Last month we took our June bug on vacation to Savannah and Charleston, to soak up some sweet southern sunshine and stroll through some of the most beautiful streets in America. It was June’s first flight. Andrew and I love to travel. We both have flexible jobs, friends and family scattered across the globe. We…
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.
Our stomachs were full, sure, with cheesy bread, cake, washed down and around with cups of tea, but when the last guest left and we put our feet up, it was our hearts that felt wrung out, stuffed and overflowing. My sister placed her hands on her basketball tummy, growing bigger each day as that little boy inside stretches and fills up the space.
The house had been full, seats had been warmed, with people we have known almost since the time our own mother had us. They watched my sister grow up, let her babysit their own children, clapped and cheered as she became a wife, and now sat again, in our living room, welcoming her into motherhood with gifts, laughter, and gentle advice. Friends who had stood up in her wedding now held out hands to balance her as she sits in this waiting— already a mother but not quite yet.
Each of them came and stuffed her arms full with rattles, onsies, blankets and creams, tied together with anecdotes and stories of their own wakings in the night, their own aches and joys, their own sweet bundle. I was reminded again that we are a linked people, that these experiences and milestones are not made to separate or distinguish us, but to make us all into one. This shower was about Laura, in a way, but it was more about what we are all made for: to nourish, restore, and encourage life.