It's 3:30 am. I can't sleep. I wish I could. I have a lot to do tomorrow, and the biggest factor in my daily productivity is how much sleep I get the night before. Everyone else is asleep. The house is quiet and dark. The neighborhood is quiet and dark. Our new house is further removed from the city traffic that never really stops around here. We're in one of the pockets of quiet neighborhood peace that dot the city. There are no racing ambulances or lumbering delivery trucks to disturb the silence. The commuter train isn't running yet. Early morning flights haven't started roaring up into the sky. The street lights highlight the fact that nothing is happening outside. Dark-eyed old homes are asleep. A cool early-October briskness has developed outside these walls. The early-Fall dampness has settled in. But inside is warm. Under the covers is warm. Inside the curled spoon of BestestHusband's gently-snoring embrace, all is warm. In the beds of my 3 dreaming daughters, all is warm. As far as sleeping conditions go, all is perfect. But I'm awake.
I blame it on The Baby. At 17 weeks, The Baby usually lets me sleep through the night now. Previously, I was awake 3 times a night, with the urgent need to get out of bed. But things are quieter now. Fully into the second trimester, I'm allowed to sleep more. And I'm allowed to be awake without persistent nausea. But The Baby keeps reminding me of her (his?) growing presence. Exhaustion still rules my days. Nausea occasionally rules my evenings. I have a map of some unknown river delta developing in the vasculature of my left leg. And I've grown past the phase of "Thick around the middle" and gone well into "Good gracious. Could she be pregnant AGAIN?!?!"
The girls have started talking about The Baby to friends and teachers. They all insist it's another girl. Even HurricaneDebbie, barely 2 years old, insists to her daycare provider that it's a girl. According to her, we don't need any boys. Daddy's a boy. That's all we need in our household. We'll know in 2 weeks whether or not they're right. If I need to track down a set of baby gear that's not pink, I'd like to know in advance.
17 weeks is a pretty good place to be. I'm not so huge yet. But I'm past the worst of it. BestestHusband and my DearFriend have been celebrating the passing of each week with me. At 6 weeks, nauseous and with a test stick in hand, 17 weeks seemed a lifetime away. A patient and supportive family tolerated my need to be horizontal. They joined me in my prayers that I would feel better at 16 weeks, like I did with the other 3 pregnancies. Each passing day brought a prayer of "Thank you." I was one day closer. Each week felt like an accomplishment. Even now that I'm feeling better, the weeks still feel like an accomplishment. But now I can start looking forward to the end of waiting to meet The Baby instead of waiting for the end of the misery.
But laying in bed at 3:30, unable to sleep, my mind has a chance to wander. I have time for other prayers. And I'm aware that others are praying for different things with their pregnancies. I've been joining her in the prayer of "Please. Please Lord. Please." Diana's 35 weeks along with her 5th child. Three of them were lost. Her twins were lost around 20 weeks. Her 3rd son was lost after a full term delivery. I've followed her blog, Diana Wrote, since the loss of DearFriend's son, also close to the 20 week mark. Diana writes openly about her losses, her struggles with grief and faith. I've been following more closely as she nears the end of this pregnancy. I've been joining her daily prayer of "Please. Please." Please Lord, let this one live. Please Lord, allow her to raise this child. Please Lord, don't make her bury yet another child. Please. I have other friends who are currently pregnant. Friends who have lost previous children. My prayer expands out to them, as well. "Please. Please Lord. Not this time."
And my mind wanders to other children, whose mothers aren't sharing my prayers. My Facebook feed is full of both sides of the shouting match. Shout your abortion! Defund Planned Parenthood! The shouting match online is deafening. There are mothers in the middle who aren't shouting. They're also looking at their midsections full of 17 weeks of life. They aren't saying "Thanks" or "Please". They're quietly saying "No no no. Just no." They aren't thankful for each passing week. They aren't begging for the life of their child. They have plans to make The Problem go away. It's not a simple issue for them to be shouted about. But they're not thinking about planning for clothes - pink or blue. They're not engaging in the eager guessing game of who the baby looks like. Their baby is exactly like mine. Fast heart rate, delicate little fingers and toes, cartilage is changing to bone. Our babies need us to be able to survive. A surrogate, an incubator or adoptive mother, isn't enough to allow them to live. They need us, their biological mothers, to survive. To even have a chance in the world. But some babies will be denied that chance.
The world is not a fair place. It won't be in my lifetime. Or ever on this side of Heaven. I'm aware of that. In two weeks, we'll see an image of The Baby. We'll ooh and aah at every kick, every wiggle. We'll study the facial profile. Does it look more like HeyMama? More like MeToo? Their profiles were recognizably different at 18 weeks. Do we need boy names? Girl names? We'll show ultrasound pictures to family and friends. With each passing week, we'll continue to pray "Thank you!"
But other lives will be terminated instead. The fate of each child depends not only on the developmental health and medical status, but on the opinion of the woman whose body supports that child. Does she call it The Baby? Or think of it as The Problem? That opinion alone is enough to determine the child's right to live. This is such a challenging thought as I alternate between prayers of "Thank you" and "Please". Friends who lost children at this age named their babies and had funerals. But other babies will be labeled only as medical waste.
The topics of Rights and Fairness are so complex. Their nuances and realities get lost in the shouting. As the result of an accidental pregnancy who was put up for adoption after birth, I have some strong opinions on the matter. I was A Problem, but was also given the chance to be A Baby. Was it fair to my biological mother that she should carry a baby she didn't want to raise? Honestly, I don't care about fair when it's my life. I'm just happy to be alive. I'm glad she wasn't too concerned about prioritizing her rights, either. The question of "Who matters more?" becomes a different question when your life is in the balance. Is it fair that my child is carried by a woman who views it as "life" instead of something that could just be medical waste? No, it's not fair at all. It's another form of privilege in our society. Our child will not only benefit from skin privilege and economic privilege, but simple birth privilege.
The dogs have joined me here in the office, and they're snoring. Since waking me up nearly an hour ago, The Baby informed me that I needed a snack (preferably another lemon cupcake with raspberry filling and a glass of milk), and is informing me that I can go back to sleep now. And the child that was formerly dreaming in her bed apparently peed in her bed, and is now washed and sleeping in my bed. So I'll go elbow my way back into the warmth under the covers. BestestHusband authorized me to turn off the alarm when our child joined him in bed. So I may yet get some good sleep tonight.
To all expectant mothers out there, I wish you also a restful night of sleep. To all children at 17 weeks gestation, I wish you all the gift of birth privilege. It's personally very painful to think about the alternative right now.