Every one of my pregnancies seemed to last forever.
With each one, in fact, I was certain that this would be a world record: a pregnancy stretching on for years, fluid retention and sleeplessness and a rotundity that ever so slowly continued to increase, and no baby at the end. Indeed, there was to be no end at all, no baby, just waddling and waiting on and on into oblivion.
I was wrong every time.
It is a miracle of God really, the growing discomfort, the baby’s gradual infringement on body and mind so that, in the end, this is all the mother can reasonably consider—this life, this pending birth, this new beginning. And this miracle, like so many miracles, is a kind of salvation. Because the mother eventually hangs all her thoughts and hopes on the birth and the child, and when those first labor pains begin, she is glad. And when the pain increases, and it grips her belly and back and shuts out all reality except that pain, she is ready for it. She can focus, and she can labor, and Life comes.
I have been pregnant for almost a year now. This is, by far, the longest pregnancy I have known, but this is a different kind of pregnancy.
It started with the idea, last September, that perhaps it was time for me to reenter the working world. I thought it over for the better part of the month, and then spent free time during the month of October filling out the lengthy job application. I interviewed in November, was offered the position in January, and signed the contract in February.
This baby is due when school starts: August 29th.
Starting in September, I began to think about what life would be like if and when we made this change. I would be teaching full-time, which means three home-schooled children now in school. It means up and out early, Every Day, and Away From Home all day. It means homework and new friends, lesson plans and paper grading, bedtimes at predictable and reasonable hours, and all the mental and emotional exhaustion that comes with teaching.
For most mothers, the baby’s actual development in utero is strictly hands-off. She can eat well and exercise and get plenty of sleep. She can take her prenatal vitamins and pray over the tiny developing fingers and toes. She can watch, on her belly, the outline of elbow or knee as the baby moves in her womb. The rest is waiting and prayer.
But for me, the baby building has been an almost-full-time job. I have referenced, studied, and now have stacked against one wall of my dining room uncounted books about art history, ancient history, intellectual history and literature. I have referenced the syllabi of other schools, I have studied lists of recommended novels, I have plotted the course of this class over one hundred eighty-odd days. I have lesson plans for the first two weeks of school, their outlines on paper and their details in my mind, ready and waiting to be changed, if need be, as the needs of a brand-new high school may demand.
And I am praying for my students. For now, there is nothing more I can do.
But the labor began today as the high school faculty met for the first time. We gathered and prayed together, discussed the vision that led to the formation of this school, talked about the slim and grace-full handbook that, in a week, we will place in the hands of the students. It was so good to be with those people today, people who, like me, have been hired over the last several months and since then have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this momentous event, this birth, this Life.
In all three of my pregnancies, my husband was there during labor, coaching and comforting and hoping. For two of those three my mother was there, too, doing the same. But never have I had another laboring with me. When it comes to birthing a baby, this is something you have to do alone.
But here again this pregnancy is different. This time I will be laboring with others– co-laboring, if you will. And though we all have different jobs to do within the walls of the school, we each of us will be laboring to love these students and to share with them, to whatever extent we can, the grace of Christ as we have come to know Him. I am Unspeakably Glad for their company.
And by His grace, we will have a beautiful baby.
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” II Corinthians 4:5-6