(This entry was originally written prior to my becoming a parent, and it was originally published as a guest post at Sunrise Breaking.)
Shortly before my husband and I married, the barrage of pregnant people began. Just a trickle at first, a few friends with newborns. Then the water broke – so to speak – and suddenly we’re the only ones at a party without baby stories.
I couldn’t even escape at work, where I was nicknamed “the mom-magnet.” Of all the massage therapists at the office, I somehow got all the pre-natal clients. I must have ranked somewhere up there with midwives and ice cream shops for the percentage of my business that depended on pregnant women.
After witnessing all these growing bellies, glowing parents, and adorable newborns, I couldn’t help myself: I wanted to join the mom club too. Still, even as hopeful newlyweds, we felt the constraints of our reality. My dance degree and his seminary education couldn’t pay the bills, and we were both back in school, working part-time jobs on the side.
Besides our financial instability, we were still recovering from an overload of change in the year before our marriage. I moved away from an incredible dance company and very dear friends in Texas to be with my then-boyfriend and our families in Colorado. He discerned to leave seminary only shortly before we started dating. So with concurrent new education and career endeavors, our prayerful decision to avoid pregnancy (we use the sympto-thermal fertility awareness method) gave us a lot of peace in the beginning of our marriage.
The I-want-a-baby blues intensified to their worst about 6 months into our marriage. The excitement of our wedding had well-worn off, and the excitement of having a baby sounded pretty appealing.
As a young, 20-something, Catholic woman, it seemed like the thing to do. I had never really bought into the misconstruction that a good Catholic girl is supposed to have six or seven or twenty babies as soon as possible, but I never really let it go either. Plus, I felt like the “good Catholic” world around me reinforced the idea. Couples who, like us, wanted to wait a little while to have a baby at least felt scarce, although perhaps they just weren’t in the limelight.
Then two of my friends got pregnant at the same time, and shortly after their announcements, I thought I was pregnant too. Despite our massive fears and our original plan to wait, my husband and I were really excited at the prospect of a baby. I remember how he glowed at this new, unplanned idea and how enthralled I became at starting a new chapter in life. We were genuinely disappointed when the test showed “not pregnant.” Certainly, we felt relief, but the disappointment tended to linger at the front of our thoughts.
If I were honest with myself, the disappointment was largely due to the fact that I wouldn’t be pregnant with my friends. One of them talked about morning sickness as preparation for her new child, an early indicator that her life and her schedule were no longer solely her own. I had never thought about that with my own potential pregnancy. I just anticipated the awesome changes I would get to watch in my body, the attention I would get from others, the joy of belonging to the elite club of moms around me, and the excitement of something new, not even necessarily of someone new.
Those months up to and right after our first anniversary were emotionally confusing. I always felt at peace continuing the decision to avoid pregnancy, but I rarely felt content. Trying to sort out my emotions one day, I had a revelation. (I wish I could tell you this revelation came from a candle-lit pew in a beautiful chapel while in the midst of deep, ecstatic prayer, but it really came while sitting on the toilet. I think that’s all too fitting.)
Instead of blessing us with the conception of a child in our first year, God had given us the conception of our boring-ness, of our blessed, nothing-new-and-exciting-going-on, quotidian life together. I had wanted to get pregnant, not for the sake of having another person to love and not with real consideration for the true sacrifices involved, but for the excitement and attention it would bring me.
Month after month, we prayerfully discerned to continue to avoid pregnancy. And we began to grow into the mundane, ordinary marriage we needed as a reprieve from the whirlwind of our previous year and a half.
I’m sure our boringness has a long way to mature. (And any couple who’s been married more than twenty-five years can probably attest to that.) But we’re learning that there’s a special kind of love born out of the ordinary, one in which we can’t rely on the excitement of falling in love, wedding plans, or even pregnancy to rouse us to affection. Instead, we must simply love one another for the other’s sake, and we’re learning to rely on the Lord more fully to supply that love.
The deep longing to become parents still lingers and continues today—15 months after our wedding day—for both of us, but the pressure and the agitation to do so immediately have calmed. I have been continually encouraged by a line from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry:“All this hurrying will soon be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.”
For us, this season before children has been more than hopeful planning for financial and emotional stability. It’s slowed us to love in the unexciting moments, preparing us for those times when even a new baby gets boring. And unexpectedly, it’s purifying our motives for having children, no longer seeing a baby as the membership key to an exclusive club, or exciting news for our Christmas letter.
We try to remain attentive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, anticipating with joy when our wonderful, boring life together will be made more wonderful by the morning sickness reminders of a new life more important than our own.
For this time, I am happy to tarry, to slow down, to wait; to follow Christ today, not to Mount Tabor, but to an unrecorded Wednesday in a workshop, when He was tired of the daily grind, but decided to make something beautiful out of it anyway.