Dear Friend, Pregnant and Conflicted

Dear Friend,

You are pregnant. Married just over a year and working steadily at your career, you were hoping to wait a while longer before this day arrived. But here it is.

You wish this pregnancy felt more like a deliberate choice rather than a shock. But let me propose something, something you already know, which is worth considering now in a new way: with this pregnancy, God is visiting you. You might quickly object--and rightly so--that God was already a frequent visitor in your newlywed home; there was no rush for God to send a baby at this particular moment. In truth, God has been your constant companion, accompanying you in your first year of marriage, in your engagement, in your courtship, in your college years, in high school, in your childhood . . . in your own mother's womb.

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

How did your own mother feel, I wonder, when she discovered you had entered her life? Did she try to picture the beautiful woman you would become? Your life of fullness? Could she possibly imagine the grandchild who now grows within you? I have a fabulous imagination. But, when newly pregnant, I could never have imagined the people my children have become. It never occurred to me to try imagining this, frankly, because I was too busy panicking. For me, pregnancy, baby, motherhood were all theoretical words. They were possibilities, even exciting ones, in theory. But when potentiality became actuality, my hands began to shake and my breathing came up short.

What is God thinking? This isn't a good time. I'll be much better prepared in six months, or perhaps a year or two. I'm not strong enough right now. I never really liked babysitting; what kind of a mother will I be? We wanted to be more financially secure. We wanted more time as a couple before a baby arrived. We need to buy a house first. What if the baby has special needs? Is this why I went to college? How will this affect my career? Why do I feel like I wasn't consulted?

These kinds of thoughts can flash through a pregnant woman's mind as her heart races. You, my friend, could make a list of your own concerns. In fact, maybe you should. Ponder all of the reasons this pregancy poses difficulties for you, and write them down. Get them all out there, even if they seem selfish or silly.

Then write a second list: the reasons you sometimes feel the surges of excitement you confessed experiencing lately. In between the nausea and panic attacks, sometimes you get a thrill. For me, this thrill came when I realized that the theoretical "children" my husband and I had discussed like a philosophical proposition had become an actual, unrepeatable, real-life PERSON. A person we would name. A person who had her own unique DNA and who already took up space on this earth, space inside of my body. In time, she would take up more and more space inside my cramped belly until I was desperate to have my own real estate back and meet her face to face.

Write those lists. Reflect on and record those things that make you feel like you're shrinking, trapped, or sinking, and also those things that make you feel expansive. Your husband might want to join you in the list-making; you're a good team. The lists might help you see how you're growing as a couple, as a family. They might clarify where you need the most help right now--help from each other, from family, from the Church. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit, who loves bringing secret concerns out into the light.

You're in a challenging spot these days. I go through my own versions of these challenges too, so you know I am thinking about you and praying for you. When I make my own lists, when concerns and questions race through my mind, I often notice I am posing these questions to someone. Someone real. Even in my clumsy, sometimes angry or sassy way, I am having a conversation not with myself, but with God. If I ask Are you there? Are you paying attention to me?, the questions already give me an answer. I'm not crazy to ask those questions; I am interrogating my God and expecting a response. I expect a response because he promised always to be in relationship with me. As the Psalm says, "My very self you know."

You are experiencing a new life, a new relationship, at its very beginning. This can be a fruitful time to remember the very beginning of your own relationship with God, when he created you out of nothing for no other reason than the fact that he loves you. God wanted you. God still wants you. Question God now; throw your challenges at his feet. Keep up the conversation with this God of (ill-timed?) surprises. This is prayer.

They shall not toil in vain,
nor beget children for sudden destruction;
For they shall be a people blessed by the LORD
and their descendants with them.
Before they call, I will answer;
while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

(Isaiah 65:23-24)