I met my soulmate the day I was born. Well, maybe not the exact day, but soon. The only thing I know for sure is that as soon as I was aware of my surroundings, I was aware of my sister.
She came into being 26 whole months before I did and thus had the necessary wisdom and knowledge to show me the ways of the world. She was my teacher, my mentor, my roommate, and my friend. It was always that way, though our roles shifted slightly as we got older. See I got married before she did and had two children before she got pregnant the first time. So sometimes it felt a little like I was the older sibling, the one with the advice. Long-distance advice--I lived in North Carolina and she in Maryland--but still.
Anyway, when she began to experience pregnancy itching, I knew just what she should do. “Lanolin,” I told her. “Or cocoa butter. Both are great for itchy skin.” But I was wrong; and it wasn’t itchy skin. (How we would later wish for something so easy to fix as pregnancy-related dermatitis!) Not even the doctors knew what the problem was, but they eventually settled on a diagnosis of an allergy to the amniotic fluid.*
Whatever it was, it was maddening. My sister itched from the inside out. And oh what a tease that itch was. My sister could never resolve it: not by lotions or medications and certainly not by scratching. She itched nearly everywhere. “Sometimes,” she told me, “I try to think about my teeth. I concentrate on that one part of my body that doesn’t itch.”
But the itch always won. It snuck in along her gum line and around her lips, up to her scalp and down in her ears. It was merciless, unrelenting, and just plain mean. She begged her doctors for some relief from the madness. They only had one thing to offer.
“Once the baby is here,” they told her, “the itching will be greatly reduced if not gone altogether.” Childbirth: my sister’s only hope for pain relief.
Finally, early one morning I got the call: she was in labor. It was wonderful, and terrifying, news. The doctors knew so little about what was going on with her. All we really knew was that things could easily go tragically wrong.
That day was February 3, 1997, one of the longest days of my life, and the day my niece, Emma Mitchell Weiss was born. A week later, I wrapped my arms around my sister, Emma snuggled in her mama’s arms between us.
That moment that I held them both . . . it is one of the High Holy Moments of my life. In the midst of that multigenerational embrace, God’s love overwhelmed me. I felt such divine mercy and grace, such unfathomable love . . . well, it felt like the Kingdom of God right here on earth. Thanks be to God.
“Happy 18th Birthday Beloved Emma. Your birth gave me a beautiful image of the love of God. Your life is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. So go be miraculous My Emma. Be you.”
*When my sister’s symptoms returned during her second pregnancy, she discovered (thanks to a brand new computer application called Google™ which led her to knowledgeable doctors across the world and right in her own town) what she really had was a disease called obstetric cholestasis. This rare disorder causes liver malfunction during pregnancy and a resulting incessant itchiness.
Interestingly enough, it turned out that even with the wrong diagnosis, the doctors gave my sister the right prognosis. Indeed, delivery brought the beginning of the end of her symptoms. Today, my sister and her two children Emma and Mitch are healthy and strong, showing no signs that liver disease threatened their well-being. To God be the glory.
All three of my children arrived late, but my Margaret was over 10 days late. Here's an article I wrote about what it is like to be 42 weeks pregnant.
“This baby could be here any day,” my doctor said. “We may even see you back here tonight!” At thirty-eight weeks pregnant, I welcomed the news.
He did not see me back that night. Or the next. Or the next.
My advice: Don’t listen to a word anyone says about when your baby will arrive. Unless you have scheduled a c-section or induction, no one on this side of heaven knows exactly when your labor will start. They think they do. They’ll spout about generations of accurate predictions as proof of their authority.
But they don’t know squat. (Please forgive the visual.)
Of course there are signs that labor is imminent. Some women have Braxton-Hicks contractions near the time of labor. Some don’t. You might experience a nesting instinct close to d-day. I didn’t. I kept hoping I would because my house could have used a good overhaul; still could. You might begin (gross-out warning here) to lose your mucus plug. Or, you might not. See, the thing about labor signs is that if they happen, then all they mean is that you’ll be going into labor either that day—or two to six weeks later.
It can be maddening.
Imagine you’ve planned a dinner party. The invitations have gone out and you know your guests are coming—either that day or in two to six weeks.
So you start cleaning. You get the house straight, but before you have everything spit-spot, the doorbell rings. Oh no. The meal is not ready; the table is not even set! When you go to the door and find no one there, you laugh a nervous, relieved sort of laugh, and get back to work.
When that day ends and your guests have not arrived, you don’t mind. After all, you needed to get those chores done anyway. A friend calls just before you turn in for the night, “Did your guests arrive?” You explain that they have not made it yet and she tells you not to worry—it won’t be long now. You know that, but thank her for her call.
A week later, though, your guests have still not made it to your doorstep. You hear the doorbell now and then, but no one has been on the other side of it yet. Friends and loved ones call, excited about your party, and they want you to know that you are in their thoughts.
“Oh well!” you reply, “They’ll get here as soon as they can, I’m sure.” And you decide to try a new dessert recipe. As it turns out, you have time to try it out on your family and to try it two more times. You are marveling at your perfect creation when, as luck would have it, you hear a knock at the door. You glance in the hall mirror and wipe stray hairs into place and then, with your company face in place, you throw open the door. Hmmm. No one. You step out on the porch. You look around. No one.
“Good thing the dessert will freeze,” you mutter to the non-guests, noticing as you go back inside that the hairs have strayed yet again.
You regroup. You look around at your fairly clean house and you realize, shocked you hadn’t noticed it before, that your walls really need a good scrubbing. Good thing the guests have been delayed. You hop to it.
A week later: no guests and the frozen dessert has been dethawed and devoured. You realize a little too late that you should have shared it with your family. You rationalize your indiscretion: surely you burned a lot of calories when you cleaned the refrigerator and freezer. Glancing at the dining room, all decked out in company finery, you think, “Well. If they don’t get here soon, I’m going to have to dust the dishes!” But your grimace fades slightly when you look over at your china cabinet and realize that you really should get all those dishes out and give them a good washing. Later, you answer the phone, admiring your gleaming dishes.
“No, not yet,” you reply, white-knuckling the cordless. “No, no sign of them.” You listen to the same question you answered on a different call just that morning, “Yes, I’ve eaten a bit of the party foods and yes, I know I’ll have to work off the extra calories after the party.” You switch hands, concerned about the well-being of the phone. The doorbell rings. You make a quick getaway from your caller without revealing your reason. If someone is really there, you’ll let your caller know later.
Opening the door with an expectant greeting on your lips, you are met with emptiness, yet again. “Fine.” You close the door a little harder than you should have, and you hear the china tremble in the cabinet.
You call it a night, sleeping fitfully until the phone awakens you the next morning.
“Hello?” It’s your guests. They’re lost.
You give them good directions, turning them around and heading them straight for your nice clean house. You jump up, hoping you will have time to get ready before they arrive.
It’s been an hour. What is wrong with these people? You try their cell phone. No signal. For heaven’s sake.
“I get it.” The light suddenly dawns. “They’re really not coming at all. This has all been a big joke.” Annoyed, you put away the china and the nice linens. “Well, at least I don’t have to wait on them any more!” You go to the movie store and rent some chick flicks, and stop by the ice cream shop on the way home.
“Cup or cone?” The perky attendant’s smile grates on what very well might be your last nerve.
“Both,” you decide. “And a gallon to go.”
Later, with your fuzzy slippers propped up on the coffee table, you sniffle to the last minutes of Sleepless in Seattle. The credits roll and you catch a glimpse of your reflection in your licked-clean spoon. Laughing at the spectacle, you say aloud, “I’m surely glad I’m not expecting company.”
“Honey?” your husband calls to you from the other room. His voice quakes as he lets you know, “Our guests are here.”
No meal. No table setting. No company face.
You are annoyed, but not for long. Realization sets in. It’s time. You’ve waited so long and it is finally time. Your pace quickens; you throw open the door. Nothing is the way you had imagined it would be. Yet it is better than you had ever dreamed it could be.
“Welcome!” you say, your joy spilling out in both laughter and tears. “You are right on time!”
And your little one will be too. Just wait and see. . .
For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1