I write this post in awareness of the range of experiences people have concerning pregnancy and parenthood in general. I know that there are many ways of becoming parents, not all pregnancies are joyful, and that infertility and pregnancy/child loss are incredibly difficult paths that many friends of mine have walked. In addition, many of my friends have found that parenthood is not part of their path to meaning and fulfillment! This post merely represents my reflections on my own journey.
Recently a friend asked me to share why I love being pregnant. 4 months into my second pregnancy, I know definitively that the months of my life that I’ve spent pregnant have been some of those that I’ve felt most physically whole. While, to be honest, natural childbirth itself is something I’m still learning to appreciate (I don’t envy anyone who was in the room with me last time…), I’ve found deep meaning from the journey of pregnancy itself.
My pregnancy reminds me daily of the love and passion my husband and I have shared uniquely with each other. Our love isn’t always easy, and sometimes, in fact, it has been very difficult. Even with a relatively sound understanding of the biological processes involved, it remains the greatest miracle I’ve ever known that our love for each other can make a life. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the Song of Songs, which is basically a love song between two people with no clear mention of God at all. Many people have speculated about its place in the Christian canon—especially because some of the imagery is pretty darn explicit. But I think the canonizers of Scripture were really onto something. The love between people—even eros–is a reflection, albeit sometimes a pale one, of the power of God’s love to give life abundant, life overflowing into more life, life that perseveres through death and darkness and begins sometimes with a baby’s cry.
The way my baby is cradled in my womb right now echoes the way God has always cradled the world from the moment of creation. In Genesis 1:2, at the very beginning of everything, the spirit of God “broods” over the world like a mother bird broods over her young. The first nine months of my child’s existence, all s/he knows is the feeling of being perfectly held within a life that provides everything for him/her. Whatever I eat feeds my child. Every breath I take gives life not only to me, but to him/her as well. My body knows that it has to hold the little life within me until my baby is ready to survive on its own.
God has used pregnancy to show me this dimension of the Spirit. If my body can care completely for a baby, giving him/her whatever is needed with little intentional input on my part, how much more does the God of the universe–perfect, wise, and loving–care for all of us, held within the divine embrace! And while after nine months my body will send my little one into the world, we never need leave the enfolding of God’s own being. In life, in death, and in life beyond death, we are still God’s children, lulled to peace by the sound of our divine parent singing over us with thanksgiving (Zephaniah 3:17).
Pregnancy, in which my body is not wholly or even primarily my own, is my first way to say to my child, “This is my body, broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24). As I’ve found while parenting my first daughter from birth to toddlerhood, there are nearly infinite other moments in parenthood that demand a relinquishing of selfhood. Pregnancy takes over my body and prepares me to give up the self-centeredness that has largely ruled my life. It isn’t the same kind of bodily overtaking as power-based personal violence, even though both involve loss of control. Pregnancy is an invitation to expand my body, heart, and soul. Though it takes from me, it gives back to me. It offers freedom to love more than I ever thought I could.
I know that pregnancy matters. I walk through this journey for a second time knowingthat I give my body so that my child can have his/hers. Moreover, I give my body in hopes that, by offering myself wholly, even wholly broken, I can prepare my child to live into the gift that Christ has already offered his body for all of us.