I could tell as I trailed you through the halls of the YMCA that you are expecting--and soon. Your ankles have that slightly puffy, overburdened look, your back that deep, uncomfortable sway that suggests a woman unused to carrying such weight. Seeing the full bloom of your belly only confirmed what I already knew.
You looked, to me, radiant.
But then your cell phone rang. Flustered, you shuffled through your very cute, very pink workout bag until you found the offending device. Your exasperated answer echoed through the locker room. I'll never know who was on the other end of the line, but clearly, it was someone with whom you share an intimacy. In the confines of the locker room, it was impossible not to eavesdrop, not to feel as if I was an invested member of the give and take that took place.
"Yes, I am still pregnant," you told the other party, and my gut began to squirm. See, I knew what was coming. And yet, I could not walk away.
I know that your aches and pains are real. I know that you are uncomfortable, that you're not sleeping well, that you pee all the time, that you can barely fit behind the steering wheel of your car. You have every reason to be done with the season you find yourself in.
But I hate that you hate it.
For twenty minutes, I listened to you lay out your litany of ills. Maternity clothes that barely fit. Indigestion that keeps you away from your favorite Mexican restaurant. Toenails that you can't reach to paint the lovely shade of pink that you like to see peeking up at you from your flip flops in the summer months.
I heard it all, and I sympathized.
But you know what I didn't hear?
The miracle of feeling your baby writhe, confined so tight in your womb that he or she could barely wriggle. The beauty of sitting on the cusp of an expanded family. The glorious knowledge that God has used you to bring about one of His most awesome gifts. The anxious, gleeful anticipation of waiting to meet someone whose lungs have yet to even draw breath.
I didn't hear any of that, and it pains me.
As a woman who longed for so many years to walk in those stretched out, swollen shoes of pregnancy, I am keenly aware of the blessing wrapped in a burden that is late pregnancy. The physical signs of impending birth are, to me, so poignant that I admit, I find very little to complain about. Knowing as I do the emptiness of arms unfilled, I sometimes have to step away from women who curse their own blessed state so that I don't shake them. It's true.
There is much to be burdened by, yes. But sister, there is even more to be blessed by.
As I sat on the opposite end of the locker room bench, listening to you describe your body as "massive" and "disgusting," listening to you announce how you couldn't "wait for this to be over," my mind went back years and years, to an experience I've all but forgotten. An experience with another expectant mother who had no idea that she was just hours away from meeting her baby. We had lunch, both of us pregnant, both of us nearing the end of the race. While we ate, my friend listed off the things she couldn't wait to do without a baby growing inside of her. Drink a beer. Be intimate with her husband. Ride her bike. Ditch the maternity panties. Wear her favorite jeans.
Three hours later, at a routine check-up, she learned that her baby had died. She delivered a still little girl that night, and went home to a place where all of those things--the beer, the bike, the jeans-- seemed empty and useless.
She would have given anything to have that baby back, safe, inside of her. She told me later--and I admit, I still didn't get it for years--that she would do anything, anything to be that uncomfortable and full again.
Of course, I learned that lesson on my own, the hard way. The pain, the inconvenience, the struggle, the discomfort, the agony, even ... It is not something to be wished away. It is something to be cherished. Truthfully.
I know you probably won't understand this. You probably think I am overly sentimental, a worshiper of birth, a woman who has lost her inner compass thanks to her years waiting without hope. And you know, I guess I hope that you can stay that way. I hope that you never look back on these moments have regret. I hope that you can move forward without missing a beat, can think on your pregnancy as a mere blip on the road to your new little one.
But just in case you can't, please--do yourself one small favor. Take a picture. Write something down. Anything. Make some small memory of the beautiful season you are currently living in. Hold onto it. Be blessed by it. Because truly, it is a gift that not everyone is handed. Of that, I am certain.