You know the people who are ‘all-belly’ and simply glowing and adorable during pregnancy? The ones who seem to glide effortlessly and glamorously through the whole experience?
(They are probably also the people who have a labor and delivery experience that is perfect and joyous and miraculously short, their bodies rebound days later. Their children have probably never consumed anything containing sugar or caffeine or watched a TV show or ever uttered an inappropriate word innocently and so indicted their mother. Ahem.)
I might be a smidge jealous. You know, like on a bad day or something.
Pregnancy for me is not an easy or glamorous affair. Though each one has been different so far, the pattern seems to be something like this: when I finally survive between 3 and 7 months of all-out internal organ rebellion, then comes several months of enormity, aches, pains, swelling, cramping and then finally, a couple of months of restlessness and horrible sleep, all culminating in labor and delivery (which, though daunting, is comparatively easy!).
Then, while I have the tremendous joy of a new life in my arms, I also have too much weight left to lose, post partum hormones to battle and a million daily life adjustments to make, while hoping to get in a shower at least before church on Sunday.
It’s not easy, and in many ways I am not particularly fond of these 9 months. I miss having a waist. I miss riding my bike and comfortably wearing heels and drinking caffeine without concern. I wonder if I’ll ever enjoy playing basketball again. Sometimes feel like I have kissed goodbye my youth, or my American vision of what my young and unencumbered years should be.
As difficult as it can be, it is also absolutely a gift.
I realized it one day when my 3-year-old daughter first noticed the stretch marks on my stomach. I explained that they were stretches from when my tummy stretched out for the very first time – to make room for her baby body! And some more for her two brothers! As her eyes were round with amazement considering herself as a baby inside her mommy’s tummy, we were both caught up in the wonder of God’s amazing design and for a very miraculous moment I was not ashamed of the stretch marks. Instead, I was proud to show them to her – and I was happy to have them. Like here is a tiny little monument of my love for you. These streaks on my sides are little pieces of our time together I will always carry with me.
This third pregnancy has been no less trying than the first two. And yet there are some days I feel like I am carrying around this magnificent little secret inside of me. I feel a little bit like a fat peony bud, a couple of sunrises from bursting into a profusion of delicate and beautiful petals. My heart races a little bit as I enjoy perhaps the only time when I have this little baby all to myself. It’s a privilege to bring new life into the world, and to know he is being fearfully and wonderfully made right this moment!
Rather than enduring these months with hostility and frustration toward myself, my body, my Maker – I want to incline my heart to accept all these things and walk through them with grace as an act of worship to the Lord, and a gift to my child. Rather than bemoaning my tiredness and agonizing over how many more months till I will ‘feel myself’ again, I want to rejoice that God has seen fit to use me as nurturing home for my baby boy for these fleeting nine months. I want to give my body grace and understanding, and celebrate rather than agonize over the growth that makes room for my baby.
I know I won’t ever be a perfect mother, but today I can do one loving thing for my son: give him the gift of having a place inside of me – now and forever.
And that gives me so much joy.