On the side porch of our house, we have these big, beautiful hanging baskets that are brimming with flowers. My husband bought these planters to beautify our exterior (he also planted the garden of flowers you see below running parallel to the porch – what a guy!) as well as to make our porch seem more homey. There’s a swing on the porch and a black wicker rocking chair, and the girls and I enjoy reading stories sitting outside together while rocking back and forth.
We also like to watch birds dart in and out of the baskets. A perfect place for nature study right outside our home.
While the flowers certainly have added a splash of loveliness to the porch, they have given us an unexpected surprise as well. It turns out that they make the perfect spot for little birds to nest. We wondered what an industrious little bird was doing one day when she kept disappearing deep into the baskets, swathing herself among the colorful blooms. I wasn’t tall enough to see what was going on, but I suspected some nest-building might be underway.
My much-taller husband confirmed my suspicions. We’ve now had not one but two nests built within the hanging baskets’ flora. The first nest we identified as belonging to a House Finch. The second we weren’t as sure about. It looked a lot like the finch but without the red markings on its head, and the eggs were bigger, splattered with darker speckles, and weren’t the same pale blue-green as the finch’s.
What’s been really exciting about having a bird sanctuary right outside our side door is that we’ve had a chance to watch the eggs crack to reveal squirmy, small, featherless hatchlings. Then with more time, the pink, scrawny things turned into fluffy puffs of fidgety energy. Eventually, the downy softness gave way to real feathers. The girls were delighted to see the birds develop. So was I.
The first batch of baby birds flew away and left their first home when we were at the beach. We returned, and the nest was just an empty straw bowl.
The second nest cradled bigger birds that stuck around for longer.
One day when my husband was carefully watering the flowers, he noticed that some of the baby birds were gone. Two curious creatures remained and their beady, black eyes blinked at us as we took a peek at them. My husband tried to quietly take a picture of them but before he could click his camera, one of the remaining birds spread its virgin wings and launched itself into the world right before our eyes. And then another. We were witnesses to these young birds’ first flight. It was a beautiful, marvelous moment.
Nature is an excellent, wise teacher. When we first noticed the pale blue eggs in one of the nests, the girls immediately began asking when they’d hatch and when we’d get to see the babies. The eggs were pretty enough, but all they did was sit there. My children wanted more action. They wanted to see life in all its feathered glory rather than try to imagine what was happening, hidden beneath the surface of those delicate blue-green eggs.
They also wanted to touch the eggs, to get a closer look, but I explained that if we intervened too much or got too close, we might frighten the mother bird away – something we didn’t want to do since her nestlings depended on her for warmth and for food.
Patience is never an easy lesson to learn, especially when we live in a speedy, tech-driven world where instant gratification is the status quo.
Do you remember the days when you either had to buy a CD or hope the radio would play your current favorite song if you were pining to hear it? Now all you have to do is buy the catchy tune you can’t get out of your head at the iTunes store and – poof! – you can listen to it right away.
We used to have to call, visit, or write a letter to friends if we wanted to connect. Now we can Skype them even if they’re oceans away. We can write on their Facebook wall. Or, more recently, we can add friends to our Google+ circle. (Is the sheer number of social medial outlets at your disposal beginning to overwhelm anyone else?) If we need something from someone, we don’t have to wait as long. Email and texting usually mean we can get responses far more quickly than if we were depending on someone to return our phone call or to mail a letter back to us.
I reflect on my life and realize I don’t have to wait very long for all that much. We get two-day shipping with Amazon, so I can have a new book (or even a favorite grocery item) in my hands in 48 hours without ever leaving my home. Or if I can’t bear to wait that long, I can always buy the Kindle version and have it immediately delivered to me.
My children don’t have to wait for much either. I’m able to give them nearly everything they need fairly quickly. They wake up hungry, and I can pour their breakfast from a box of cereal. There are no cows to be milked. I have gallons of the white stuff in my refrigerator.
More recently, however, our family has been taught the valuable lesson of waiting. Since dealing with pre-term labor, I can no longer jump up and attend to my children’s needs (or wants) with the immediacy I once did. I’m no longer at the liberty to walk around and simply dream about this baby coming when he or she was supposed to slip into the world. Unlike those busy mama birds, there’s no nesting for me. My preparation is a quiet kind, a waiting kind.
(I never had an official due date, but my early ultrasound gave us a due date of September 3rd. Based on my own fertility awareness and records, I thought the baby would arrive closer to the very end of August. He or she will likely show up well before either of those times, but you never know for sure.)
Now I find myself in a “wait and see” limbo. First, it was: Will we make it past 29 weeks and a few days? Then 30 weeks? Now 34 weeks? I have no answers. I cannot make things happen or make them not happen; I can only wait and be patient as the good work inside of me is finished.
In my bed rest-created free time, I’ve visited a few pregnancy online boards and forums. I don’t usually click over to these sorts of things, and some of the comments and posts I saw surprised me. There were women who were only 34 weeks pregnant asking what they could do to kick labor into gear. There were women who were on bed rest and were wondering if labor would happen soon – not out of fear – but because they said they were tired of being pregnant and waiting around.
I’ve even had some well-meaning people who have heard about my pre-term labor and subsequent bed rest say things like “How exciting! You’re lucky you won’t have to be pregnant much longer and don’t have to worry about going past your due date,” or “You’re 32 weeks now? Well, that’s not too early.” I don’t believe in over-analyzing every single physical twinge I experience or even putting too much stock on effacement percentages or centimeters dilated. Numbers are only hints. Medicine is not an exact science. I know a friend who was on bed rest because of pre-term labor and had been hearing “any day now” for weeks who eventually ended up having to be induced when her due date came and went. Babies and pregnancies and cervixes are all different. God is in control, and His plan is perfect and His timing will be what’s right for our family, as a wise friend recently reminded me. But still I’m not sure I’d call myself “lucky” to go into labor weeks before what’s even considered full-term (36 weeks) and is still a month before an official due date. And as much as I’m excited and eager to meet this baby (and to be able to be a hands-on wife and mother again to the rest of my family), I’m not going to take the threat of preterm labor, premature dilation, or a paper-thin cervix lightly either.
Growing a human being is a laborious process. (I know I’ve said this before recently, but I’ve never been more aware of the truth of it than lately.) It tried my patience at times long before I started having too many contractions too soon. I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant as some women do, and 40 weeks can feel interminable when you don’t feel well or are dealing with pregnancy complications.
But to rush a child’s growth? To argue with nature and God’s plan just so the waiting and wondering are over? I don’t think so.
With the possibility of inducing labor for the sake of convenience rather than for the health of the baby or mom and medically unnecessary scheduled C-sections, we now have the power to hasten gratification even when it comes to bringing forth a new human life.
I rush through a lot in life, but I’ve never thought that rushing babies to come before they’re ready is a good idea (again, if there’s no convincing medical reason to do so).
And so I wait because that is all I can do. I try to not dwell in the agony of anticipation but to instead accept that my idleness, my waiting, and my patience are helping to grow a healthy, stronger baby. We cannot and should not want to rush the growth process. Chipping away at those fragile eggs in their nests would have brought disaster. Digging up seeds before they begin to germinate is far more disappointing than waiting for tender shoots to poke out of the earth. Opening a chrysalis before a butterfly is ready to emerge would turn it into a lifeless tomb.
It’s not that waiting is easy. I’m not a particularly patient person by nature, but I’m learning to discipline myself to be patient and to believe in the hope that good things – like watching a fledgling spread its wings and fly for the first time or hearing the beautiful song of a newborn’s cries whose lungs were given the time they needed to mature – really do come to those who wait.