The Normal Umbrella

Two weeks ago, we experienced a bit of a scare with the baby. What a gift it is that I can just say that it was a scare.

I’m very aware that many don’t get that gift. I don’t want this reflection to come across poorly and as some girl who just doesn’t understand. It’s true! I don’t understand, and I don’t pray that God will give me the chance to understand. But if you are one of those with the chance to understand, I'm truly sorry.  I do pray for you and your family, including those lives lost before meeting.

We had just happily arrived in California the night before, and I was putting Ryan down for a nap when I started bleeding. (For some humor, imagine Chris’ attempts to answer the question that came from my little brother-in-law, “But where is Katrina bleeding from?”) I immediately started crying.

I’d been telling Chris throughout the second trimester that maybe something was wrong. Conor made his presence known by kicking and nudging and flipping at fourteen weeks, and as I approached seventeen and then eighteen weeks with this baby, there was nothing to eagerly call Chris over to feel my belly save a few instances that just demonstrated that maybe I should have eaten something else for dinner. Finally, I felt some kicking late in the night, hours before an appointment. That was nice. The next morning, my midwife couldn’t find the heartbeat using a Doppler, but she managed to show me a quick-beating heart on a mini-ultrasound. I got it all on video and provided my own commentary that unfortunately sounds like I was incredibly stoned. Maybe I’ll see if I can edit that out.

When I called on that Monday to tell my midwives that I was bleeding and ask what I should do, the midwife at my practice was very calming and comforting, but she asked if I had felt the baby move in the past day. I had to think about it, and then my throat tightened as I realized that having to think about it wasn't a good sign. She assured me that it didn't mean anything, and it was normal to not feel consistent movement yet. As I sat on my in-laws' white wooden porch swing waiting and then in the emergency room for hours and hours, my thoughts ran. 

Will I get to hold my baby? What will we name the baby? Will I be able to pass the baby without pain medication? Should I attempt that? Will I be under? Where will we bury the baby? Will my heart ache every time we visit family, and I think, “I should have a baby that size, I should have a child that size in my arms,” when I see my two sisters-in-law’s babies? Will I be forgiving of God? 

Finally, I felt a swift kick in my belly that let me sigh with relief and knocked some sense into me to stop being silly. We were among the lucky ones. Our unnamed Baby was still growing. I could go back to staring at the wall in lieu of reading the philosophy book Chris offered that he was reading for fun. 

The thorough ultrasound showed no hemorrhaging, no tears, nothing but an intact placenta and a baby that was cozying up in that saltwater bath with his or her hands under his or her cheeks. 

We spent a lot more time in the cold OB/Gyn ER room jokingly playing name-the-baby, and Chris instagrammed a photo of my urine sample. The doctor finally came in to discharge me, and he assured me that although sometimes it is a sign that something is wrong,  bleeding like this could be ... normal.

Oh! Normal.  

It was normal, I had heard, to not feel the baby yet. It was normal, I had heard, for the Doppler to have trouble finding the itsy bitsy baby and heartbeat. Morning sickness occurring all day. Spotting throughout the whole pregnancy. Feeling better than before the entire time. Taking the stove apart to capture the millionth crumb wedged into the deepest and farthest crevice. This is normal, we hear. That is normal, we hear.

Pregnancy adds more caveats to the meaning of a word possibly more than any other state since it gathers nearly every ache, euphoria and feeling under one umbrella of “normal.” It’s all normal! It's how the world naturally continues! But the past two weeks as I've been mentally jumbling the forming of new life all together, the physical drains, the primal instincts and the emotional pulls, I think it is clear that pregnancy is not normal. This offering, this tie, is simply more than normal. 

I'm carrying doubts, I'm carrying expectations, I'm carrying humility, I'm carrying power, I'm carrying fear, I'm carrying joy. I'm carrying love. I'm carrying life.

Being the home for a budding soul stretches to above the merely natural. 

And I'm thankful for the sacredness of it. And that makes me want to cry.

Which, I've heard, is normal. 

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(And happy, happy birthday to this girl).