weathering the unknown (anticipating motherhood)

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I haven’t blogged for a good, long while.

I would like to say that I’ve been on sabbatical, and in some ways it’s true (sabbatical is a period of time granted to a professor to study and travel one of every seven years…I taught for eight years altogether, and have taken two years ‘off’…one to attend the study center l’Abri and the other year –this past one–to move to the Netherlands and learn Dutch) but it’s been rather a sabbatical of a wuss.

I’m realizing that I have a tendency to shy away from things. Therefore, the wuss confession. This morning as I lit my candle and sat by the rainy window in the front room, I felt this challenge come sailing by like a leaf on the wind:

Come out into the weather, sometimes. You were made for more than baking, housekeeping, and studying Dutch. Inside is safe, inside is your world predictable, controllable. But don’t be afraid to get wet and cold. The adventure is out here.

I don’t know what to make of this leaf on the wind. I’m about to have a baby, after all. And from what others have told me, it seems as though my choices and time will be even more limited than they are now. Maybe this relates to why I’ve been avoiding blogging about pregnancy. My life is about to change drastically, and because I can’t say how or to what extent, I stay inside myself, out of the weather. Out of the judgments, opinions, and advice.

But lately I’ve been thinking: what kind of person do I want to model for our daughter? Myself, of course, but which version? I want to model courage, trust, integrity, faith.

I just saw Oprah’s interview of JK Rowling (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pxh2sgg_iyA) and something Rowling said struck me. She seemed amazed that we all talk about success, and neglect failure. But we really can’t have one without the other. The same with joy and sorrow. Her words inspired me, most of all, to have the courage to try and fail. To see failure as hard and sometimes heart-breaking, but not to fear it.

And maybe that’s why I’m tempted to stay in the coziness of the familiar: for the past fifteen months, all has been new. All has been challenge. Marriage, new city, new culture, new friends and family, grocery stores, language, identity. I stick to the house where my sense of self is embodied in tangible realities that I have created with my own hands: muffins, soups, painted furniture, and now…a nursery for a new person. I stay out of the wind, even when it comes to blogging. But a new little person challenges my safety.

She as we have discovered, all 32 weeks and five days of her, is like grace. She’s been given. In fact, that was our first nickname for her, before we knew her gender: Given. Part of the reason I’ve avoided blogging about pregnancy or upcoming motherhood is because I’m sensitive to this. I’m sensitive to those who have tried and tried to get pregnant and can’t, and for whom the pregnancies of others is a daily confrontation, especially on Facebook. I’m sensitive to those who haven’t met their mates yet and miss them so much it aches sometimes. For them, also, are children out of the question. The closest experience I have to being infertile was being single. I didn’t want to be single, I did much not to be single, I listened to people’s knowing advice and felt their well-intended judgments…but meeting the right person at the right time was frustratingly, overwhelmingly out of my control.

I’m also cautious. Part of the benefit of not getting married and starting a family five years ago is seeing others go before. And sometimes those others have had miscarriages, or lost their babies at birth. Or at four months, or four years. I’ve gone into this pregnancy thankful for every day our little girl has lived inside of me. And I don’t know her days or hours. And I’m not going to give into the socially acceptable superstition that a positive attitude protects against sickness, or death, or suffering, or trouble.

What I will do, however, is place my fears and desires in His hands. He loves her better than Frans and I ever could. And she’s not really ours. Not really. He, in his grace, used our materials. But she’s His. His beautiful little creation grown inside of me. It staggers me. It’s just happening. I feel unworthy, at times. What have I done to deserve this new little life? And the answer is…nothing.

I love reading blogs, but sometimes I get tired of all of the opinions and formulas out there. If you do this, this, and this right, than this will happen. Follow this diet, this lifestyle, this mentality, you’ll get pregnant/have a healthy baby/get your newborn to sleep or nurse, etc. That sounds a lot like paganism. It sounds a lot like rituals designed to ward off evil spirits. But there are those of us who know better, who strive to live our lives by a law-trumping grace.

So please take the given as grace. Sure, we have responsibility to be educated and thoughtful and intentional with our decisions. I myself am reading two books I’ve been given: Baby Wise and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I like that their opinions are often conflicting; it gives me food for thought. And I will read each with a grain of salt. But when we cross over the border into “I did this…” or “This happened because I…” we’re crossing into dangerous territory. All good things are given. All is grace, including the wisdom we hope to have when we become parents. And they’re not ours, anyway. It must be better to practice letting go of our controlling ways sooner rather than later.

In the early days of my pregnancy, I daily and compulsively researched my symptoms. And always, at the end of every article or answer was the disclaimer, “this could be a sign of miscarriage.” After all, in my research I discovered that one in four women miscarry in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, many women without even knowing. And fear would wash over me. And I would check each time I went to the bathroom to see if I could spot any telltale signs of miscarriage. And I would daily confess my fears to my primary confessant, Frans. He began to do the research for me, good man. That really helped.
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But one day as I lay in bed with slight cramps, shaking like a leaf with the fear that I was losing my baby, God came close. I was reminded to trust him with this life; that trusting him with my fears was his way of beginning to teach me how to be a mother. For I have a hunch, and you mamas and papas know, that fear comes with the territory and only changes form as the child does.

They are His, they are given, and that gives me rest. Enough rest to get out from behind the safety of my familiar and weather the storms that will come. For out there lies the adventure we, my daughter and I, were intended to live.


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3 thoughts on “weathering the unknown (anticipating motherhood)

  1. This is beautiful. The Lord does continue to give us grace to care for these little Givens. I’m so thankful for His guidance and continual comfort when I fear, which is far better than any great parenting book (of which I have read many over the years). Thank you for sharing!

    • Kristen, it’s good to hear that God’s guidance is ‘far better than any great parenting book.’ I’m sure the books help, but how good it is to hear from a seasoned mama that He is our main helper. Thank you for reading!

  2. I just found this one! I resonated with every word you said. Celebrating with you on the impending arrival. 🙂 Much, much love to you, my friend. –Val

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