This spring we planted two rosebushes in our backyard. Little things, in the wrong soil, but they have doubled and blossomed and added some softness to our concrete patio. Now, with the summer ending and fall creeping in, strong winds have left our yard scattered with rose petals; the rosebuds themselves turned brown and crunchy.
The last act of a plant’s year always seems to be this kind of scattering. Leaves fall from trees in a final burst of color to make room for next year’s bud, lavender and sage open themselves to pollination by bees, dandelions turn gray and fluffy and spread their seed across grassy meadows.
The part of life we most hate to talk about is how sacrifice so often gives way to life. Mike and Laura gave me a book called Parables of the Cross for my birthday, and it is a book about death— more over, how life comes out of death. This idea is written into the pattern of nature—flowers that rise out of the ash from a forest fire, dawn that breaks out of night’s darkest point, and it is written into the Christian faith—death that opens the gate of life.
I think of this pregnancy, which has been like life in full bloom. It has thickened my hair, smoothed out my skin, strengthened my nails. This is the time of life where there is always a seat offered to me, where strangers help me load up my car in the grocery store parking lot, when I am showered with gifts, cards, well wishes. This is a time where I am filled, literally, to the brim with life.
I think of my mom, who gave up so much for my siblings and me, of my mother-in-law, who is both raising children and caring for her own mom. In a culture that scoffs at sacrifice and self-denial, these are two of the loveliest people I know—women who have given up so much and are brighter and more beautiful for going through a winter; for giving way to their own blooms so that new ones might grow.
I am apprehensive about the days ahead: about the pain of labor, the pain of recovery, the pain of my hair falling out and my skin changing and not sleeping through the night. It is, in a way, a death to myself—a sacrifice of everything I have been and known up to this point, and my body, which will become floppy, tired, and wrinkly, will sustain and give life to another—a petal dropped to make room for a new bud.
I’ve read a lot of books about labor and delivery, about trusting my body, trusting this birth. It is not trusting my body or modern medicine that will get me through this labor. It is trusting the God who sustained and orchestrated this rhythm of death and life; of wilting and blooming, of sleeping and waking. It is under the banner of understanding that there is nothing in all creation to which he does not say mine, mine, also mine, and labor, delivery, motherhood, are a grace to me, a glimpse of the way I am loved, the way a rose was also scattered for me, that I might begin to breathe, so that with the coming of spring, I will bloom.