On Ripeness and Courage

Why does “full term” have to feel so…full? I once read a lovely book (which I really ought to read again…and you should read as well) called Great With Child, in which the author (Debra Rienstra) refers to herself as “ripe” at the end of her pregnancy. I keep thinking about that. I feel ripe…teetering on the edge of sweetness and rottenness. I should be picked from the tree soon or else I’ll be one of those peaches I had to rake up every summer of my childhood, busted and icky.

Ah, metaphors. The truth is, as much as I may feel “ripe,” my life is continuing. I have playdates and deadlines and a little boy who is still not willing to poop in the potty. Waiting for a baby to come is so foreign from the rest of our planned and well-constructed lives. It’s so primal. We have no control over it. Birth is messy and it makes us scream like the animals we are. It cannot be cleaned up, no matter how we try to sanitize it. That also means its looming nature cannot be removed from our minds. Or at least my mind.

I’ve said before that I’m a recovering anxiety addict. Notice I didn’t say I’m over anxiety, just that I’m recovering from how it used to rule my life. I’ve also said that I’m anxious about this birthing experience.

This past week, however, has been encouraging as I’ve prepared myself for this birth. I met with my spiritual director on Tuesday hoping, of course, for a clear course of action: a contemplative structure I could follow while I’m in labor, a verse to repeat, an image to picture. Debby reminded me what I really needed to hear: that in suffering I’m given a way to enter into Jesus’ suffering on the cross, to join him somehow in a space I rarely inhabit. Maybe that’s all mystical hippy stuff, but it’s just what my anxious heart has needed to hear this past week. I’m joining Jesus in a place that is not new to him. It’s difficult and frightening, but it’s not lonely.

My first delivery felt so lonely. As much as I was supported (my mother, midwife and husband were all amazing), I felt myself enter in to some wild lonely place where no one else could go with me. Time didn’t exist there. My experience was a series of images: one person moving in front of my eyes from one side of the room to another. Words spoken and echoing. My thoughts floated above my body because there was no room in my mind for anything other the physical.

I want Jesus to join me in that place: where we can look at each other and understand. Yesterday’s sermon was on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6 when he commands us not to worry about tomorrow. My pastor spoke of anxiety as drinking seawater. You drink it and drink it and are never satisfied, only thirstier.

I cannot make myself more brave. But I can choose to walk into this with courage because I believe in a Savior who has also suffered, who never said life would be trouble free, only that we can live worry free.

So, this ripe mama is going to finish all the tasks that need to be checked off the pre-baby list this week. And I’m going to pray for a continued reality that, yes, I will suffer. And, yes, worrying about it will only feed my suffering. Instead I’ll cling to the companionship I will share with Jesus in that lonely place of labor. And, in doing so, I’ll need him to be my Savior: my spiritual Savior, my physical Savior.

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