You know you’re the mother of a newborn when you can look into the night sky and tell how many more hours it is until daybreak. I’ve been relearning the night sky the past two weeks with our fourth child, with whom the last months of pregnancy were among my most frightful. That’s because they’ve included my life’s only trip to the hospital and the necessity of having to read far too many details about the mass murder of unborn children as I edited stacks of articles discussing the Planned Parenthood video sting.
I consider myself a pretty grounded person who accepts that every human is capable of monstrosities, but reading about people pulling apart tiny hearts when a very dear one is beating inside you at that very minute heightens the horror. That tiny, inchoate feeling of terror only heightens yet more when you find yourself rushing to the hospital on a day you might have given birth to instead get hooked up to an IV and pray that the doctors will be able to flip your baby out of breech so he doesn’t have to get cut out of your body.
I did a great job keeping myself calm until after the doctors had, lickety split, rolled baby around to the position he was supposed to be in for a normal delivery, and the fetal monitor showed his strong little heart tappety tapping away, just like it ought to, displaying no sign of fetal distress. It may have been the muscle relaxant they’d given me, which makes you physically and emotionally shaky, or it might not, but after they’d all left the room and turned off the lights to let me sleep while they continued monitoring us for a few more hours, I held my husband’s hand and cried, not in fear, but in joy that our child, unlike so many millions more, was safe inside me.
When our son finally decided to begin breathing air like the rest of us, after a suspense of nearly three weeks in which I fretted constantly about whether he’d flip back around, I cried again, because now he was safe outside me.
Of course, we all know that no baby, no human, is truly “safe” this side of eternity. Anyone can get hit by a car or shot by an angry gunman. No matter how many gun bans we enact and children we haul into police stations so they can’t walk to the park alone, this world will never be completely safe. People used to understand that better back when natural infant mortality was so high that more died than lived, even without legalized infanticide. Nowadays, when things are so physically good, we are perhaps more tempted to ignore the condition of our souls.
But our spirits still need tending all the same. We can either choose to dwell on our fears, or cherish our joys. We can cower in basements or step boldly into the sunshine. One is an act of fear; the other, of faith. For now, my smallest son and I are breathing, and healthy, and I can hold his hand any time I want. For this, I am grateful.