It's because I'm afraid.
And it's not the kind of fear that I usually run up against in creative endeavors. It's not the I'm a perfectionist and am afraid of ruining this piece if I touch it kind of fear.
It's of the My first baby died inside me and I'm afraid to get so engrossed in a project that I don't notice my second baby dying, too variety.
Yeah. That kind.
Since hitting my third trimester, I've started doing twice-daily kick counts to monitor Jacob's movements. I thought I would find them reassuring, but I don't. Not only is the actual act of counting anxiety-inducing, but it also highlights just how little control I have over whether he makes it out of me alive.
See, I count his kicks in the morning, and I count again in the evening after dinner. But he could die in the middle of the day. It could be sudden, and it would be silent. I might not learn of it for hours, and in any case it would be too late.
That's how it happened with Eve -- at least, that's how it felt like it happened. I was blissfully counting down the weeks to her birth by throwing myself into art projects. But what if I hadn't become so engrossed in those projects? Would I, not having been told to do kick counts, have noticed if her movement patterns changed? But I didn't notice anything, and the reality and regret of that has made art-making terrifying.
This week the guilt has felt worse than it ever has been. I have remained fairly protected from feeling like I am the reason that Eve is dead -- until a few days ago. I have heard that this is common in rainbow pregnancies, that the as you get closer to the gestatation that your lost baby died at, you may feel overwhelmed by guilt.
I certainly do. And that and the fear have all but stopped me from making art.
Earlier this week, I began the painting you see in the photos here. Working on it was delightful. I lost myself in its creation for hours at a time.
But then, one night after a painting session, I froze as I washed my brushes in the sink's flow. When was the last time I'd felt Jacob move? Had he died while I was painting away? I panicked, downed some juice, and waited, terrified that another of my children had slipped away without my knowing.
I am happy to say that he is alive and, quite literally, kicking.
But I realize that I am faced with a choice. I can either grasp desperately at the little scraps of control I have and wring all that I can out of them, checking out of my life until Jacob is born, panicking all the way. Or I can do my kick counts and live my life in between, trusting that (as with Eve) I am doing the best that I can.
Because I know (in my mind, even if I can't feel it) that making art did not kill Eve, and that it won't kill Jacob. And I also know that even if I do nothing but lay in bed all day counting kicks, that still might not be enough to save Jacob if he succumbs to some unknown, invisible problem, as his sister did (and that doing nothing but counting kicks would make the next eleven weeks pass excruciatingly slowly). On top of that, I know that I have been given very precious gifts of creativity in my art-making and writing, and that checking out of those serves no one at best, and takes me out of the story God has chosen for me at worst.
So . . . I am writing, even though the vulnerability of this post terrifies me (please be gentle if you comment). And I will finishing this painting, even though it hurts sometimes. Both of my children's lives are largely in God's hands and God's hands alone. Any attempt on my part to bear the responsibility meant for solely Him both has done and will do nothing to protect them, and it will crush my soul in the process.
I don't want to be crushed any more than I already have been. Jacob deserves better than that.
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life"
~ Philippians 4:6-7 MSG