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Narratives of Grace

    Pregnancy Math

    I have been wanting to write this post for years, but it’s only appropriate and justified coming from an author who is at least 30 weeks pregnant.

    I am currently clocking in at 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

    I have gained at least 30 pounds.

    My back hurts and my ankles are swollen.

    And, therefore, I am a credible author for this post…

    Ladies, please stop saying you are “10 months pregnant” or that pregnancy lasts for ten months. It’s simply not true. I am not a mathematician by any means, but I think we can do some simple addition to verify that a full-term pregnancy lasts right around nine months, just like all the books and doctors say.

    Here is the thing… we measure pregnancy in weeks. Your doctor gives you a due date that is 40 weeks from the date of your last menstrual cycle. 4 weeks does not equal a month unless it’s February. Every month is 30 or 31 days, and therefore approximately 4.5 weeks, so your 40 week pregnancy is not ten months long.

    I will agree with you on this fact. Pregnancy math is weird. The medically-recognized human gestation period is the kind of math that made me cry in high school. It doesn’t really make sense.

    Pregnancy = 40 weeks.

    But you aren’t really pregnant for the first two weeks, because you typically conceive 10-14 days after the start of your last menstrual cycle.

    So for the first two weeks of pregnancy, you aren’t actually pregnant. From the point of conception to your due date = 38 weeks (definitely not ten months).

    Then there is the whole trimester thing… why would you take a number that is not divisible by 3 (either 40 or 38 weeks) and decide that pregnancy should be counted in trimesters? Ridiculous.

    If you want to divide your pregnancy into trimesters, your first trimester ends at 13 weeks and 2 days and 8 hours, your second trimester ends at 26 weeks, 4 days, and 16 hours, and your third trimester ends on your due date (if you have surrendered to the whole fake 40 week gestation period in the first place). That’s just awkward. “Hey! I’m 26 weeks, 4 days, and 16 hours pregnant… hello, third trimester!” That’s not a catchy Instagram caption.

    I will admit in the past some women may have reached ten months of pregnancy. Before we had such stringent medical policies in place, there were times when women would go WAY past due. I heard of one mom, back in 70s, who had a baby at 43 weeks. That’s still not technically ten months, but it’s close enough that I’ll let her claim it. But now research shows the chances of stillbirth go up significantly after 42 weeks of pregnancy, so if you are birthing a child in the U.S. you probably won’t ever have a pregnancy remotely close to ten months long, even with the most chill midwife ever.

    The easiest way to see that pregnancy is really only nine months long is by doing some simple math. Add the number of months from your estimated conception date to your baby’s due date or birthday. Here are some examples from my three children…

    Zianne // conceived on or around December 19th, born on September 21st at 9 days past due (total pregnancy duration: 9 months and two days)

    Talitha // conceived on or around September 16th, born on June 12th one day early (total pregnancy duration: 8 months and 27 days)

    Baby #3 // conceived on or around July 23rd, due April 15th (estimated pregnancy duration: 8 months and 23 days)

    There you have it… some simple pregnancy math from the least number-savvy person in the universe. I seriously despise math, but I can’t handle one more woman complaining about being ten months pregnant. You are not and will not ever be ten months pregnant. I assure you.

    Don’t get me wrong… do I feel ten months pregnant these days? Sometimes. Do I feel like I haven’t worn regular clothing in at least ten months? Yes. Do those hazy days of feeling nauseated and exhausted during my first trimester seem like they were at least ten months ago? Sure.

    But I praise God every day that I will never actually know what ten months of pregnancy feels like… and you won’t either. Four weeks does not equal a month and trimesters are a silly way to divide up a pregnancy, but take comfort in this fact. Lord-willing, you will only be pregnant for nine months give or take, and God will sustain you the whole time. He decided thousands of years ago that 38 weeks was the perfect amount of time to grow a human baby in the womb, and His design is perfect. You might only be pregnant for nine months, but that little newborn babe will be ten months old… or even ten years old… in the blink of an eye!

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    I could never do that…

    Moments before I started writing this post, a friend sent a birth announcement over text. They have a daughter and then a son, so with this third child they decided to “not find out” the gender. Today the baby finally arrived… and after months of them guessing it was a girl, it turns out he is a BOY. A beautiful, eight pound baby boy born two days before his due date.

    The timing of her text message was perfect because for weeks I’ve been reflecting on how much I love not knowing our baby’s sex. I honestly love it more during this pregnancy than ever before.

    With Zianne, I loved not finding out, but there was a trace of anxiety in the surprise, because I really wanted a girl. Micah and I always wanted a firstborn daughter and there was a part of me that wondered what I would do with a firstborn son. I knew I would love a boy or a girl and grow into whatever role God called me to in my firstborn’s life. Deep in my heart, I trusted that God had designed my first child perfectly for our family, whether male or female, but on the surface, I couldn’t imagine daily life with a boy. Out came Zianne Eileen, our precious firstborn daughter, and I was thrilled. Not finding out her gender was like being a kid on Christmas Eve all over again. I didn’t think you could capture the feeling of being an eager child staring up at the Christmas tree in adult life, when worry and knowledge weigh you down, but it turns out… you can.

    When pregnant for the second time, I wanted to be surprised again and Micah reluctantly agreed. I always tell people that I love not finding out and Micah “tolerates” it for my sake. It’s perhaps one of the kindest gifts he’s ever given me. Except with Talitha, we were only “sort-of” surprised. They found a “pelvic cyst” in our anatomy screening, and the nurse called to let us know a few days later. We had to do a few follow-up scans to make sure it wasn’t problematic (it disappeared by the time she was born). They never told us where the cyst was located, as to not ruin our gender surprise, but a quick Google search revealed that it was most likely an ovarian cyst, and therefore our baby was probably a girl. We went into labor 98% sure we were having a girl. We also went into labor with no set girl name, because we realized it was going to be hard to name two girls in a row. It took us two hours to pick Talitha’s name and six more months to finally get comfortable with our choice, but that’s another story for another day. We were now raising two sisters… and it was so much fun. You always read about the identity of “boy mom” online, but I was starting to feel like a “girl mom” and could not have been happier with that title.

    And here we are with our third surprise baby, and I have never loved the suspense more than I do right now. I feel so at ease with whatever the outcome. Part of me assumes we’ll have another girl, and I’m perfectly content at that thought. I consider it such an honor to raise little girls who will hopefully someday be strong women of God. If I had to have all one sex or the other – I’d choose girls in an instant. The thought of having three or four or even five daughters sounds like a dream to me.

    But then, of course, I wonder if this one is a boy (mainly because of my insatiable appetite this pregnancy). A boy would be a new and exciting adventure for our family. I would love to see Micah wrestling and playing football with a little guy, and it would be an honor to raise a godly man in this fallen world. Also, I love our boy name so much it seems sad not to ever use it…

    At the beginning of this pregnancy, I wondered if we would have to find out for some strange reason. Part of me worried that if we had another girl she might possibly have an ovarian cyst too. Maybe that’s a “thing” that my babies have for some reason and we would get another half-surprise as doctors did follow-up tests. Or maybe Micah would really want to know this time. Obviously, I should give in, since he has endured two surprises for me. Thankfully, Micah has now fully embraced that we are the couple that “doesn’t find out,” and I think he’s actually enjoying it more this time around. One night, in the weeks leading up to our ultrasound, I told him I would feel a sense of mourning if we had to find the baby’s gender halfway through a pregnancy. He laughed as I tried to explain it further. I would feel a sense of loss if I didn’t have that suspenseful expectation throughout the second half of my pregnancy.

    I actually mentioned this “mourning the loss of the surprise” concept to few different girlfriends who, of course, thought I was crazy. But then I mentioned it to a friend – a mom of five – who said she experienced the exact same feeling. She never found out the sex of any of her children until the very last one. At that point, she had a girl and three boys and her daughter desperately wanted a sister. My friend reluctantly agreed to find out the baby’s sex in advance. It was a boy. Going into labor with only a boy name in her mind and boy outfit in her bag was the strangest feeling ever. If she could do it all over again, she would have kept it a surprise.

    It’s fun not to find out our baby’s gender, but for me there is also a spiritual aspect to the surprise. Whenever, I tell people we didn’t find out our baby’s sex, they almost always respond with, “Oh, I could never do that!” or “I am too much of a planner.” Guess what? I’m as type-A, organized, plan-all-the-things as they get, and yet I love the surprise. The funny thing is you actually have to plan MORE when you don’t find out, because you have to have both the girl and boy scenarios covered (at least as far as names and outfits to wear home from the hospital). But the truth of the matter is that people like control. We like to know what we are having so we can prepare ourselves emotionally if we secretly were hoping for the opposite gender. We like to buy clothes and decorate nurseries and monogram blankets in advance, because it makes us feel prepared for the onslaught of baby situations (labor, delivery, parenting a newborn) that will be entirely out of our control. You never plan for emergency C-sections, birth disorders or defects, or babies with acid reflux… they just happen if that’s part of God’s plan for your family.

    It’s not wrong to find out the gender at your 20 week ultrasound or in a 14 week blood draw. If you want to know, by all means, find out. But for me, not knowing is  gentle reminder that God is in control. It reminds me that He formed this little baby in my womb. And this little child, whether boy or girl, was made to be in our family. I was made to be this baby’s mother and nothing revealed in an anatomy scan (whether sex or sickness) will ever change that. I am not in control at all. I never was. I never will be. I can plan all I want, but God is sovereign over all things – including this child’s gender, personality, and life story. I just wait a little longer than most mothers do to find out the character details in that story, because the wait reminds me that I am not the author, just the captivated reader of a beautiful tale written by the world’s best Author.

    *Photos by Abby Orona Photography // *Maternity dress by ASOS

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    Resolved

    Photo by Abby Sue

    When I was pregnant with Talitha, I spent my days reflecting on what I could do differently this time around. As my bump grew, so did my list of baby #2 resolutions.

    Wear the baby more. Surely this would be a necessity with two children under two years of age. I added a soft wrap carrier to my baby registry.

    Get better about nursing on-the-go. My breastfeeding experience with Zianne was a successful but all-consuming experience requiring many pillows and an hour in a private room for every feeding. Surely I could convince Baby #2 to use a nursing cover?

    Dabble in essential oils. Why? Because they were all the rage. Surely fennel seed oil could increase my already-sufficient milk supply.

    My entry into motherhood was actually a fairly smooth one. I had a healthy labor and delivery, a good nursing experience, and other than a lot of crying on our second day home from the hospital, my hormones seemed to balance out fairly quickly. Zianne slept well, my body bounced back, and we were supported and encouraged by family and friends during our first year of parenthood.

    But with my second baby, I could do better. I had weaknesses as a mother. I had room for improvement. And with two children just 21 months apart, a list of goals and resolutions would keep me on track. Baby-wearing. Nursing cover. Essential oils. Check, check, check.

    I did wear Talitha a little more but abandoned the soft wrap by month three. Nursing was a little more efficient and mobile, but I still preferred feeding in the comfort of my own bedroom. I used a few drops of essential oils here and there, but the bottles remain mostly full, neglected now on a bathroom shelf.

    And you know what? Oils or no oils, my transition to two children was great. We quickly fell into new patterns as a family of four. We moved to a new state when Talitha was just a few months old. We adapted. We supported one another. I continued to mother to best of my ability, and I watched my children develop and grow and laugh and play while my baby carriers hung idly in the closet.

    And here I am pregnant with baby #3, and this time I don’t have a list. I don’t have goals. Instead, I trust myself as a mom. As we bring a third child into the world, I hope things will go more smoothly than I can even imagine. But I am also prepared for hardships and growing pains, and I know we will figure things out when there are bumps along the road. I know my heart will enlarge, my love for all three of my children will grow, my marriage will be tested and proved, my patience will be tried, my schedule will adapt, and in the end, everything will be just fine. I am done with my attempts to be better. I am not going to strive to do more or less. I am just going to be the mother I was made to be.

    Baby #3, I promise you this… I welcome you with open arms and an eager heart. I am not a perfect mom, but I am pretty good one. We will navigate this bumpy world together, and until that time, I solemnly resolve to have no resolutions… none at all.

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