dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: Pregnancy

State of My Mind

In late 2014, around the time I got pregnant with L, I stopped having nightmares. Or at least, I stopped having any nightmares that I could recall. Certainly none, if they occurred, were bad enough to affect my sleep-wake cycle or leave me at all affected (as far as I can tell, on a conscious level).

A few vivid and incredibly bizarre dreams happened during the first and second trimesters, but they tended towards odd or funny, and once L was born, my subconscious seemed to be taking a break from movie making.

Two weeks ago, though, I had my first nightmare in yonks. The details were fuzzy when I woke, but I vaguely recall that the cast was a mix of my relatives and characters from a couple of local movies that E had been playing on repeat at home. I have no recollection of the plot or any events in it, but I know I woke up with a start, panting slightly and feeling a bit out of sorts and disturbed.

Then, two nights ago, I had my next memorable nightmare. And this one’s still with me, a little. I have no recollection of the cast (there was a vague impression when I woke, but that’s faded now) or the plot, but one scene – the one I woke from – has left me with rather gruesome images and a faint gnawing dread.

I am crouching, with L beside me, and we’re looking at something on the ground. I point at it and she laughs and babbles, flapping her arms. Then suddenly I feel it – that unmistakable sensation of a foetal limb pressing hard against my insides as the unborn infant, which has to be at least six months grown to have such an effect, stretches. I’m surprised, because as far as I know,  I’m not pregnant. In surprise and curiosity I look down at my belly, yanking my T-shirt up, and see to my shock the shape of a tiny fist, distending the skin of my abdomen quite grotesquely, sweeping across from right to left and stretching the skin further and further outward as it does, causing intense pressure to build up really quickly. A moment later, there’s a huge pop and my abdomen bursts open, a la the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien, and I stare in horror – strangely I feel nothing, perhaps because I’m in shock? – as my skin falls in ragged folds to expose a gory, slimy something not unlike what the Nostromo’s crew found inside the alien eggs and the innards of the alien face hugger. It gapes below my exposed ribs, and I look up, bewildered, unsure if it’s actually happening or just a part of my imagination – I must be going insane, I’m hallucinating big time – and realise I don’t know what’s happened to L, who was supposedly right next to me. And then I’m screaming… 

And then I’m awake.

What this sort of thing is supposed to mean, I have no idea. My subconscious seems to be a very scary place. Either that, or I’m a really disturbed individual.

The Line Between Faith and Lack of Concern

Okay. Some might think it weird, but over the past few weeks, much of which I have spent lying flat on my back contemplating my ceiling in absolute boredom (I was put on bed rest by my current ob-gyn for spotting), one of my main worries has been my plants.

Yes, my plants.

How are they doing? Are they getting enough water (my mother and sister are not very reliable assistants in this area)? Are they getting infested with pests – read: spider mites – as a result of not getting enough water? Are they happy? Have any of them started spiking/blooming/pupping?

I’m well aware that tillandsias are among the toughest plants in existence, and that they are also particularly successful and drought-resistant in the wild. I also know that we’ve had some really heavy thunderstorms recently, whose strong winds ensured that my tillies got plenty of beneficial rainwater. But these are my babies!

E has been doing a pretty good job since I decided that we didn’t need extra help (mother/sister), and he’s done a round of up-close inspections to check for pests. He’s also offered to bring them over to me in small batches so that I can take a look myself, but so far I’ve unfortunately been feeling too tired or irritable or nausea-affected to take him up on it. I’ve observed him watering them a couple of times and felt significantly less anxious about their well-being, but it’s not the same as leaning out that window and personally ensuring that every single one of them is in top condition.

It’s not entirely clear to me whether my preoccupation with my plants is entirely down to my passionate love for them or if it’s influenced by a subconscious need to deflect my anxieties concerning my not-so-easy-so-far pregnancy (and I’m only seven weeks along!). Maybe I’m in denial. …Actually, since I’m actually writing a whole post on the topic, it’s clearly the latter.

We all navigate faith in slightly different ways, I guess. Sure, we all know at least one church-instilled description (e.g. “faith is trusting in the inherent goodness of God instead of your feelings”), and some of us can parrot scriptural definitions (e.g. “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Hebrews 11:1, AKJV). But how does faith work out in real life, when you’re not dealing with things that could conceivably or arguably be psychosomatic or hallucinatory (e.g. feeling the Spirit’s presence, speaking in tongues, seeing visions, getting “slain”), but with a medical professional’s unsmiling face and discouraging words, packets of drugs, and bloodstains?

Even financial troubles and financial blessings aren’t as difficult to deal with where faith is concerned. After all, it’s not really a miracle per se for family members and close friends who know of your plight to feel moved to give you some cash – the aggregate could very well be more than enough to solve the problem, and then ta-dah! God has favoured and blessed me with provision!

Like I always say, though, there’s no point arguing about faith healing with someone who’s actually already been healed, because there’s really no point to the argument. He’s already healed, and he knows it, and the medical evidence of it is there (unexplained, duh), and how are you going to refute that? And I know what I’ve experienced before: situations where my faith was not disappointed, and where coincidences had clearly crossed the line into the realm of the uncanny. I know that my God is faithful, and I know that His love is real and present, and I know that He provides – abundantly and to overflowing. I just haven’t been tested (or haven’t tested Him?) in this area yet.

I look at my plants and I see that they’ve indeed gone on to spike, bloom and pup. I look at the plants around me, in my estate, in my office building, on the streets, and I see that they all continue to flourish, growing flowers, fruits and seeds in their season. I see the birds and the stray cats and dogs and the pesky rats and moles multiplying freely. I know that women in lower income brackets as well as in poorer and less developed places overseas, without access to the level of medical care I have, are successfully bearing children. I know that in many places, even though they struggle with overfishing, excessive hunting, poaching, habitat destruction and pollution, millions of creatures and plants are still carrying on their life cycles more or less effectively.

In most cases, given the right environment and nutrition, reproduction occurs naturally and effortlessly – and the wrongness and problems are more often than not the result of humanity’s self-serving actions.

Everywhere, at every moment, the first divine commands and blessings ever given on earth are still being obeyed and still manifesting, often with predictable and taken-for-granted results:

Genesis 1: 11–12 (AKJV)
And God said: “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth”: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1: 21–22 (AKJV)
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

Genesis 1:24–25 (AKJV)
And God said: “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind”: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1: 27–28 (AJKV)
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Note also that after the Flood, when Noah and his family were getting ready to set out and rebuild human civilisation from scratch, God reiterated His initial blessings and commands:

Genesis 9:1, 7 (AKJV)
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

I wake up in the morning and believe that gravity is still in operation, that my lungs still require oxygen and that Earth’s atmosphere still contains liveable amounts of this gas. I get on the train and the bus and trust that thermodynamics work the same way today that they did yesterday. I eat and drink, believing that these substances I ingest are indeed what they appear to be and contain the nutrients they are supposed to contain, and that my body functions using these as fuel. I go to sleep at night trusting that my heart and lungs and everything else will continue to function without my conscious assistance or supervision, and I trust that I will wake up the next day.

That’s basically how the plants and animals live, isn’t it? We were made to function this way in a world that was fashioned and designed to work by the various laws and theories that we are still discovering and refining our understanding of. Are we not all living by faith, in different things and at different levels and to different extents, at all times?

I have been given a command to go forth and be fruitful. And what He has called me to do, He also equips me to carry out (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 13:21). Children are a gift and a blessing (Leviticus 26:9, Psalm 115:14, Psalm 127:3, Psalm 128:2–4). For us who stand on grace ground, having been made the righteousness of God in Christ, the Old Testament promises that none shall miscarry or be barren in the land are “yes and amen” in Him (Genesis 28:3, Genesis 49:25, Exodus 23:25–26, Leviticus 26:9, Deuteronomy 7:12–15, Deuteronomy 28:11, Deuteronomy 30:9; Romans 3:21–24, Romans 5:17, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:20).

And so I am not spending an indefinite period of time lying in bed, although the medical expert I’m currently seeing keeps insisting that that is all I am good for right now (with threats that not complying will result in disaster). I’m still working, though I’m monitoring my symptoms and being careful and conservative in my movements. I’m not yet able to wear a smile all the time (feeling ill and waging a constant mental battle will do that to you), but I’m not going to panic and scramble to obey the edicts of science – I’m going to follow my instincts and I’m going to walk by faith.

And I’m going to have this child.

The Need to Let Go

I was watering the plants earlier today and the thought struck me that somewhere in the next several months, I might not be able to continue watering them in the same way. In fact, I might need to move them, or even have them fostered, for a while. Maybe not all of them, but a large number will probably have to go. Not permanently, of course, but for long enough that I do wonder if my attachment to them will survive the separation fully intact.

Why, you may wonder, when I am usually so particular about their needs and haven’t had very good experiences with leaving them to another person’s care. What could possibly be the reason behind this notion that letting go of them, or more accurately my sole responsibility for their care for a significant amount of time, is necessary?

Two days ago, I found out that I am pregnant.

Okay, I’ll be more accurate: Two days ago, I found out for sure (with test results to prove it) that I am pregnant. I’d known for a week, really — what with the sore boobs, dizzy spells, bouts of nausea, odd cravings and a general feeling of weirdness, and oh, the fact that my period was late. Also, the timing fit with multiple strands of logic, Bible numerics and real-life timelines, and several prophetic dreams and visions by myself and a few others.

I haven’t had time yet to really sit down and read up on this and shortlist my options (like which gynaecologists are likely bets), so of course I haven’t seen a gynae yet, and so we don’t know for sure how long I am along. The GP we saw on Friday says her best bet is about five to six weeks, and some of the people we’ve told in the past two days have commented that it’s odd for anyone to reveal such news so early. They advised me to keep it quiet until I know for sure that I’m more than three months along.

Apparently it is not normal to announce one’s pregnancy until the supposedly danger-fraught first trimester is over, partly because of the higher likelihood of miscarriage during this period, and also partly due to superstition — if you talk about a good thing before it’s “cemented”, you might anger “the spirits” and they might decide to give you bad luck (ie a miscarriage). Or whatever other reasons there are behind those deep-seated old fears that haunt so many people.

I would be lying if I said that I am absolutely untouched and unaffected by these vicarious worries. I’m human, after all — but I also know that there is no point holding on to what you have no control over. Sure, I can do my part and be careful not to ingest alcohol, caffeine and whatever else isn’t good for a developing foetus, avoid contact with cigarette smoke and possible toxic substances, be really careful with which (and the amounts and concentrations of) essential oils I use, make sure I don’t make any sudden or jerky movements, and take care how I walk so that I don’t bump into things or fall down… but it is a fact that nothing I can do is going to guarantee that this tiny little beginning of a new human being is going to make it to full term. Only God can do that. So I need to, and will, let go and let Him do what He does best — be God.

Another thing I believe is that the God I trust in is a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, one whose word and gifts are permanent. Where He leads me (if it is clear to me, and I’m kinda stupid sometimes) I will follow; what He calls me to do, He will equip me to complete. He who begins a good work in me will be faithful to complete it in me, for His own name’s sake. He did not arrange things such that everything has fallen into place just to have things turn out to be some kind of cosmic joke. We certainly didn’t plan any of it on our own, it just happened. (A quick mention of some it: Agreement to be open to receive parenthood in the fifth — number of grace — year of our marriage; conception in the sixth — number of man/humanity — year leading to birth in the seventh — number of perfection/completion — year; conception occurring in E’s thirty-fifth — seven x five — year of life.)

The concept of “let go and let God” is not new to me. It is something that you learn very early in your Christian walk, no matter what denomination you come from, whether or not your principle reason is trust in your loving Father’s faithful and perfect care or a belief that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. For E and me, it is clear that even though we don’t always feel it to be real, our God is a Saviour, Healer and Provider extraordinaire. And He cares.

E and I have had some experience seeing it play out in real life, as getting married and getting and paying for our home was a real test of faith in God’s ability and willingness to provide for us financially. The end result was that we had enough money for every stage we went through, with enough left over to start our new life together relatively carefree. Clawing our way out of ministry-related disaster-caused doldrums from 2008 to 2013 was a long hard trek during which I questioned my faith several times, but the Lord had always provided handholds and reminders that kept me from leaving the path completely. We’re not completely fine yet, to be sure, but we’re still standing. And that, in a world where relationships burn out and die at the drop of a hat, really makes all the difference.

Does that make us ready to be parents? No. We’ve discussed it on and off and have some ideas, and we are much more mentally and emotionally prepared for it now since I passed thirty and E decided that it was time to get off birth control completely, but we don’t believe it is possible or even favourable to be absolutely prepared. Where does faith come in if you’re already so prepared that nothing can faze you? And where will iron self-sufficiency leave you if you’re wrong or your preparations turn out to be insufficient? What else is there to do but let go and let God?

So I am leaving this pregnancy in my Father’s hands, and will trust Him to bring to fruition the seed He has begun forming within me. And so I will also leave my plants in His hands and the hands of friends and family, when the time comes for that.

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