It’s been a month since my last post. The delay is partly due to other writing projects, but mostly it is because I’m nine-weeks pregnant, and all my energy has gone to housing a bean-sized person who is growing at a rapid and miraculous pace.
This is my third pregnancy, and just as with the other two, fatigue and nausea have drained me of nearly all motivation for anything that doesn’t involve sleep. When I saw those double pink lines for the third time I felt a disagreeable combination of excitement and dread because I know the discomfort and inevitable sacrifice that lay ahead, while simultaneously knowing the beauty of the creation and development of human life.
I know some women find pregnancy to be wonderful and enjoy every minute of the process, but that’s never been me. I’m thankful, certainly: that I can physically have children, that I have easy access to medical care, clean water and food during the gestational months, and having been without complications in pregnancy and birth is not something I take for granted, but pregnancy makes me feel weak and that’s not something I enjoy. It strips me to the bones of my abilities and I’m left feeling as though I have no surplus from which to draw or give, with a weariness that never abates. Yet, it is precisely this weariness that serves to reveal an entirely different joy, not because of tiny onesies or nursery colors, but because of the distilled truth that can be known in the midst of it.
In many ways pregnancy is one of the most humiliating experiences I’ve known. My entire life slows, and spare time is no longer spent in quantifiably productive ventures like studying, writing or household projects, instead it is spent in stolen moments where I can lie on the couch or nap. My attention is scattered, I lose words from my vocabulary, my body changes and feels like it is betraying me as my hips widen for childbirth in a familiar ache, and my abdominal muscles slowly disappear.
And that is merely the first trimester.
Pregnancy tends to reveal a reality of myself that I’d rather not admit. I’d prefer to continue in the delusion that I have it all together, that I can shoulder my own weakness, carry my own burdens and overcome my weariness by sheer power of will. Often I am fairly adept at convincing myself—perhaps even others— that this is true, but pregnancy swoops in and strips away any semblance of that facade and shows me every morning with that sweeping nausea that I am weak, and I cannot overcome anything alone. This is the reality with, or without pregnancy, all the time: I am weak. Even without pregnancy I feel a bone-weariness just looking honestly at the world that is bent on death, revelling in human despair with socially acceptable voyeurisim; or conversely, within my own heart that is prone to wander from truth and justice, and easily slipping into apathy, comfort and privilege without a thought for anyone else.
Pregnancy these three times has been a great grace as it reveals in me just how weak I truly am, while offering a solid hope that can only be found in that kind of humility. Because in the midst of that weakness, and feeling of bodily betrayal there is life, in the same way that in the midst of the weakness and destruction of the world God still promises new life. He creates it again and again in the wombs of women, and he renews it again and again in the hearts of his people. God is constantly defeating our ultimate weakness: death, and we see it in the miracle of new life in the midst of pregnant exhaustion, like a sapling that grows from the ashes of a burnt forest.
I find some of the greatest joy I’ve known in pregnancy, not because I get mushy over newborns or relish making mobiles and picking out crib sheets, but because in pregnancy I get some of the biggest glimpses of my need for God, and when I stop trying to pull myself together I find his grace right there, even as I press my clammy forehead against the cold tile of the bathroom floor. It’s the same grace I find when the day looms impossibly and the world seems devoid of goodness, it’s the words I’ve come to know so well and cherish so deeply as they’re whispered in the darkest and weariest hour:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
-2 Corinthians 12:9
Pregnancy is full of weakness–soon enough I’ll be unable to tie my own shoes–and that is precisely why it is one of the most beautiful gifts we are given, because it reminds us of the weakness of ourselves, and the power of our God who holds us gently in our weakness.
We are weak, but he is strong. We doom ourselves to death, and he keeps making new life; not just at conception, but at the cross.