My pregnancy was rife with surprises and unknowns. In fact, I really believe that one of the primary tasks of pregnancy and birth is to give over to the unknown. When we are pregnant, we are “expecting,” but what exactly are we expecting? A baby, yes, but beyond that, we really don’t know much. With modern technology, we are given the false assumption that we can control what happens. We can find out whether we are having a boy or a girl, and we can even schedule our cesarean sections or induce labor. But we can never really know what to expect. Ultrasounds have been read wrong and many people have painted their nurseries pink or blue only to give birth to the opposite sex. But our culture loves to know what to expect.
One of the most popular pregnancy books is titled What to Expect When You're Expecting. As I’m sure you know, perfect strangers will stop you in the street when they see you’re pregnant and ask “what are you having?” My husband loved to respond dryly, “A human.” After a minute of mouth-gaping silence, many of them would venture forth to make a prediction of their own. Once, while I was heading toward the Ben & Jerry’s shop after yoga class, a man pointed to my belly and, without even breaking his stride, declared, boy! (And yes, yoga and ice cream were conveniently located across the street from each other. I figured that they canceled each other out. In any case, it was the middle of July, I was monstrously pregnant in my ninth month, and I deserved that double scoop.)
One of the things that I love about knitting and weaving is that projects often take on a life of their own. I can plan and plan, and things still come out differently than I originally envisioned. Not surprisingly, this is when I produce my best pieces. This past summer I wove a scarf that was not at all what I hoped it would be. I played around with different colors and the color combination that clearly looked best was the one I hated the most. But I gave into the project and let it happen, grumbling all the way, and it turned into my most beautiful scarf yet.
So does this mean that we have absolutely no control over pregnancy and birth? Of course not. We planned on having a homebirth, and I did everything I could to ensure that I had a healthy pregnancy and that I was prepared for labor. I ate well, drank gallons of bitter red raspberry tea, faithfully attended a prenatal yoga class twice a week, and so on. But still, I knew that ultimately I had no control over what kind labor and birth I had. And while our son Lev was born peacefully at home after an uneventful labor, we still had a few surprises in store, both large and small. For a few moments after he was born, our midwife thought that he had a twin following. It turned out to be a large fibroid that had grown during my pregnancy, but those were some pretty serious potentially life-altering moments, worthy of my near-hyperventilation and ghostly pale face.
But all of the unknowns and mysteries of pregnancy and birth prepare us beautifully for having a child. Much of what I’ve learned over these past couple of years of parenthood is that “going with the flow” and trusting my instincts is essential. Lev, like most babies, is not the world’s best sleeper. I’ve read every book, followed every sleep plan except for the cry-it-out methods, talked to other mothers, taken him to more alternative healers than I care to count, basically everything short of voodoo. Ultimately, I stopped asking for and listening to advice and started to find our own way toward more sleep. Every baby is different, and every baby needs something particular. We’re still not getting a full-night’s sleep around here, but we’re on our way. Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, just like weaving and crocheting, are creative processes. When we let go of control a little bit, we are more open to birthing truly creative projects.