-Photoshop days for me – you could be my birth photographer?
YES, I answered immediately, unequivocally. Yes, let’s please do that, yes.
Over many midday sushi lunch dates, Emi and I worked out the details. She knew I’d had interest in being a doula, and being a doula herself, she talked me through her prenatal appointments with clients, and I asked tons of questions. What do you do here, what do you prefer, what I can bring, what do you think you’ll like, what do you think you won’t want, at all?
I wanted to do this right, both the doula aspect and the photographer aspect. I don’t ever ask anyone for money when I’m doing pictures for them. I’m not experienced enough, I’m not qualified enough, I’ve had no real training, just an earnest willing heart and an artist’s eye and a mind to learn and pick up information and skills quickly. But the lack of actual payment doesn’t mean I take it any less seriously. In fact, I take tasks like this even more seriously – because being asked to document a life event by one of my closest friends is an even bigger deal to me than being hired to do it for money. If my friend trusts me enough to have faith that I will capture a huge event in their life, something that will never happen again – if my friend trusts me to be with her in her most intimate, challenging, vulnerable moments and trusts that I will be a boon, an asset, a comfort to her – than I want to make sure that I live up to that trust.
In the final days and weeks before Emi gave birth this time around, I felt the same sort of nervous excitement, that borderline anxiety that I had felt before I did her maternity and family pictures. I kept telling Shaun, Lauren, anyone who would listen – I feel like I can do this. I really feel like I will do a good job – I’m just scared I won’t live up to what I’m imagining, I won’t live up to what I believe I can do.
Trust, the answer came again. It’s been my word, all year. Trust in yourself, and everything will unfold as it should.