Juxtapositions: a Reflection on Pregnancy and Prayer

So I’ve been reading a lot on prayer lately, and thinking a lot about what it means to be pregnant.  And you may have to put up with some ramblings here, but I think the two may be connected, especially for me right now.

A lot of people have a problem with prayer. Not with the idea so much as the execution of it. What is it? How do you do it? Is there a right or a wrong way to pray?  Prayer is one of those things I believe that is so simple, we can’t accept it’s simplicity, so we complicate it.  Plus, if we take it as simple and move into prayer on a regular basis we’re opening ourselves up to God and doing that inevitably causes change.  And since change is uncomfortable, we complicate prayer to avoid it (but probably not consciously).

But that’s not my problem with prayer.  My problem with prayer is that after many years of awesome times praying and feeling God with me on a day to day, sometimes moment to moment basis, God has not-so-conveniently been absent.  Oh, not really absent as in not there. Just not perceivable by me.  And that makes prayer seem dry, sometimes pointless, like I’m talking at the proverbial ceiling with as much result. Only that’s not actually true, there have been some results, sometimes after I’d stopped asking for them (like baby!).

I like the prayer that Richard Foster uses in his chapter “The Prayer of the Forsaken” in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.  It says:

“GOD WHERE ARE YOU!? What have I done to make you hide from me? Are you playing cat and mouse with me, or are your purposes larger than my perceptions? I feel alone, lost, forsaken.  You are the God who majors in revealing yourself. You showed yourself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  When Moses wanted to know what you looked like, you obliged him.  Why them and not me me?

I am tired of praying. I am tired of asking. I am tired of waiting.  But I will keep on praying and asking and waiting because I have nowhere else to go.

Jesus, you, too, knew the loneliness of the desert and the isolation of the cross. And it is through your forsaken prayer that I speak these words. –Amen” (p. 25).

And somehow, in praying that, in knowing that it’s okay to pray that (if you don’t believe me, read Psalm 22) I start to feel perhaps the slightest hint of the presence of God again in peace that comes to give me patience to keep waiting to see what this season is about.  This season being my vocational transition from last year (see about page if you don’t know what I’m referring to).

And so how is pregnancy like prayer?  In prayer, you surrender yourself to God and open yourself up to a relationship with God in ways you might not ever have expected.  Being willing to be pregnant is a surrender of your body to the process of the pregnancy, a willingness to be out of control as things change and your stomach gets increasingly bigger.  A willingness to be a temporary home for another human being, with whom you will have a long relationship, and the kind of relationship you can’t really anticipate, but only move into with a great deal of prayer, love and patience.

Prayer is totally natural and in many ways a bit of an alien experience in that you are conversing with a being that is totally other, and yet one who became flesh so that we could see God.

Pregnancy is totally natural and yet, when you think of having another person–a whole other person–inside of you, it seems rather alien and odd.

Both have become part of my every day life, much in the same way that breathing is.  I’ve arrived at the point where I’ve begun to pray all the time, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, if it strikes me, I pray. No fancy language, no formal openings, and since it’s an ongoing conversation, no “amens.”  I like this kind of prayer as I begin to find my rhythm again and rest in not knowing and not needing to know.  In doing so, I’m beginning once again to, as Tim Jones, in his book The Art of Prayer, puts it “…find traces of the sacred in the corners of the corners of the everyday, even in the bland and repetitious” (p. 15).

These are my juxtapositions for the day…

And then there was the little howard…

So we’re out in California for three weeks, when towards the end of the trip, I begin to suspect that I’m, shall we say, not alone?  Thai food suddenly smelled suspicious to me, and then the next night, as we sat down to dinner, I could suddenly smell the chocolate icing on the cake my sister-in-law had baked for my dad’s birthday, even though 6 of us had just sat down with plates loaded with a variety of good smelling food.  No one else could smell the chocolate through all that.  Then I was waking up with a weird craving for hard-boiled eggs, and I wasn’t sure coffee tasted like it should.

My mother, given an extra dose of intuition in this case beyond normal woman’s intuition seeing as she’s my mother and all, immediately suspected, but said nothing till I finally fessed up that I wasn’t sick 😛  My brother, reading me well as he often can, figured out what I was thinking, but also said nothing, but me reading him well like I sometimes can, saw that he knew and decided to bring him and the sister-in-law in on my suspicions.  Where upon both my brother and my mom started begging me to take a pregnancy test, but one, I didn’t need one to confirm at that point, and I was in no mood for a false negative in the event my hormone levels weren’t high enough. I had perfectly good pregnancy tests at home, I told them, I’ll just use one when I get back.  (oh, and of course I told Husband… I tell him almost everything).

And I proceeded to fly home, leaving them on tenterhooks :-) but hey, it’s my pregnancy 😛

And the next morning I woke up at 6ish thanks to an increased need to pee every couple of hours and got this in like 3 seconds, so I guess I didn’t have to worry too much about the hormone levels…

I pounced on Husband and woke him up, waving the test in front of his bleary eyes… “Wha? huh? is it positive?”  I just laughed at him till he could get the sleep out of his eyes to see. Then when he woke up fully he was like, “I guess you wouldn’t have pounced on me if it wasn’t…” No joke!  His next statement, “We need to start thinking about paint colors for the baby’s room.” Me: “no, honey, I’m going back to sleep now” and I did.  He got up as he was too excited and awake to go back to sleep and didn’t have the extra tiredness that was already kicking in from growing the wee thing-a-ma-bob.

Then, thanks to being at a slightly high risk for an ectopic pregnancy, the very next week, at 6 weeks pregnant we got to see this little cashew on the ultrasound screen and find out there was a nice strong heart rate of 108 bpm.  I didn’t even know you could get a read on a 4mm long baby at 6 weeks, so I was extra thrilled! Oh, and it wasn’t ectopic, so I just got the perks of an early ultrasound :-)

I agreed to take part in Right from the Start, a study of pregnancy health that Vanderbilt is doing, and as a result, I got a free ultrasound at 10 weeks!

So four weeks after the first ultrasound, we got to see this! Which was way more fun to see live because TLH (The Little Howard) was quite the little wiggler rolling around and waving arms and legs in the air.  Heart rate of 160 (and no, there’s no truth to that heart rate and gender thing, and I still think it’s a boy so there), and measuring 2 days ahead of my dates… At 6 weeks, it was measuring 1 day ahead, so who knows, maybe it won’t be late as I had instantly programmed myself to believe… but we’ll see.

Even more fun then the 2D stills are the 3D stills!! I don’t know if this technology is more available now or if most people just don’t have 10 week ultrasounds, but I’ve had a bunch of people look at the image below and then ask if it was a boy or a girl, assuming from the detail of the ultrasound that this was a much later scan, but, folks, the baby is 1.4 inches long in this pic…

And husband got his wish as soon as I found the right bedding (see fabric samples from the quilt below) and we picked out paint colors that complement the bedding and our house’s color scheme.  (The red was a chair fabric option that we eliminated in favor of the chocolate as we want to pull a burnt orange out of the plaid fabric as an accent… and orange more like the boots on the card, not like, you know, Vol orange :-P)