“This is your fifth baby, so you might go quickly.”
I stared at my midwife, nodding at her statement, a thousand thoughts running through my mind, mostly trying to process the fact that I would be delivering my baby—not in four weeks as I had assumed—but rather in four days. I had been diagnosed with cholestasis of pregnancy, a liver condition that caused itching for me, but also had the potential to cause a stillbirth. Time was not on my side: the longer the baby stayed within me, the greater the risk of stillbirth. So my midwife planned to induce me at thirty-five weeks and five days, rather than wait the full 40 weeks.
In the four days of preparation given to me, I tried to research inductions and prepare myself. But four days is a lot less than the four weeks I had counted on. Chris and I scrambled to pack the hospital bag, put the house into order, install the baby’s carseat, and ready our other children for their sibling’s early entrance into the world.
Maybe Today Is the Day
My previous four labors all followed a similar pattern: I always carried full-term, past my due date; l labored for a long time within the comfort of my home; once the contractions picked up enough, we quickly drove to the hospital where I generally gave birth within an hour or so of our arrival. Generally, the nurses can’t even draw my blood before the baby makes his or her appearance! It all happens so quickly at the end.
Yet, not this time. We had an appointment at the birth center and arrived, suitcases in tow, my belly feeling much smaller than all the other times I had arrived to give birth. Our nurse wrote the plan of action on the white board in my room: “Have a baby!” I steadied myself, anticipation mounting. Maybe I will give birth today, I thought with excitement. I questioned the nurse on duty about the timing: when could we expect the birth to happen?
“Oh, sometimes these inductions can take two to three days,” she commented.
My stomach sank. She spoke in increments of days, not hours. I later turned to our doula (a woman who assists the mother with the birthing process), asking her thoughts about the long process looming ahead of us. “The midwives take their time,” she assured me. “You want to go slowly: your body needs that time. If you rush it, your body won’t be ready and the birth won’t go as smoothly as it could.”
The Waiting Game
So I adjusted my thinking: slow, slow, slow. We needed time. The hours passed as the midwives moved from one medication to another and then another, my body slowly responding with little contractions. Chris and I walked the halls of the birth center. We played Bananagrams. We worked on the back cover copy of the second book of our trilogy. On one hand, it felt like nothing was happening, while meanwhile I heard the cries of other mothers’ babies echoing from across the hall … mothers who had probably arrived at the birth center after me. Yet, I trusted that, while the results remained unseen, the long time of waiting was indeed readying my body for the work ahead.
Almost thirty-six hours after I was admitted, my midwife felt that the time had come. She broke my waters and suddenly time began to race as my contractions grew steadily more powerful. I breathed through them during the early hours of the morning, concentrating and picturing our baby descending, slowly making his way closer to being born. Time passed like a blur and, to my astonishment, my nurse urged me to get on the hospital bed just as I felt the baby coming. After a long wait that was also much sooner than I had expected, Joseph Michael came into this world and into my arms.
“Time is your friend,” our doula had reassured us. “Let your body take its time.”
Writing Is Like This Too
I think about how this is true in writing as well. Sometimes your writing simply needs time. If you try to rush it, you will force something before it’s ready. Like a seed, planted deep underground, time passes and you might see no results. But the seed is opening, roots are reaching down, the plant is striving up toward the light … things happen that you cannot outwardly observe. Sometimes writing is like that, too. You have to take your manuscript and bury it: walk away, leave it alone, let it settle. Your mind wanders elsewhere, but you still contemplate your book now and again, ruminating on it, letting the creative juices flow and seep around ideas and characters.
Chris and I wrote the first draft of In the Shadows of Freedom in about three months, but the manuscript didn’t reach its completion until a full twelve years later. Of course, some of that had to do with giving birth to babies and the priority of raising our family! Yet, we also needed that time. Our book required time to mature. The asset of time gave Chris and me the ability to step away, grow and develop ourselves (separately and as a couple), and then reexamine the manuscript with fresh, new eyes.
Good Things Take Time
Our culture today demands fast solutions, instant communication, and rapid results. We aren’t trained to wait and many of us would agree with Hootie and the Blowfish’s song that states, “Time … you ain’t no friend of mine.” But nature teaches us another way: the gradual phases of the moon, the seasons fading one into another like old friends embracing, the incremental growing of a garden, and, yes, the birth of a baby. These things happen slowly over time and, when we try to intervene and “speed up the process,” it can become disastrous.
I am grateful for the wisdom of my midwives, who recognized the natural response of my body and gave me time to labor: due to that, I was blessed with an unmedicated birth, which had been my goal and desire. As Chris and I continue writing, I hope we embrace the gift of time—not seeing it as a curse hindering us from moving forward, but appreciating its ability to renew, inspire, grow, and strengthen.
What is there in your life that requires time to develop: a relationship, business, hobby, or friendship, for example? Are you able to set aside any manufactured deadlines and labor through the process, allowing time to strengthen and develop your work, turning it into a beautiful newborn creation?