In the early hours of 2021, God handed me the word Expectant and I told Him to take it back.
Expectant. The word twisted into my aching, empty womb with all the mercilessness of a knife. I couldn’t claim it as a promise because what if it didn’t mean what I wanted it to mean? What if I couldn’t get pregnant again? Or worse, what if I did get pregnant again and my body failed that child, too?
But God persisted, so I set out to expect good things (maybe not a baby, but good things) from 2021.
Then it happened. The month I started to feel alive again—the month before my husband and I had determined would be the month we start trying to create a new life together—a baby appeared in my womb.
An unexpected gift.
And still so very afraid to claim it.
I scheduled an appointment to get my progesterone checked. I prolonged trips to the bathroom, afraid of what I would find in the toilet every time. I grieved, rather than celebrated, the day I realized I was the most pregnant I had ever been.
I loved my new baby, but I missed her siblings something awful.
Still, we made it through the majority of the year Expectant. Then my January baby decided December was more her style and announced her impending arrival a week early.
The morning my water broke, I was such a hopeful fool. The end was near. Things were happening. My baby would be here tomorrow.
Contractions kicked in late that night. I was up at 3am, bursting with excitement. With Expectancy. But I remembered my midwife’s warning to sleep when I could, so I stretched out on the couch and closed my eyes.
I awoke two hours later to complete stillness. No contractions and, even more disconcerting, no baby kicks.
I placed a hand on my stomach, lifted and jiggled and whispered, “Come on, Blue.” I drank some water. Ate a nutrigrain bar. Still, my baby didn’t respond.
I hadn’t felt this kind of emptiness since the morning after I lost the twins. The morning when I woke up and pressed a hand to my flat stomach and lamented (despite my husband’s insistence to keep hoping we still had a survivor in there) that they were gone.
In this instance, my stomach was far from flat. There was a seven and a half pound human in there, after all. But the stillness… Oh, the stillness.
I called the midwife, paced the halls, climbed the stairs. My husband put his hands on my belly, lifting and shaking and begging our child to move.
I bounced softly on my birth ball, clutching my stomach, sniffling through tears, reminding God that He promised.
Except He didn’t.
What He promised me was an Expectancy. A hope. A sense of anticipation…
But He never promised me my desired outcome. He never guaranteed me a living, breathing baby in the end.
And what then? What happens when your Expectancy ends in heartache? What happens when your dreams turn to ash around you?
Is God still faithful? And good? And worthy of adoration? Are you still thankful for this gift, even if it will soon be ripped from your hands?
These are the things I pondered for the longest hour and a half. In those quiet hours before dawn, I was forced to surrender the thing I cherished most in the world—the child I had craved and carried and expected.
Then the midwife arrived and the heartbeat sang strong and I choked out a cry of relief while demanding, “What the hell, Blue?”
My baby was alive. Stubbornly silent, but alive.
The day went on, laborless, until the midwife fed me some kind of miracle milkshake and the contractions kicked in non-stop.
Ten hours of labor (mostly spent in the bathroom thanks to the ingredients of that milkshake). Ten hours of clinging to my husband’s neck while simultaneously snapping at him not to touch me as each contraction raged. Ten hours of craving rest but also being afraid to sleep because what if labor stopped again?
Somehow I did manage to sleep, albeit a minute at a time. Then I got up to use the bathroom and it all went wrong.
“We’re going to get ready to transfer for a c-section…”
A c-section. The worst case scenario. A baby in distress and a mama who didn’t even get a chance to deliver her.
The midwife helped me back to bed. She had been mostly hands off at that point, respecting my broken water bag and the risk of infection that came with it. But it didn’t matter now. The baby was coming out soon and she needed to know what was happening in my body.
“You’re fully dilated. Do you feel like pushing?”
“No, but I could.”
“Well, the baby is breech—“
My baby? The one who has been in perfect position since Week 28? Breech? How?
(Reader, this likely happened while her father and I were shaking my uterus in sheer desperation, but I like to think my clever little girl is already halfway potty trained as, moments before I got up to use the toilet, she turned her little butt to my cervix and promptly pooped my bed.)
“Can you give me a push?”
My husband and the midwife’s daughter were currently packing for the hospital trip and she wanted me to push? It seemed a little counterproductive, but I obliged. I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed one more time…
And then I heard the most beautiful words I could imagine in that moment: “You’re moving this baby, so we can do this here, but we have to do it now.”
Wait, no c-section? No c-section!
Levi scrambled into bed behind me, supporting me as I pushed our daughter’s body into the world. But she was breech, and her head got lodged in the birth canal with no weight behind it to help guide it into the world.
My mother-in-law had told me that birth is hard on husbands because there is literally nothing they can do to help. “It’s all on you, Mama,” she said, as if that was the most exciting, empowering thing in the world.
And while (in hindsight) there is an overwhelming sense of empowerment in delivering a breech baby in ten minutes, in that moment of birth… in those two and a half minutes that stretch into an eternity while your baby’s head is stuck in your pelvis… when you push with everything within you and it is not enough…
I have never felt so powerless in my life. It was all on me, but it also wasn’t.
Because I could not will my child into the world the instant I needed her to be there. I could not help the fact that she was desperately in need of an intervention. I could not make her live by hope alone.
All I could do was push to no avail and worry that I had come this far only to lose her in the end. All I could do was strain and pray and tell God that I couldn’t do this again. I couldn’t lose another baby, especially like this.
Thank God for a midwife who knew to put her finger in my child’s mouth and guide her the rest of the way. For the breath she pumped into my daughter’s unresponsive lungs. For the eyes that fluttered open and the cry that came after four long minutes of desperate pleas to heaven.
Expectancy: The state of thinking or hoping that something, especially something pleasant, will happen or be the case.
The hope, but not the promise.
Thankfully, I got both this time and, like any mother who knows the sting of loss, I do not take it for granted.
We were on the fence about our girl name the entire pregnancy, debating between two and deciding that we would know which one she was when we saw her.
She made it easy for us. No child who put us through all of that uncertainty was befitting of a whimsical, fairy-like name.
No, this child was our Elise Abrielle.
“Consecrated to God.”
“Open, Secure, and Protected.”
Our daughter is alive and well…
And we are still Expectant of good things for her future.