If Any Sink

The evening after my kids and I ran our first 5k, I sent my husband to Rite Aid to buy a pregnancy test. Because I was a little late, and I just wanted some peace of mind. Because there was no way I could be pregnant.

Except yes, I was. Am. Expecting. And I’m still processing it.

Always before, becoming pregnant was a choice. Something I wanted, something I felt guided to. It has also always been a leap of fear and faith, but it’s been easier to accept the discomforts of pregnancy because I knew that I had sought it. And even though I was not done having children, I did not plan to have another baby so soon.
***
As an undergraduate in Dr. Cynthia Hallen’s excellent Linguistics class, I wrote a paper analyzing this poem, “If any sink, assure that this now standing,” by Emily Dickinson:

If any sink, assure that this, now standing

If any sink, assure that this, now standing —
Failed like Themselves — and conscious that it rose —
Grew by the Fact, and not the Understanding
How Weakness passed — or Force — arose —

Tell that the Worst, is easy in a Moment —
Dread, but the Whizzing, before the Ball —
When the Ball enters, enters Silence —
Dying — annuls the power to kill.

It’s the last stanza that has stayed with me all these years, especially the line “Dread, but the Whizzing, before the Ball.” I dread giving birth. I always have, except with my first child, when I didn’t know enough to be frightened. Now I know; my fears have names and the weight of having lived them. I’m scared of dealing with bed rest again, scared of the c-section pain, of enduring the emotional hassle of trying to nurse, of the sleepless fatigue. This time around I have added a new fear: another NICU stay.

But Dickinson is right with her last line, too: “Dying — annuls the power to kill.” Meaning that once I am actually there, in the hospital, holding the baby, the dread is gone, replaced by a strength and love I did not know I possessed. Even last time around, in the NICU, I felt sustained and blessed. The spiritual power of prayers offered for me was so real. When I actually live the thing I fear, it loses its power over me, and I see light instead.

Why is it so hard to remember that feeling of strength right now? I am still in the stage of dread, the whizzing before the ball.

***

I’ve been studying the concept of remembering mercy lately. This verse from Alma 32:

22 And now, behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name;

And this one from Moroni 10:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

The context of both verses interests me: Alma’s counsel to remember mercy precedes his faith/seed/tree analogy, and Moroni’s comes just before his promise of a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon. Remembering mercy comes before faith, before praying about the Book of Mormon, before anything else.

And one more scripture that has haunted me, this time from Mormon 9:

20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

They know not the God in whom they should trust. Or rather, I know him not. Because I forget His mercy.

But I am trying to remember.

About Emily M.

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

16 thoughts on “If Any Sink

  1. Congratulations…Remember back and think about those things you want to do different..you will be fine. :) The one thing that came to my mind is the quote from the original plan of salvation movie…’this life is but a forgetting…’…don’t know how it relates to you but it just popped into my head. lol

  2. Hugs to you, Emily. This is a beautiful post–I love how you pointed out the context of mercy.

    And I had a class from Dr. Hallen too. She’s wonderful.

  3. I love “Moroni’s promise” in this very personal context of remembering God’s mercy. I sort of see the bookends of the Book of Mormon as being about just that. Nephi starts by saying that he’s going to show God’s tender mercies, and Moroni ends by urging us to remember them.

    I think these invitations exist because God knows how easy it is as mortals for us to forget.

    Reading your post brought back a lot of feelings from my surprise pregnancy. On top of it all, I also felt guilty for being scared and confused and angry at the timing of it. I didn’t feel ready and I had a hard time not believing that this was also evidence that I wasn’t in tune enough to know when I actually was ready. It’s easy to talk now about the blessings that came because of the timing because I can see them in retrospect, but wowza, that was a hard time. So I’m sending my empathy; I can relate to the struggle so much.

    But your heart shines through, Emily. The trying to remember is, I think, more than half the battle. The caring about remembering is what opens the door to the Spirit helping us remember. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. Emily, I love this! Having been through a traumatic pregnancy/delivery earlier this year, the idea of getting pregnant again seems scary and daunting. I’m praying that you’ll find courage and peace as you get closer to your delivery!

  5. I love this post. The thought that comes to my mind is the scene from the Church’s Jesus video when Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John (to be the Baptist) and Mary greets Elizabeth saying, “May you be strong and blessed.” Children are a blessing and it is hard to be pregnant with them, to deliver them, and to raise them. But just because something is hard does not make it wrong; in fact maybe the challenge is truly the rightness of it all– the time to grow and to stretch physically and spiritually. I have one child and it was a challenging pregnancy. And now I keep pushing off the thought of another in part because it is inconvenient (I know that sounds petty) and in part because the worry and the challenge of the first pregnancy are still just under the surface….thanks for helping me process these things in response to your lovely writing….
    May you be strong and blessed in this pregnancy.

  6. Emily! Congratulations! And thank you for a beautiful post. I’ve never understood that poem before and now– well, I’m getting closer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on remembering. I’ll be praying for an easy pregnancy for you and very boring, safe (maybe even a few days late) delivery. love you.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. Michelle, you nailed my unexpected pregnancy feelings exactly. Also I was going to quote Nephi at the beginning too, but I figured I was already scripture-heavy. You read my mind.

    Robin, I love that line. Thank you for sharing it–it is exactly what I need.

    Michelle L., I am still foggy on the first stanza, but I think that the last stanza speaks to me right now. Also thanks for the prayers. If I have an easy pregnancy and a boring, safe delivery, I will consider it a full-on Biblical miracle, brought about only by prayers.

    Thanks again, everyone. I would also love to hear from anyone else who’s had an unexpected pregnancy, and how you dealt with it.

  8. Thank you for this. I planned my current pregnancy but have the same fears. Lovely to read and reflect on this post.

  9. Oh Emily, this is so beautiful. And I see now why news of my dear friend and the passing of her son would be especially tender to you. But these words, your words, are words to write down: “When I actually live the thing I fear, it loses its power over me, and I see light instead.” I have seen this light in my friend. And I absolutely see it in you and your words. Saying prayers that all goes well. What a sweet, unexpected blessing in your life. Love you.

  10. Terrifying but exciting! I’ll admit that the poem goes completely over my head. I don’t have the thoughtful temperament for poetry. But I have been pregnant! And I am quite jealous of you. I’d love to be surprised that way!

    I’ll keep you in my prayers for a nice ordinary pregnancy and delivery!

  11. Emily,
    You asked about unexpected pregnancies. I’ve had two–my 2nd child was the first. My husband was a college student with more than two years to go and our oldest child was ten months old when I found out I was pregnant again. My initial reaction was one of shock and fear–Can I do this again so soon? (Especially since our oldest had been a pistol.) But it worked out and I realized later what perfect timing it was and what a blessing and help having another child then was. My 2nd unexpected pregnancy happened after we already had six children and had decided we were done. It had been almost three years since our last child was born and I was so fine with not having anymore. When I found out I was pregnant I cried and cried. Then I miscarried and cried and cried again. Then I prayed and prayed and (LONG story short) had four more children, (and a heart-wrenching miscarriage.) I look at these last four children now and marvel that if it had gone how I originally planned, they would not be here. And my life would be so much the poorer because of it.

  12. Thanks for a wonderful post, Emily. I too have felt all of this, and somehow it is a great relief to hear you express it so well. May you be blessed.

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