My hands are folded and perched on my now protruding belly as I step up, close my eyes and gently bow.
“The blood of Christ.” She says, as she hands me the cup.
As I hand the chalice back I look down to my right and there he is, my little tow-headed-three-year-old, looking up at me with the biggest blue eyes.
“What you drinkin’, Mom?” He asks, every time, just a little too loudly.
Collin passes on the wine and the other two boys always follow after him, but not my Nolan, he waits right by Mama’s side and is always inquiring about “what I’m drinkin’.”
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a pregnant woman take the wine during communion. I think my jaw hit the floor and my eyes were as big as Nolan’s: You can do that?? My head had just exploded.
Wait. I should back up, that makes it sound like I was judging her. No. No, no, no, my head exploded in a good way. You can do that!!?? This is the best news ever! EVER!
Okay, maybe not ever, but listen, Mama likes her wine, is what I’m sayin’.
This pregnancy has come with much joy and excitement but also a lot of anxiety and worry. I’ll be honest, on more than one occasion I have wanted to indulge in a glass of wine….okay, fine, a bottle of wine, but I don’t because I’m too scared to do anything that might in some way harm our little girl. What if I partake in that wine and my body relaxes too much, I have often thought. What if, instead of calming my nerves, it actually puts me in labor?
I have a history of pre-term delivery. Our three boys were born at 36 weeks, 34 weeks, and 35 weeks gestation, respectively. Last time we tried weekly progesterone injections, which I think helped, but I still only made it to 35 weeks. This time I’ve been seeing a high risk specialist. These appointments started back in week 16 and were scheduled for each three-week period after that. However, by 22 weeks my cervix had shortened enough (from 3.9 cm to 3.0 cm) that I was put on a weekly appointment schedule. Unfortunately, things haven’t really slowed down and, in fact, the progressing (shortening/thinning/effacement, whichever you’d like to call it) has actually sped up a bit.
Two weeks ago I walked into my 24-week appointment expecting to hear my cervix was in the 2.5 cm range so when my doctor told me it was only 1.9 cm I was so taken aback I had a hard time processing what, exactly, he was telling me. He laid out our plans for the future (steroid injection for her lungs if it gets below 1.5 cm) and we went over the “warning signs” again, things that would require me to come in and get checked out immediately if they occur. I heard everything he was saying but I was completely in a daze.
I moved straight from that appointment to my regular OB appointment but was left sitting in the exam room for a bit of time. I tried to collect my thoughts and temper my nerves but I wasn’t very successful in doing either. What did this all mean? We are prepared for a pre-term birth, but how pre-term are we talking here?
The thoughts swirling in my head were causing so much anxiety that I was on the verge of tears. I desperately needed to collect myself and stop processing all of this information before my OB walked in and was greeted by a sobbing patient. So I did what I think so many of us do in this day and age, I distracted myself (and my thoughts) with my phone.
And wouldn’t you know, the first thing I came across was a daily devotional email with the following meditation:
“Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest, having entrusted them to God, try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them. Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”
— St. Claude De La Columbiere
My OB walked in as these words rolled around over and over in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive.
I left those appointments and headed straight to Starbucks to feed my feelings, as I often do when I get not-so-good news, and on the way home I cried – I turned that radio down and just let the tears flow, deep sobbing breaths and all – tears really can be cleansing. I was scared; I am scared about her coming too early. But as I’ve continued to let those words roll around in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive; I have found so much peace in this situation.
A week later I jumped up onto the exam table, wrapped myself in the oh-so-fabulous paper-thin covering and looked to the sky while thinking, Lord, I’m putting this in your hands.
It’s taken years for me to learn this lesson, years and trial after trial, but I think I’m finally (finally!) getting it….each and every struggle we face in life is really just an opportunity to trust more deeply in Him.
This week, at my 26-week appointment, my cervix was down to 1.4 cm so I had the first of two steroid shots to help develop her lungs. The good news is, although the doctor has deemed her very stubborn, Baby Stella looks great and so far I am not exhibiting any signs of pending labor. I am still very hopeful that we can make it to at least 34 weeks.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not still worried – I am, some days more than others. Last night I was awoken by two painful contractions and my nerves shot through the roof. But, I’m learning and each day I try harder to turn that worry into trust. Still, there are days that I’d really just like that glass of wine to calm the nerves, so if you see me tipping that chalice back just a bit too far come Sunday morning and you hear my little boy ask “what you drinkin’, mom?” let’s just smile and nod, okay?