So many of us humans like to jump ahead, daydream, fantasize about possibilities, and create the perfect future in our minds. And then we tend to forget about those party-pooper uncontrollable circumstances that bash in uninvited to ruin the party of life.
I’ve definitely struggled with this habit. Anytime there is a new beginning–job, friendship, home, year, social group, pregnancy–I jump ahead to what I envision, all that I’d like to come true. This certainly isn’t a negative thing to do, as it keeps us working towards our dreams and desires. But this line of thinking, without the groundedness of being able to find peace and safety in the present, can lead to trouble. Being able to find contentment when things aren’t as fantastic and dreamy and romantic as we want is a very difficult task.
The question I always ask myself then is, “How do I accept what I have now and who I am now, and be present with the imperfections and uncertainties of what currently is?”
In my last pregnancy, I immediately jumped to the finish line: which diapers are best? How about car seat brands? What will my birth plan entail? I’d say I was living not in pregnancy, but in expectation of a living baby. And wow, what a wake-up call I received.
With this pregnancy, I find it extremely challenging to think past next week. It’s especially difficult when the world outside continues to ask futuristic questions about me and my baby: due dates, names, care providers, ultrasounds, health decisions, postpartum plans, my work plan for next summer. I understand the excitement and curiosity, but why can’t we also be focused here in the present? Why do we want to rush ahead so far and depend on nature always working to our advantage? Why can’t we just be content with what is here now? My response is typically something like, “I really don’t know what’s in store for the future, I am just being present in this day and this week.”
None of us know what tomorrow will bring; this is not something unique with pregnancy after loss.
For instance, the pandemic has created a lot of anxiety and grief in folks, not only because of the horror of lost jobs and inability to pay rent and feed the family, but also because of ruined expectations and the loss of certainty in life-as-we-know-it. Many of us are waking up to the reality that nature, and the whole human experience, is entirely unpredictable. That illusion of security has burned off, and we are left searching the empty sky for answers and comfort. We don’t know if a nuclear bomb, a devastating earthquake, or a freak car accident will leave us homeless, penniless, family-less, or dead. I don’t know if this baby will be born alive, if this child will develop a devastating disease in 20 years, if my husband will die at sea one of these fishing seasons, or if I will lose my limbs one day and be strapped to a hospital bed.
With the loss of my daughter, I suddenly realized how little control any of us actually have in the progression of life. What we can choose is how we react to these unanticipated circumstances, and whether we live in fear of the unknown or embrace being in this sticky awkward place. And to me, that is strangely freeing.
I am grateful my baby taught me this lesson, in her death. I am grateful that I have learned that being a parent is as much about learning to let go as it is to hold on. I am grateful I can continue to walk through my journey of motherhood with the understanding of the preciousness of good fortune, and awe of the mysterious balance of it all. I am grateful that at least for today, I have a strong and well-loved new life growing inside of me.
Because all we ever really have for certain is today and right now.
For now, I’m celebrating one little victory of bravery in looking towards the future: I just filled out my paperwork 10 days early for my first midwife appointment coming up soon.