Please welcome today’s guest writer, Rachael Oram (’12). Rachael is co-creator of the Jen Vos sandwich found at Knollcrest Dining Hall. In the past she has coached 72 secondary school teachers and 240 middle school cross-country runners, spotted 273 species of birds, and taught 758 high school students. She now spends her time feeding one baby.
When I was pregnant, I didn’t do much planning. I read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actually more helpful was What to Expect When You’re Expected a fetus’s perspective on the anxiety-causing aspects of pregnancy that at least made me laugh and remember to pasteurize any cat excrement I ate. I went to birthing class. After our one-day crash course at the local doula center, I came away with a great quinoa recipe and the name of a new friend. I do have vague memories of wrapping a beach sarong around myself as I squatted on the floor and practicing bouncing the pain away on an exercise ball. But much like sex-ed class in seventh grade, my brain filtered the rest of it away as knowledge I wasn’t ready to need. Throughout my pregnancy my husband would initiate conversations about birth, asking what I thought of different interventions such as epidurals or how I would feel in the event of an emergency c-section or hemorrhage. It was truly these growing conversations and the presence of my growing belly that helped me warm up to the idea of labor and then slowly make a plan.
Although it may seem that I was a fairly oblivious pregnant lady, slowly I was growing with my baby, learning how to trust God and trust my baby. She was such a tiny being, first the size of a blueberry, then a kumquat, then a sweet potato. There was nothing I could actively do to assist her. I had to breathe and pray and trust that the baby was doing the right thing, that she knew how to grow in ways that even I could not teach her, that God had a plan bigger than my life and bigger than my uterus.
So at thirty-eight weeks pregnant I got a new coloring book titled “Mom and Me” from the grocery store. Together my baby and I colored both the easy pages for her and the difficult pages for me, she upside down kicking my ribs, and me sipping a decaf cappuccino at a yuppie coffee shop that would now give us the mom glare if we stayed long enough to need a diaper change.
I sang songs to my baby. Almost hesitantly, and only when I was completely alone. Trying out lullabies, trying to picture the floating, growing baby in my belly. I knew she could hear me, and I felt her kick along with my voice.
I had a quiet birth. My husband held me and walked laps around the hospital with me as my induction progressed. I didn’t yell or scream. I moaned softly and focused on the words of a hymn that had come into my head. We met our daughter after twenty-four hours of induction and three hours of pushing; she was and is perfect.
Looking back, perhaps I should have also attended the “how to care for an infant” classes. In the hospital the night after the birth, my husband gently woke me up every couple hours reminding me to feed our daughter. When I was having trouble getting her to latch breastfeeding, he took our daughter in his arms, taught her how to latch onto his finger, and easily transferred her back to my breast (he’s a family medicine resident; it’s part of his job). Yet other parts of parenting seemed to flow from within me in effortless ways, especially compared to those first midnight feedings. Once I met Lucy face to face, we knew each other, and I sang to her songs from a place that had been growing inside me, one of confidence and purpose. These were songs that had formed my identity and shaped my faith over time. Family lullabies, reverent Christmas carols. The melodies that quieted my tears during a homesick week at summer camp, the hymns of consolation I remembered from my grandmother’s Catholic funeral in high school. Others I don’t remember learning; they had resonated in my soul without my acknowledgement. These songs have all become part of me, and now I share them with my daughter. When she awakes crying in the middle of the night, I sing to her a story of faith, of comfort, and of peace.