I was at a play date yesterday with several women I only see occasionally. As it turns out, three out of the five of us were pregnant and didn’t know each other was pregnant until, at different times, we each arrived sporting a big Buddha belly. In my opinion, there’s nothing more comforting to a pregnant woman than another pregnant woman sitting there in her presence, unless that other pregnant woman looks cute and thin despite being pregnant — a feat I marvel at anew every time I encounter it. Luckily, I was the least pregnant of the preggos there, so I looked the smallest. I think. I’d like to think, anyway.
One girl was weeks away from delivering her third child, and she had some not-so-nice things to say about it. She seemed to have had a bit of a falling out with the experience of pregnancy, which was unnerving because they — she and Pregnancy — had gotten along swimmingly the first two times they had worked together. But this time, Pregnancy decided to pick a bone. My friend was getting Charlie horses in her abdomen (I was tempted to ask if perhaps they might be contractions, but didn’t); she was experiencing shooting pains to her pelvic bone whenever she walked; she had been sicker longer in the first trimester. I told her that’s how that witch Pregnancy treated me the first time around and how dare her, but shut my mouth in case I would be overheard and my good running streak with this baby ruined. You don’t want your hormones to hear you badmouthing them. They have clubs and axes.
Another girl at the play date seemed mere minutes from delivery. She looked over baked, like a shepherd’s pie that has spilled over the tin foil. But she was just as cute as any cute pregnant girl I’ve ever seen, somehow looking thin everywhere else besides her belly. In typical fashion, I marveled. It was like looking at a spry little 16-year-old who had stuffed a beach ball in her shirt. This image, by the way, is how I used to think pregnant women looked. I didn’t realize what an illusion that is — probably a side effect of small movie budgets where they can’t pay a makeup artist overtime to add pudginess to the actress playing the preggo. Just give her a prosthetic abdomen and get it in the can. The truth is, your entire body becomes pregnant, not just your abdomen. I didn’t know you could have pregnant shoulders, for instance, or pregnant wrists. But this girl at the play date was defying my common experience. I was glad we were not at the same gestational age because I would have mourned my own wrecked figure like the simple, vain woman I am.
And then, there were the other two women, the Freewomen. They began talking about a boot camp-like swimming school they were going to enroll their children in this summer. They were going to get up at 6 a.m. on Friday when online registration opens up to claim a spot on the coveted list, and then wait outside in the heat of the summer while their children are methodically conditioned to become waterproof robots because this particular swim school apparently does not allow parents inside the inner sanctum of swimming holiness. I suppose if you are not pregnant, and you are a woman, you are looking for other more inventive ways to punish yourself.
As I sat around looking at our little group, an odd feeling began bubbling up from my inner core. It was pride, I think. No, not pride exactly. Proud-ness. I was proud of us. At that moment, all of us were about to or had already given life to a total of 11 people. Not only that, we were doing our best to give these 11 people opportunities for friendships, education and lifelong swimming skills. Our children were clothed and healthy and even at that moment happily eroding the organization of my friend’s toy closet — a merry chaos.
This was about the time another feeling started bubbling up inside of me. (All of these bubbly feelings are typical in pregnancy but usually have unpleasant outcomes.) The feeling was sudden and suddenly opposite: it was a total annihilation of the proud-ness, like watching my proud-ness spiraling down a stainless steel utility drain. I had absolutely no right to be proud of our little group. We can bear children. So what? Does that make us better than those who can’t? So what we are trying our best. Isn’t that what we owe our Creator with these creatures he’s entrusted to us? So what if our kids are in good shape — healthy and happy and strong — are these things we can really take credit for, and are they really proof that we are “holding up our end of the bargain” in the bartering game we so often try to play with God? No. It’s all grace. All undeserved. Anything we could take credit for falls between our fingers like broken seashells.
The single woman working hard to make ends meet is also doing right, as are others in different situations — the married woman struggling with infertility who is pursuing her MBA; the middle-aged woman whose children are grown and she’s struggling to find her next calling in life; the teenager who is unexpectedly pregnant but trying to earn her GED and take Baby First Aid classes; the woman who has no desire to be a mother but is doing her best in her particular line of work and in her particular friendships. We are all just…doing our best. And even possessing that plucky, go-get-'em attitude is a result of Grace. So whether I succeed or fail or get fat as a house or cute as a button or somewhere in between, I think the most important thing for me to be able to say — in an increasingly deeper and fuller way — is this: “I know Him whom I have believed.”