One day, early in the first pregnancy of my cousin Rebecca, her husband came home to find her relaxing on the couch; based on context and her ability to tell a good story, I infer that several household chores went undone and her appearance at the workplace was minimal. Adam questioned her productivity level in some sense and Rebecca responded with, “I grew a lung today. What did YOU do?”
Let’s be honest. There’s no good response to that one.
We’re on the cusp of meeting 9 months worth of tiresome endeavor. Sleepless nights, sore backs, cranky hip joints, careening emotions… this baby hasn’t drawn its first breath, yet the work of formation extends beyond anything it will experience the rest of its life. I’m simply in awe of the growth process.
The Beginning has its challenges. First comes the decision that change is worth it. You disrupt the normal. You want something, but must come to the conclusion that you will do the things that will bring about the Change. For some, deciding to grow is the biggest hurdle. And the Beginning carries mere pipe dreams about the Change. Babies, like other changes, are idyllic. Not that people forget to be realistic about the crying and the feeding and the lack of sleep; but the reality of a new little person can hardly be imagined with one’s own mind – no matter how many times you’ve added one to the family. You know life will change but remain clueless, exactly, on how.
For most, the Beginning brings sickness and misery. The dying-off process can’t be understated: you’re giving yourself to something new, something invading your normal. And to top it off, you do it in secret. We’re not quite ready for others to know how we want life to Change. Even though we’re heading in the right direction in our own minds, it can be hard to vocalize to others. We fear it won’t be validated, that people might question our motives or our decisions. Or worse – tell us how to do it better, stealing the joy of meeting even the small milestones.
Then comes the Middle. Both Lauren Winner
and Donald Miller
have spoken into my life recently about the Middle. In some ways, the eternal Middle looms as the most defeating part of the process. The excitement of the new and the anticipation of the coming wears off. You might take off like a bat out of hell but the Middle greets you with reality: it’s a day in, day out process. Arrival not only lacks imminence but seems so far in the future that you begin to wonder if it’s worth it. You feel like you’ve been at it forever but still have an eternity to go. There’s no turning back but yet you can’t hurry the process along.
Suddenly, you’re at the Homestretch. Each day you wonder if “this could be it.” You survive some days and celebrate others. You catch glimpses into what lies on the other side. The midwife presses your fingers into the crown and you see exactly how far it needs to progress. You feel the movement, the pressure as Change hangs in the balance. Most days you waiver between yearning for the pangs to initiate this finale of a process and fearing the pain and work involved. Day by day, for so long, you’ve put one foot in front of another to see progress but before it’s said and done comes an event that solidifies the Change.
We mark a day when the unseen is revealed. First breath, first sight, a new reality. This is what has been jumping on my spleen. Those elbows made sleep impossible. Of course, this creature is exactly the same on the inside as it is out in the exposed world, but somehow the Event changes it from theory to reality. We finally see a face to remind us how it’s worth it.
In many ways, birth takes 9 months of efforts dealing with the unseen and brings about Change that we live with for the rest of our life. Infancy, childhood, adolescence and even adulthood will bring its own set of challenges and hurdles. Our Change continues to evolve. The work is never finished; we’ll always have new developments, areas where we continue to explore and develop and blossom.
But the growing that happens in the visible world is unmatched to what takes place beneath the belly.
Life is full of decisions for Change. The people we love, live with, work for and walk beside likely are pregnant with something: growing character, yearning for a Change in their life that will bring greater love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness or self-control. They look ahead to a day, an Event that will usher in the presence of this longed-after Change. Though their belly doesn’t expand, they feel the inner pains and challenges of growing something in their inner being.
Perhaps they’re in that private first trimester. They’ve made a decision but live in quiet misery as it takes root. Or that never-ending second trimester when days seem like eons and the grandest gestures seem to barely make a dent in our progress. Maybe they’re lucky enough to be toward the end, when people begin to have more patience, carrying your bags and opening doors because the delicate stage has become so visible it can’t be ignored. (It’s during this time when they’ll hear the most insensitive comments from the most well-meaning people.)
Whatever the case, remember that most people are growing something. Most of us are moving toward Change. Give them the right to a bit of morning sickness. Remember that rolling over in bed might over-exert them, so they’re tired. Anticipate with them the big Event in which they’ll finally see Change face-to-face. And celebrate it.