At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Last night I woke up with painful Braxton Hicks. For a while I thought maybe I was even starting labor since I contracted four or five times. It was a huge wake up call to what lies ahead. I’m sure they weren’t nearly as painful as they will be and all I could do was think “stop stop stop.” The pain was very real. Even though it did obviously stop (no baby so far today!) my body was still so sore and uncomfortable all night long. I rarely wake up feeling rested these days.
Even though I’m dealing with so much discomfort, I’ve been thinking a lot about the prenatal life of my baby. What is it like in there? All of the ultrasound pictures people share show these little babies laughing, frowning, sleeping, smiling. How much emotion does she feel? And what causes that emotion? She surely isn’t aware of another person or of herself. So where does her laughter come from? Does she feel joy? Is joy so inherent to human reality that my barely cognizant baby who has never interacted with another human can feel it as she flips and kicks and dives around my uterus? How is this possible? And if she feels joy, does she also feel sadness or fear? A few days ago I was using the paper shredder and every time it turned on, the baby moved abruptly inside of me. I can’t think of any more physical, tangible display of the way fear operates in humanity – it is the complete inability to understand the world around us and trust that all is ok. Oh, I just wanted to hug her and hold her and tell her it was ok.
I think it must be God’s mercy that we don’t remember our lives in the womb or our births. Birth is a dangerous experience for a woman, but how much more so for the baby? What little comfort she has found in life so far is taken away in the process. Of course, the greater joy of life outside the womb awaits; but in the moment, birth must surely feel like a threat.
“You must be born again.”
How much have we lost a true understanding of these words? Just as we have lost our understanding of the Bible’s agricultural metaphors, so too have we lost the power of Christ’s words about spiritual rebirth. Christ did not speak of birth according to our medicalized experiences. He did not speak of rebirth with the safety and hope of 21st century expectations for a transformative and beautiful experience. He spoke of birth with all of the offense and threat that it involved in first century Judea. Birth was not transcendent, romantic, or beautiful. It was a bloody, broken, sweaty experience – and it was full of threat. Birth in the ancient world was a moment of life or death. Likewise, spiritual rebirth involves life or death. To become a child of God does not involve prettiness and peacefulness. It involves what amounts to a traumatic and laborious process by which we are removed from our dark and shadowy comforts and put into the light of God’s embrace, slapped alive to our first real breath.
(Image by Mark Chadwick, "Abstract Acrylic Fluid Painting Detail.")
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.