By my observation, there is something in the human spirit that longs to create and be a part of building things that last longer than the self. The Image we were created in, perhaps. I see it all over. I see it in my husband gardening, spending daily time in dirt, doing things I don’t understand, and seeing things grow. Cultivating. This is one of the reasons why we named our daughter Eden. We were meant for cultivation.
One of the doctors I spoke to today told me, “There’s a special place in heaven for adoptive parents.” I appreciate the sentiment, and agree that there is something special about being an adoptive parent. There are also some things we miss out on. One of these, is the experience of watching a child grow from conception to delivery, the life before birth, the first nine months of living. Yes, this time of cultivation.
Eden’s premature birth is tragic in many ways. Having to spend the first months after being born in a hospital, potentially having problematic physical effects for the rest of her life, the lack of care that brought her abruptly and too soon into this world… All not how it was meant to be.
The last few days however, I am beginning to see a shiny silver lining. With her prematurity and forced stay in the hospital, as an adoptive parent I am now a part of the last of her first nine months, those crucial days prior to a due date.
Much growth and development happens in the last two months of pregnancy. There’s a reason why babies are meant to stay in a womb for 40 weeks. Today I worked with an occupational therapist who showed me what Eden’s muscles would be learning if she were still in the womb and how I can recreate that with my arms and hands. Babies aren’t being squished in there; rather, the muscles are learning how to contain themselves, how to prioritize a strong core, how to stabilize. All these things Eden has not yet learned. So I learn to assist her shoulders in drawing in so that her hands can learn where her mouth is. I learn to hold both her legs cradled in one hand, not difficult to do as she is so small, while also helmeting her head to mimic the confines of a womb.
At Eden’s age in the womb, she would still be getting blood from her environment; her bone marrow was not prepared to supply all she needs when she was born early. So I hold her as she gets a blood transfusion, providing skin-to-skin contact that makes her feel calm and coregulates her breath and heart rate.
Parts of the brain that work without being told weren’t ready to be independent when Eden was born. I am with her daily as she learns to breathe a consistent rate, and to remember to do so while she’s sleeping. Sometimes she “forgets”, and some gentle stroking on her back helps remind her to breathe. The complexity of breathing, pausing, eating, and swallowing is a massive feat that looms ahead of her. And of this development I will also get to take part.
Eden works really hard at all of this. And I try to work hard too. The beauty of this is that in a way, I am for her a womb. In the sadness of Eden’s prematurity, I have gained as an adoptive mom, the last two months of pregnancy. I’m learning and seeing and being a part of this final trimester.
Eden was, in part, knitted in her birthmom’s womb. And Eden is, right now, miraculously, being knitted together by my hands, in my arms, and before my very eyes.
“Your works are wonderful, I know that FULL well.”