Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I think I might be pregnant...

I recently finished reading a book called Expecting Adam. (Thanks Joanne, for the awesome recommendation.) It’s the story of a woman’s pregnancy and the radical transformation that her son brings to her life, not only during the pregnancy, but also during every moment that has taken place since his birth. While I am not pregnant and hope to never be pregnant again, I would confess that those weeks and months of being with child were among the best of my life. New life growing within me, new souls being incubated before their emergence into the world, my body being all they needed for those nine months and for the six that followed their birth – those sensations will never be forgotten.

But they were also difficult months. Worries about their health, their intelligence, and my ability to birth and raise them raged through my hormone-laced brain on a daily basis. I wondered which of their parents they would most resemble, whether or not they would like me, and whether or not my in-laws would finally accept me once I gave them grandchildren. I rubbed my tummy with oils and lotions in an attempt to avoid stretch marks: to no avail. My midsection looks like the hide of a brown and tan striped zebra. I ate as much protein as humanly possible in order to make big, fat babies who embraced healthy eating from the start; I didn’t want a scrawny pre-mature baby so tiny that I couldn’t hold or nurse her. I needn’t have worried. The first time around, I gained forty-one pounds and gave birth to a nine pound daughter. The second time, I gained a more manageable 28 pounds, and he still managed to be more than eight and a half pounds. Then I took a break from peanut butter, boiled eggs, and spinach salad for about a year.

Even though I won’t be having any more children (Lord, please hear this plea for a child-free future…), I have come to a new understanding about pregnancy as a result of reading this heart-warming memoir by Martha Beck. At many points in life, we are the incubator for something or someone new. We carry within us the potential to birth many new lives. I remember vividly the sudden emergence of one of my 7th grade students when he finally “got” Spanish. One day he asked how it was possible for children in Spain to learn Spanish if they didn’t know English. Everyone in the classroom laughed at his question, but as we collectively came up with the answer, he developed a profound love for the language he had never known before that day. His insatiable thirst to learn more grew daily after that discussion. I hope that Jason is still studying and speaking the language of heaven.

Right here at Silvermine Academy, our homeschool on Brownes Pond Lane, I am thrilled as my eleven-year-old daughter is currently bursting into bloom as a creative writer and confident mathematician. She has doubted her ability for years, but in these past few weeks, along with the daffodils, tulips, and Bartlett pear trees that blanket our neighborhood, she has blossomed brightly and colorfully. Daniel too has finally discovered the joy of reading. He has loved sports since he could stand and walk, and now he realizes that there are equally exciting athletic adventures in the pages of biographies as there are on the cul-de-sac in front of our house. There are no words to describe my joy at seeing their ongoing growth into the young woman and young man they are becoming. I watch them as they do their work, I read their stories, I listen to their excited accounts of what they have come to understand, and I am proud to say that I have given birth to two people who love learning as much as I do.

During the course of Martha Beck’s pregnancy, it was discovered that her son would have Down Syndrome. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, she became a prolific reader and researcher about that syndrome and the possible effect it would have on her life and on the life of her entire family. Of course, there is no way to know the impact of a birth until the birth happens. No amount of reading and research and determination could have prepared her for the amount of criticism she received for making the decision to keep the baby after she was given his diagnosis. She was told by many that at the age of 25, she could easily have more children. She could easily avoid all her own pain and suffering as well as that of her unborn son by having an abortion. She and her husband decided to follow through with expecting Adam, birthing Adam, and giving him all the love they could muster. They have never regretted their choice.

I cannot imagine the pain, the fear, the anxiety that she dealt with during the course of that pregnancy. But I can imagine, and I understand fully, the pain, the fear, and the anxiety of being told that a decision I have made, that a life-long commitment I have made is an ill-advised one. Ridiculed for our decision to marry and form an inter-racial couple, Steve and I made the decision not to abort our relationship. Warned by many not to move our inter-racial family south of the Mason-Dixon line, Steve and I made the decision to come to the most beautiful, most affordable, and most welcoming city we have ever lived in. Advised not to leave the country so soon after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, I made the decision to go ahead with my plans to travel to Italy in early October of that year, and it turned out to be the most spiritually, emotionally, and personally enriching solo vacation I have ever taken. Sometimes it makes most sense to consider most strongly the option that is most vigorously opposed by others… sometimes.

Expecting Adam is one of the best books I have ever read. The sorrow, the joy, the terror, the transformation, and the numerous encounters with Powers that were beyond anything she could ever have asked or imagined pointed Martha towards caches of strength she never knew she had. They forced her to face an unknown future, embrace the uncertainty, and prepare as best she could for labor, delivery, and raising a son that many people rejected before he was even born. Expecting Adam forced me to consider my own future in a delightfully new light and prepare for whatever is left in me, whatever is left for me to labor over, deliver, and nurture. Perhaps I've got a travel memoir on solo journeys, a book of personal essays, a guide to homeschooling, or a thousand more blogs in me. One never knows. I’m gonna wait and see; I won’t find out early.

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