About four months ago, one of my co-workers jokingly told me, “So, you’ll need to call me when you really start to freak out about pregnancy.” At this point, 20 or so weeks into pregnancy, I was past the morning sickness phase, had seen images of a healthy baby on an ultrasound screen, and I was feeling pretty good. It’s not that things weren’t sometimes stressful, but a large freak out didn’t seem particularly imminent. So, I laughed along with this co-worker and agreed to let him know when – and IF – that happened.
But now – at 37 weeks pregnant and careening quickly towards the eventual conclusion of this pregnancy – the freak out has officially arrived. Sometime in between washing Baby H’s clothes, readying her room, figuring out how to use a Moby Wrap (seriously: way more complicated than you might think) and being told that our little girl might be a bit on the larger side of normal, healthy baby weight, I’ve officially entered freak out mode.
It’s not that we haven’t gotten educated. For the past 12 weeks, Justin and I have been faithfully attending Bradley Method classes (if you live in SoCal, I highly recommend our teacher), where we’ve learned about the physiological phases of labor, learned and practiced healthy nutrition habits, and been challenged to learn new techniques for relaxation and stress relief, prior to and during labor. We’ve hired a doula and met with her to learn a variety of techniques for massage and movement during labor, to help the process move along smoothly and naturally.
But for some reason, all these things seem to pale in comparison to the realization that my body is about to undergo something that it has never experienced before and over which I have little to no control. Right now, it’s just a waiting game.
And it’s not that I’m not super excited to meet Baby H. On the contrary, I’ve spent the last 37 weeks talking to my belly and wondering about who’s in there, what she’ll be like, what she’ll look like, what kind of personality she’ll have, etc. I can’t wait to meet her.
But there is also a sort of sinking sense of dread that comes when I think about the very real responsibility that comes with raising a child once they flee the womb and enter the world in a new way. I mean, who are we Heinzekehrs kidding?! We love to hold babies, and we’ve watched kids every now and again, but the occasional babysitting stint is way different than being responsible for a little newborn 24/7.
In the midst of this freak out, which my co-worker tells me is apparently inevitable and strikes most first-time moms right about this time, I attended some meetings. One of the best parts of working for the church is that work and worship are often blended, and these meetings were no different. We opened our time together by dwelling on scripture, and specifically on Romans 8. As the passage was read, we were asked to focus in on a word or phrase that jumped out to us.
Not surprisingly, I was struck by the following phrase: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Labor pains! Ha!
The passage goes on to describe the longing of all creation that waits in hope for the coming of the Spirit and the revelation of God. Later on, the chapter reads, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
I was struck anew by this passage. I have certainly never been one for redemptive suffering, and I’ve been hesitant to ascribe a purpose to any form of pain or suffering. I think these theological trajectories have too often been mis-used and/or misconstrued to condone abuse of all sorts.
However, as I think about pregnancy and the labor that will eventually come sometime over the course of the next few weeks, I was struck by the ways that pregnancy, and probably labor itself, can prepare one for parenthood. It’s part of the inevitable waiting process that must be undergone. And it’s certainly not a process without hope, because at the end, if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have a healthy little girl to hold. And we’ll take her home and figure things out (with lots of help from friends and family, I am sure).
But, as Romans 8 notes, the waiting over the next few weeks may not be without its groans and its eventual labor pains. These are
inevitable parts of the pregnancy process.
So, in the midst of my “almost-end-of- pregnancy-freak-out,” I am grateful for the reminder that the waiting is really an exercise in the spiritual practice of cultivating hope.