The time is drawing near, labour and the birth of Maria Bernadette is upon us (me). I know I have given birth 6 times already, but even so I feel I need to remind myself to keep calm and trust in God.
I am almost 38 weeks, I am finally on my maternity leave and my 'nesting instinct' has well and truly kicked in and after thoroughly cleaning the house, washing all the baby things, making space in the cupboards... I am tidying and cleaning up unnecessary, hidden corners of the house.
I doubt I will be baking or decorating cakes in the next month or so and yet the other day I felt the need to clean and tidy up that cupboard too, as well as to find a new tool box for all my paints and tidy up the loft room!
While I do this I wonder whether this urge implies that the baby is near, or just me hoping that would be the case.
I loved all my bumps and every time I feel like complaining I remember that I am carrying another human being so carrying something so precious can't possibly be an easy task. Yet the heaviness and lack of grace in my movements tell me that we are almost there.
The floor is so far away and once down getting up is a real challenge. Almost there I keep on telling to myself... Then I think of labour... Will it be another LONG one? Will it happen during the night? Will they have to break my waters, as always? What if I end up having a C-Section like I had with Lucia? I couldn't possibly cope with that again! One could go crazy asking these sorts of questions over and over again! Then I take a deep breath and ask God to give me His peace.
Thinking of my past experience I tried to look back at some of the things that have definitely helped me during the previous labours.
1. Have your 'Hospital Bag' ready way before time.
Starting to prepare my hospital bag around the 30th week has helped me to reduce the pressure of the coming birth and has given me time to think carefully and calmly of all the possible things needed for the big event. 8 weeks later my bag is properly ready (I think) and there is still time for adjustments.
2.Don't worry too much about writing down a detailed Birth Plan.
Although on the one hand it is good to have some sort of an idea of what and how you would like labour to proceed, on the other hand writing down a detailed birth plan can lead to disappointment and drive you towards a feeling of failure which is unnecessary after experiencing such a great natural event. Labour can be very unpredictable and the birth of your precious child is almost always very different from your so well drawn up plan of action.
3.When the time comes don't panic, breathe.
Ok, now the time has really come, it is not quite 'established labour' yet but the the time for you to meet your little one is not too far away... 24+ hours of tiring pain ahead in my case... hopefully way less for you. Remember to use the breathing techniques you either read about a million times or maybe have been taught during your antenatal classes. I don't know whether they really work, but they are certainly a very good way to draw attention away from the incoming contractions. Focus yourself on the breathing and don't abandon yourself to the increasing pain. Courage, remember you are woman and your body was created to do this... yes! When you feel the pain you will blame Eve and curse her many times... nut that is our lot!
4.Offer it up
You are tired, very tired you feel sick, you just want this to end NOW! It doesn't matter that you wanted a natural birth, you are now begging for an Epidural... having a C-section doesn't seem like a dreadful idea. Keep Calm and breathe, you will have a C- Section if necessary, not because YOU think it's time to bring this to an end (as I write I am reliving my previous experiences and it's kind of funny now, but I wasn't laughing then!). We, women have been blessed and through our pain we can have a share in Christ's own sufferings.
"Childbirth is an event basked in sacredness. Granted that the agonizing pains that women endure are a dire consequence of original sin, the beauty of Catholic teaching makes it clear that her womanly travails and cries of agony, which precede the coming into the world of another human person, have a deeply symbolic meaning. Just as Christ has suffered the agonizing pains of the crucifixion in order to reopen for us the gates of heaven, so the woman has received the costly privilege of suffering so that another child made to God's image can enter into the world"
(The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice Von Hildebrand).
What to do with this suffering? Don't waste it and ask for the grace to offer it for something or someone in particular. In the past weeks I have been asking God to show me clearly for what or who I should offer my pain up. Offering it for the souls in Purgatory is always a good one when in doubt.
Ongoing Hail Marys are also of great help to get you through.
5. When you think you can't take it anymore the end is very near.
One reason why I would never encourage women to opt for an Epidural is because, to be able to feel and listen to one's body is very important.
Your body will naturally guide you and direct you. Many, many, many women before us have gone through it for millions of years, trust yourself, trust your body and when you think you can't take it anymore... I promise you, you are almost there, not long till you meet that little beauty you have been waiting for for 9 months!!!!
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
That sense of exhaustion yet at the same time of fulfillment that a woman will experience after giving birth is unexplainable and I feel that those women that choose not to go through it miss something precious.
On the other hand, don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go as you wanted them to go! Giving Birth is an extraordinary experience and the most natural thing for us women but sometimes outside help is needed.
Lucia was transverse and as she seemed to be very comfortable in that position, she stayed like that till term. Facing the wrong direction there was no way out for her and yet she didn't seem to mind... so she had be born by an Elective Cesarian.
Lucia was born very quickly, she was beautiful and healthy. After a few days I started experiencing a sense of failure and of something missing especially after having known the great feeling of a natural post partum.
Don't fall into this trap! Thank God we have access to medical help when things don't quite work the way they should, or we would like to. Look at what is in front of you and bless the Lord for the miracle of life and enjoy and serve your little human being.
Please say a little prayer for me too ;)