Head shoulders knees and toes, eneey-meeney-miney-moe runs through my head over and over as I watch two little legs kick their way across a black screen. The head, the tiny little webbed hands, the heartbeat that is not mine, but also lives inside of me, going up-down-up-down, blinking like a strobe light.
Andrew will tell me later that he never wants to forget that moment—holding my hand while I lie on the table in an oversized hospital gown, tears streaming down my face as I watched this little life move and wiggle in front of me, that he wants to trap it in a jar and watch it, revisit it, as many times as he needs to be reminded that this is what life looks like, in its earliest beginnings. That at the beginning of it all, the heart starts beating, and our hearts break and swell and crack as we watch that one on the screen because it is, for the first time, not mine or his but ours.
Fearfully and wonderfully made holds a new meaning in my mind these days. Pregnancy, I’m realizing, is one of the most vulnerable times for self image and self esteem. This body of mine, which for years I have sculpted, toned, monitored, to keep it slim and trim and sliding easily into the size jeans women my height and body type are supposed to wear, is suddenly growing wildly and obtrusively like wisteria, like ivy, thickening in all the places I was taught are never supposed to thicken, and all the while I am surrounded by choruses of how big are you going to get and let’s see your bump and gosh it’s going to be a big baby. I know that this is normal talk, happy talk, but I wonder why pregnancy, when our emotions are so volatile and our bodies are becoming exactly the opposite of what our culture says is beautiful, is the time our bodies are discussed and speculated and put on display like cattle.
On the screen though, I can see the curve of a little round button nose, I can see a tiny tummy and a head that is building and constructing the brain this baby will one day think, reason, and love with. The midwife tells me all the major organs: the kidneys, the intestines, the liver, are already in place, and now all the baby has to do is grow and expand and be nurtured. I can hear the heartbeat—the strong, steady sound of life, the heart that will carry this baby through this pregnancy, childhood, through life and love, this little heart beat that represents the beginning of it all and the fullness of what this baby will become. And this is happening inside of my body, the one that is doing all the things it is not meant to do, though I have never been more sure than in this moment that this is exactly what I was created for, just what I am meant to do.
Fearfully and wonderfully made. Like all new parents, Andrew and I are amazed at the gift we’ve been given of witnessing that which we have no control over: the step by step, intimate, complex, perfect creation of life. You’re finished making the placenta, the midwife tells me and I think, I had no idea I was making a placenta. I don’t wake up in the morning and say to myself, okay, time to create the brain today, and yet inside my body, a brain separate from mine develops. Thinking about this, I understand a little better the word fearfully. God could have delivered babies, fully formed, falling like little raindrops from the sky, but instead, he uses us. He allows us to watch and be a part of his creation process, and in turn, we stand amazed.
One day I will tell our baby, as we hold him or her in our arms, about the day we first saw their little legs move on the ultrasound. I will say, you were the most beautiful thing your dad and I had ever seen. You were perfectly made, perfectly stitched and put together. And even before your birth, your entire existence, your little brain, your heart beat, bore evidence to an infinitely kind and wise Creator. From the very beginning, your life caused us to worship.
I hope our baby only ever sees him or herself as fearfully and wonderfully made, because that is how we will see it. And later, when I get home, I will think that this is the way I came into the world as well; that I was also stitched together piece by piece, that I, too, am complex and powerful, strong and capable, fearfully and wonderfully made. I too am sustained by a heartbeat and by a Creator who knit every piece of me exactly into place, and who, through me, is nurturing a new life—and so this sprawling, expanding body is doing one of the most holy and powerful things it will ever do: bringing forth life.
Keep beating, sweet heart, and know that every part and inch of the way you are being made is beautiful. As I pray this for you, I will try to learn it for myself as well. You are in hands much more capable than mine.