A fool for a mother

Well, shocking things happen. And one of the biggest shock of my life is…I’m pregnant.

To be precise, I’m 25 weeks and one day along as of today, and I only just found out three weeks ago, on February 1. As omma said to me, after her initial scream of shock and delight, “Well! I’m shocked you’re pregnant, but I’m not shocked that of all people who won’t discover they’re pregnant until month 6, it’ll be you. This is just another Sophia thing.”

A “Sophia thing” is me, once again, having to eat my words. From when I was as young as 10 years old, I had loudly and proudly proclaimed that I never want to get married. Of course, not having babies went along with my rejection of marriage, and it was all part of that whole package. I wholeheartedly embraced my self-identity as an independent, free, unshackled woman, while also acknowledging that I would probably be a terrible wife and mother. And I kept my word for two decades.

But then I got married. When I told abba I’m dating David (I was 29 at the time), he kept pinching himself: “Is this real? Am I dreaming? My daughter has a boyfriend?” My brother took pains to remind everyone at our virtual wedding (darn you to sheol, Covid) that he had never expected his older sister to get hitched, because didn’t she swear up and down the river that she’s going to die happily single?

Even as a married woman, during inevitable discussions with friends and family about having kids, I once again, with my loud and proud mouth, declared I don’t want kids. “It’s not that I reject having kids,” I told my parents one night, after they once again reminded me that they’re praying for grandchildren, “I just have little desire. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m totally fine. Stop trying to dictate my life with your prayers. I never asked for them.” What I didn’t tell them, since it’s none of their business, is that David and I never used contraceptives, and though we weren’t trying, we weren’t…not trying.

If it happens, it happens. If not, it doesn’t. No biggie. That was my philosophy that I repeated over and over to myself and others. As we approached our second-year anniversary, we began discussing what to do when I turn 40 and am still not pregnant. Will David be OK completely giving up all hopes of having children? I checked again and again with David that he would be OK, that it would not hurt him or our marriage should I be infertile. As for me, I thought I’ll be fine, maybe even a bit relieved, to not have children. We made plans to spend a year living abroad should we be childless. Maybe London. Or Tokyo. Or Bangkok. We made long-term plans to travel to South Korea, Southeast Asia, East Europe. There was no room for little Davids or Sophias in our imagination for our future together– or rather, there was no capability to imagine such a possibility. The idea of bearing our child seemed fantastical to me, impossible to imagine without a hurried dismissal.

You see, I did not think I could or would get pregnant. I struggled with anorexia from age 16 to about age 23. Being hospitalized twice, dropping to my lowest weight at 52 lbs and hovering around 60 lbs for about three years, meant my body and development took a thrashing, and that included my menstrual cycle. I did not have a period for more than nine years. And even after I got it back, kind of, with the help of birth control pills prescribed by an ob/gyn, I was never regular. I would sometimes go several months without a period– and even then, the flow, manipulated through hormone pills, wasn’t normal. An abnormal cycle, an abnormal body, was more normal to me. I warned David before we got married that we might have difficulties conceiving. “Don’t worry, I have really strong sperms,” he bragged, with all the aplomb of a male ego. I rolled my eyes and told him to be serious. No, seriously: Will he be OK without children? David sobered up and thought about it for a moment. “I’ll be bummed,” he said finally, “But I’ll be OK. Lots of married couples don’t have children. We’ll get through it.”

Meanwhile, as one by one my friends’ bellies swelled, and they disappeared from my social calendar the moment their babies were born, as every parent with young children complained about the cost and sacrifices of parenthood, my conviction that I don’t want kids solidified and hardened like wet cement under the dry LA sun. I barely have enough time to read as it is. If I had a little one running and screeching around the house, when would I ever find time to read in peace? When would I have time to travel any time I want, wherever I want? Is parenthood really worth sacrificing the things that I value so much? Not likely, I told myself.

I was proud, oh so proud. But I was also scared. I feared disappointment, and the bitterness and resentment that inevitably clings to disappointment like barnacles. Better not to hope, not to expect, not to desire. Just as it took me a long, long time to finally express my desire for a spouse to God, to even write those shameful (to me) words in my journal, I didn’t dare voice any desire for children to God. If it happens, it happens. But that mentality wasn’t anchored on trust and submission to God. It was chained to fear and pride. It was not as free-minded as it sounds. It was a form of control, of twisting my thoughts and feelings to fit an expected outcome.

I know that now. And as much as I’m in shock that I did conceive, and I’m already in the last stages of second trimester, I’m even more shocked that…I want this baby. I’ve wanted this baby.

When I took the pregnancy test at 11 pm on February 1, after David had gone to bed, and saw the two pink lines appear on the white stick– I felt like I was in a dream. Wait– is this real? No way in hell. What? WHAT?! It just didn’t feel real, and my mind couldn’t compute those two pink lines indicating that I’m pregnant. I was so shocked and stupefied that I couldn’t even make a sound, not even a little gasp or a strangled scream. I just stared at the stick in silence, while my mind imploded in slow-motion.

Just to be extra-sure– after all, there have been cases of false positive tests– I took another pregnancy test. Five seconds later: Two pink lines.

Oh man, oh dear, oh sweet God Holy Spirit Jesus Christ, oh Lord, HOW? By then the reality slowly sunk into my consciousness, but my emotions were still delayed, paralyzed by shock. I was numb, frozen.

I took a third pregnancy test, since you can never be too certain. This one for some reason took a longer time to show results, and one of the pink lines was fainter than the other, but it was unmistakably two lines. Well, statistically, three false positives seemed very unlikely.

Wow. WOW. I am pregnant. We’re having a baby!

And I realized something surprising after this third test: As I waited for the lines to show, I was holding my breath, hoping, hoping, hoping it is positive. I didn’t even recognize that hope at first, so immunized was I to my own secret desires. But by the time I clutched the three positive tests in my hand, I felt a wave of relief and wonder and gladness break through and gush out from the dam that I had erected for so long.

That night, I dreamed of different scenarios of telling David the news. In each scene I was nervous, but excited. And in the final one, I broke down and wept so hard that I jostled awake to find myself gasping from choked sobs onto my wet pillow. I felt so many emotions in the dream that I had reined in under a tight leash in real life– wonder, awe, fear, thrill, and most of all, joy.

I had not known. I honestly had not known I desired a child. But God knew. And for whatever reason, He opened my womb and answered that desire with a yes. One of the first words I muttered, when speech found me again, was: “Why, Lord?” Why me? I am the most undeserving mother of all. I know friends who struggled with infertility and miscarriage after miscarriage. A friend had just lost her unborn baby to a miscarriage on Christmas Eve night. She spent Christmas bleeding and cramping and crawling. Two close friends had two consecutive miscarriages, and I saw the pain and loss that they too suffered. Another friend just turned 40, and she’s still single and childless, and mourns each passing day. These living stories around me shamed me. I, the proud loud idiot, loudly and proudly rejecting marriage and children, received both on a golden platter. This is a privilege, a blessing that I had not asked for nor expected, and did not deserve.

My next three words: “Oh, poor baby.” This tiny unborn baby, growing and kicking inside a clueless mother who, even while it was developing a beating heart and 10 toes and ears, had to listen to her plan a life without children. I beat my foolish mouth, over and over again. “By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,” Scripture says, and I resolved to never again utter such foolish things before God and others, for I had been unknowingly exposing all my shame and foolishness to the world. Yet instead of a rod, God gave me a surprise, wonderful, beautiful gift: A life. A precious, living, breathing, new life formed by God’s breath and spirit. My baby has a fool for a mother, but God protected this child, and opened my eyes to my foolishness– not with punishment, but with gentle yet firm grace. What a Gospel.

Oh God, how sweet, how undeserving is your grace and mercy. How amused you must be at my foolish words and ways, watching me cling to my own plans when you know you have greater plans for me. How patient you are with my persistent, concrete-hard pride and stubbornness, how gentle you are in breaking me down and molding me. Your hands are strong and steadfast, loving and skillful, sweet and intimate. I yield to you, undone and remade.

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