Monday, October 19, 2015

Ora et Labora: Preparing for Birth

I'm 37 weeks pregnant. My midwife appointments are weekly now. We've started to prepare in earnest for the arrival of baby - washing the last of the newborn clothes and blankets, setting up the crib, and organizing cloth diapers. The birth center where I hopefully will deliver the baby requests that I pack my bags by 37 weeks, which has got me thinking about the impending labor and birth.

I've never been one to worry about or dread labor. I was perfectly calm and confident going into the birth of my first child. I'm sure much of that calmness came from naivete but I also trusted my body. Everything went smoothly and I have nothing but good memories of my first birth experience. It's not that it wasn't painful. It was. Or that it wasn't hard work. It was. It's just that everything went exactly how nature intended. It was a beautiful birth experience and didn't leave me with any reason to dread future labors or births. (You can read Lucia's birth story here.)

I'm not anxious about the physical aspects of birth this time either. Though multiple miscarriages shattered the confidence I had in my body's ability to protect and nurture my child in the womb, I have no reason to believe that my body isn't fully capable of giving birth. I am, however, quite apprehensive about the emotional aspects of birth.

After my first miscarriage, when I was very early along with our third child (who would not long after become our second loss), I attended a friend's birth. It was a lovely, beautiful birth and I was very honored to be a part of it. But, it was also very emotionally traumatizing. After the birth, I sobbed for twelve hours straight. Seeing that birth, perhaps especially because it was so beautiful, reminded me of what I would never have the with the child I lost. I would never be able to labor to bring him forth into this world. I would never get to hold him or touch him or see what he looked like. It wasn't until watching that birth that I realized how much we had truly lost. We lost a whole lifetime with our child and just the thought of missing that very first snippet of that life - just the pregnancy, labor and birth - was overwhelming in itself.

Many people have commented on how healing this pregnancy and the upcoming birth must be for me. That hasn't been my experience so far. I'm hoping that the birth will be healing, but I'm also preparing myself for the very feasible possibility that it will be the opposite, or most likely a combination of both. Every milestone and notable moment of this pregnancy that would have otherwise brought great joy has instead brought grief, reminding me of what I will never be able to experience with four of my children. I have wanted so badly to focus on the joy and these moments with this child instead of the lost moments with our other children. I desire so greatly to just be able to enjoy the present, but I feel constantly haunted by the past. It's not for lack of trying, but I just can't seem to find a way to consciously make it happen.

When I think about what I want from my upcoming birth, all I want is to be able to bond with my baby and focus on the beauty of his birth without it being completely overshadowed by the pain of previous losses. I know there is no way to completely block out the grief, pain, or memories of our other children, I just don't want those emotions to be the dominant ones. I don't want to look back on our child's birth and only remember the trauma and pain. After all, this birth is not about me but about my child and I don't want my baby's entry into this world to be completely obscured by the death of his siblings. My child deserves to be recognized and acknowledged for his individual blessings and beauty to this world, and to have his birth be a joyful event all its own. 

Aside from packing my bag (which I still haven't done...) with items to take care of my physical needs during and after birth, I'm also preparing in various ways for the emotional aspects of birth. Here's how:

First and foremost, prayer. I'm especially leaning on the prayers of others. A dear friend (and baby's future godmother) gave me a lovely baby blessing and sprinkle this past weekend and the prayers of the friends that came mean so very much for me. In addition to offering prayers for me there, each woman gave a bead that will become a bracelet that I'll wear while I'm in labor to remember all the people praying for me. They also each took a candle home to light while after they are notified that I'm in labor as a reminder to pray for me. How beautiful is that? To read more about a Catholic baby blessing, this post includes everything we did and the prayers that were said.

I'm also planning to take the prayer intentions of others in to the birth center with me. So if you have an intention that you would like me to pray for, especially if it's related to pregnancy, loss, or infertility, please leave it in the comments. I would be honored to pray for you. I'll compile them all into a document to print off and bring in with me.

Sacramentals and visuals, like the beautiful matching rosaries my husband and I have, the Marian statue I recently bought especially to bring to the birth, and my images of Our Lady of Guadalupe (whom I have a strong devotion to) will be accompanying us to the birth. I wish I had an image of Saints Zelie and Louis Martin to bring in as well since I have entrusted the baby and my pregnancy to their care, but since they are newly canonized, there isn't much out there of them yet. Maybe I have time to still order something though...

Young Living Independent Distributor Jennifer Anne Hansen sent me Lavender and Peace & Calm essential oils to use during labor. I consider them to be for both the physical and emotional aspects of birth and am super excited that each birth room already has a diffuser.   

I've also been spending a lot of time recently trying to connect with the babies we lost. I've been talking to them and referring to them by name (something that is very difficult for me), thinking about what it would be like if they were living now, and grieving the milestones we missed. The first baby we lost, Francis, would be 17 months, and Julian would we 13 months, both most likely walking and talking. The most recent babies we lost, Adrienne and Christian, would be three and four months old, just exiting the newborn stage.My hope is that by fully acknowledging and grieving their losses now, the pain will be a little less later, making more room for the joy of our baby on the way.

And that's all I've got right now. Any moms who've been in a similar emotional situation during a pregnancy after loss have advice for me? How was your labor and birth? What can I do to prepare emotionally?


  1. Please pray for my husband and I. We had our third loss this year (would have been due about the same time as you) and are trying again. I hope I am as strong as you in future pregnancies. Thank you for your writing, it's refreshing in its hope as well as its honesty in the darkness.

  2. Mandi, you are in my prayers! My pregnancy and birth with my daughter after having my miscarriage was very emotionally difficult. I cried a lot and worried I would lose her up until the day I had her. I balled when she came out of me and the doctor and nurse with a stunned look on their faces told me she had a true knot in her cord, and that they said that "someone up above" was looking out for her. In that moment I felt intense relief, shock, joy, sadness from missing our baby we lost, but at the same time so grateful for that baby, who is in heaven and was praying for her big sister to be born alive, healthy, and well. You and baby will be in my prayers as you prepare for delivery. God Bless!

  3. The sprinkle and baby blessing sounds like such a beautiful experience! Keeping you in prayer, especially so, these next few weeks!

  4. Not sure if you've seen this or if it's what you're looking for:

  5. Thank you so much for your blog! It has been a great source of comfort to me as I am also expecting my "penumbra baby." I have also prayed tirelessly for Sts. Zelie and Louis's intercession throughout this pregnancy and was so thrilled to find a beautiful icon to bring with me to the hospital and put in the nursery. I thought I would share it since you are looking for one as well.

    Thank you again for the gift of this blog and you remain in my prayers!

    - Marie

  6. Prayers for you. I haven't been in that situation (yet? I hope?), but I can easily imagine all the emotions. I often think about the milestones we are missing with the three babies I've lost, and I'm sure another pregnancy would intensify that.

    If you would please pray for us to have a healthy pregnancy and baby sometime soon, I would very much appreciate it. My husband and I would love to raise a family here on earth, but so far have only been blessed with our three in heaven. Thank you!

  7. I'm praying for you Mandi! I have a friend from college who painted a gorgeous painting of Sts. Louis and Zelie - she doesn't have an Etsy or anything, but if you'd like I could contact her and see if she'd be willing to let you buy a copy or something like that!

    1. Or I just found this one - not sure if it's the style you like or not but it's beautiful!

  8. I'm praying for you and your upcoming birth! Please pray for my brother-in-law and his wife, who have struggled with infertility for the past five years and are now trying to adopt. Thank you!

  9. Please pray for Megan to carry to term and deliver a healthy baby!

    Praying for you!!

  10. Please pray for our Baby #6 on earth, that my pregnancy will progress normally and s/he will be healthy.

  11. I second the trinity store link above! Prayers everything goes smoothly. Emotional struggles bring you closer to God if you let the graces gained through perseverance in faith happen. I know its hard but try to remember Our Lady of Sorrows knows infinitely more emotional hurt and she's there for you!

  12. Please pray for my husband and I as we navigate some upcoming decisions about infertility treatments.

  13. I will be praying for you, Mandi. I hope this birth will be a safe and healing one and that you'll be able to bond immediately and easily with your new little one. God is good, trust in His goodness.

  14. I recently miscarried at 18 weeks, this post has really made me hopeful. i'm so glad that after your ordeal you have been able to have another child. What has really been playing on my mind in particular is that when I become pregnant I will forget my son, I have felt so worried about this and it has given me comfort to read your blog and see that you haven't forgotten your other children. People like yourself have even inspired me to start my own blog. I envy your faith and perhaps you could pray for me as I find it difficult to do so myself.