This is my fourth time feeling a tiny person kick around in my belly. And it’s not any less strange than the first time.
In pop culture, when pregnancy isn’t being stigmatized or avoided at all costs, it’s being glamorized. I think of pregnant celebrities, baring their bellies on the covers of magazines like fertility goddesses.
Pregnancy doesn’t make me feel like a goddess.
Now, it has made me feel triumphant. It’s made me feel strong. It’s made me feel proud. It’s made me feel loved. But it hasn’t really made me feel like a goddess.
Pregnancy is strange. Sometimes it fills me with questions like, how can life be so beautiful? Or why me? Why am I gifted with this life? But sometimes it fills me with questions like, how does he fit in there? and where are my lungs? and I wish he would stop hiccuping and isn’t it strange for someone to be hiccuping inside me in the first place??
Pregnancy is strange. And people treat you strangely when you’re pregnant. I don’t blame them! Nobody knows quite how to treat a pregnant woman. How do you acknowledge the life right there in front of you that you can’t see? Do you say nothing because it’s seen as rude to comment on other peoples’ bodies? Is her belly big or is her baby big? Is “big” a good thing or a bad thing? And how do I even know for sure that she’s pregnant??
When I am not pregnant I am allowed a certain level of anonymity. I’m just another person in the world. Nobody is going to stare at me. Nobody is going to ask me questions. Strangers don’t know anything about my personal life. But when I’m pregnant my personal life is on display for everyone all the time. Sure, I wear a wedding ring, but a wedding ring is more discrete than a pregnant belly. And there are more wedding rings on elevators and in waiting rooms and in grocery stores than there are pregnant bellies. I am so often the only person in the room who has a person inside me. That’s just really, really strange. Why did God have to make it so strange?
He could have used storks. He could have made the whole process a lot less obtrusive and inconvenient and hands on. He could have made it so that mothers could retain some level of privacy and intimacy.
But that wouldn’t be human.
See, humans are body and soul. I think it’s ironic that our culture champions sensuality, and yet, we’re always kind of trying to flee our bodies. Even the natural health movement that is so body-focused— it’s really about transcending the body. Transcending aging. Transcending pain. We want to be listless spirits who can partake of the body when we feel like it, and only when we feel like it. We don’t want to be tied down by our bodies, and we certainly don’t want to be tied down by anyone else’s body. We don’t want to be grounded to anything harsher than a yoga mat. We want to be gods and goddesses of a perfect Earth, or nothing else.
But we are humans with fallen, broken, and strange bodies. And in these fallen, broken, strange bodies love happens. It’s the only place it can happen.
I love pregnancy. Not because it’s comfortable, because it isn’t. Not because I love feeling elbows in my ribs, because I don’t. Not because I feel super, super connected to this person inside me, because I often don’t. I love pregnancy because it forces me to love. It forces me to love somebody I don’t know. It forces me to humble myself for somebody I don’t know. It forces me to get over and beyond myself. It grounds me like nothing else. It reminds me, every moment of every day, you are dust and to dust you shall return BUT
I have redeemed all this. And I will raise you up on the last day. (Gen 3:19, Jn. 6:40)
One of the greatest privileges of parenting is experiencing the moment when your baby is born. I do believe it may be one of the closest experiences to the experience of Heaven. It is always shocking. It always seems impossible. It is always mind-blowing. All moments convalesce into it and time seems to stand still. It is the Incarnation on a personal level. It is love— this thing we like to pretend is all clouds and feelings— it is love in bodily form. And it makes all the pain and awkwardness and weirdness so beautiful. Pregnancy is beautiful. But not because it makes women goddesses. It’s beautiful because it points to God. Like one giant elephant in the room. Everyone stares because they can’t help it. As it should be. Because God is big and strange and beautiful too.