Sunday, March 1, 2009

On Pregnancy, Writing, and Humiliation (or Why I Haven't Blogged Much Recently)

When Ronnie and I discovered we were expecting our first child in September 2008, I had romantic, bleary-eyed notions of what the experience of growing and bearing a child would be. And, in typical, life-isn't-what-you-plan fashion, almost none of those notions corresponded with reality.

One of those pipe-dreams was that my pregnancy would be a fruitful period for thinking and writing. What occasion could be more creatively inspiring than carrying your first child? In a sad, secretive, egotistical way (and aren't most of our delusions of grandeur "sad" and "secretive"?), I thought I would become a prolific writer of wise, memorable, non-fiction, with every passing week leading to an ingenious manuscript--or at least a series of thought-provoking articles--that would make my time of child-bearing truly "productive."

(Sheepishly, I will acknowledge with my readers how truly Protestant, American, and deeply wrong this idea is, that my task of bringing a healthy, happy child into the world doesn't really constitute "productivity." Not only is this a viewpoint I find repugnant on a societal level, but it is yet another of my personal, fleshly struggles as I pursue life in the Kingdom of God--that my value and acceptance in Christ is not dependent upon my perceived productivity, whether "spiritual," material, or otherwise.)

Needless to say, my grand scheme for creative, pregnant productivity was very quickly demolished by the unpredictable and humbling realities of pregnancy. During the second month, I purchased a journal to record my deeply reflective, poignant thoughts on motherhood and parenting. But, my very first entry, following on the heels of my first week with all-day, every day "morning sickness," was a detailed and rather self-pitying account of throwing up a lovely meal of salmon and steamed broccoli in the soup aisle of our neighborhood Kroger. Go figure.

I wish I could say this humiliating, vomitous experience was an isolated and short-lived "blip" on the landscape of child-bearing bliss, but it was not to be. By the time I arrived at my fifth month, I weighed as much as I did prior to becoming pregnant, which means I had lost a considerable amount of weight (considerable by pregnant woman standards, at least).

Literally, I spent first five months losing at least one, but usually two or three, meals a day to the gaping porcelain god of the bathroom. I catalogued a long list of things I wouldn't eat, not because they did not taste good, or because the smell troubled me (as smells often do for pregnant women), but because they were truly wretched to experience coming back up. With all the food I wasn't keeping down, my diet consisted mainly of saltine crackers, oyster crackers, Club crackers, Ritz crackers, and different varieties of cranberry juice and Gatorade.

This humbling five-month period of perpetual sickness accomplished a number of important things in the formation of my character, not the least of which being the loss of the dream of being super-healthy, mom-to-be, who does pregnancy yoga, while making a salad of spinach and arugula, while reading about holistic parenting, and creating an organic environment for our new addition. Yes, five months of saltines and juice make you realize just how limited you really are--just how incapable you are of doing anything more than your body--or your growing child--will let you.

But, getting back to the writing thing. All this is to say, I have NOT found my pregnancy to be the brilliance-inducing experience I had intended it to be. (Can you hear the laughter of the angels--and all other moms throughout history--as they hear me announce with surprise that my experience was not what I intended?) Instead, I have found it to be a period where I am grateful merely to survive--merely to get through it.

That may sound tragic or sad to you and, in some sense, I guess it is. But, I have come to a place of peace with this reality. If nothing else, pregnancy teaches you that literally you are not in control of yourself, your circumstances, or even your own body. While I would love to summon the gifts of eloquence and wisdom from within me at a moment's notice and write things that are meaningful and touching on a daily basis, the truth is, I can't. I'm not in control of those things any more than I am in control of my moody, pregnant stomach.

All this is to say, I have several blogs I would like to write, which arise from reflections on being pregnant and how that relates to other issues in church and society. I think they might have something good to say, but at the very least I hope they're interesting food for thought. But, in the end, I'm not in charge of how I'm going to feel tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. I intend to get to them soon, but I might not. Jesus is teaching me to be content just to be, just to live, just to exist in his world, in his care, without clamoring for achievement or production. And, I'm trying to be a good student.

In the mean time, thank you, my readers, for continuing to visit, read, and comment. I hope to have more to say soon. Grace and peace to you.


Gary Snowden said...


Thanks for sharing your life experiences and the things the Lord is teaching you through the period of pregnancy. I think all of us have a tendency to believe that God grades us on a curve and that the marks we earn are somehow related to the degree of productivity we achieve. Your post offers a nice and I believe truer alternative to that mindset.

AO said...

Welcome back Emily, even if only for a brief moment. You bring real life to the the world wide web and I appreciate your honesty and humility. The transparent film you wear over your life beautifully manifests itself in the way of Christ. Dear sister, I say thanks and keep bringing the heat.

traci said...

Be still and know that I am God

Bob Cleveland said...

Perhaps God's statement, to Eve, about the agony of childbirth has been wrongly interpreted as referring only to the day of delivery. Maybe it's the whole 9 yards.

Or 9 months.

Fear not, though. I haven't heard of may pregnancies that last very many more months than that. At least for hooman beens.

Charlie Mac said...

We loyal readers continue to return and check for a new blog for selfish reasons. We find and take something personal for ourselves from each of your writings.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, trials and faith with us.

Shannon said...

I am not going to try to "be spiritual" in this comment but rather share an old wives tale . . . a hard pregnancy equals an easy birth! That is what I am praying for you :)

UnderMidnight said...

of course another way to view pregnancy is that you are the host of a parasite that is feeding off of you. haha.

i can't comment on what it's like to be pregnant because, well, that would be really weird if i could.
but having a kid rearranges things in my life in what I believe to be a good way. i had no expectations but fear going into this. But my wife and daughter are my proof against the thousand natural shocks the body is heir to. i was meant to be a daddy.