I was pregnant, the cusp of the final trimester coinciding with the first Sunday of Advent. Round with child, my heart longed for a heightened spiritual experience.
After a church service my husband’s aunt remarks, “Isn’t it wonderful to be pregnant at Christmas?”
“Yes,” I lie.
I echo her knowing smile, but I feel no kindred bond to Mary or Elizabeth simply because my womb is full during this particular season of the liturgical calendar – my waiting being mitigated by its brevity, the certainty that it will end.
Last December I pulled up to the San Jacinto College campus to pick up Ben for the 117 miles to Lufkin.
During the drive we listen to the Serial podcast and let ourselves get lost in another story. After our mandatory meeting finishes we go out for hamburgers – the same meal as after our singular visit to the fertility doctor. This time I allow myself to top my burger with cheese, sandwich it between buns and eat it alongside a side of fries. I am no longer hoping to cajole my body into holding new life by abstaining from grains and dairy and sugar and alcohol and caffeine. I am no longer making weekly visits to the acupuncturist or taking my temperature each morning.
The excitement and hope I felt, or perhaps simply pretended to feel during the meeting has waned, and loneliness settles in as we eat our dinner. A loneliness particular to longing and uncertainty and from this I begin to feel a connection to the season – my barrenness a catalyst for a visceral anticipation for joys to come. Advent surrounds me. The grandness of the story pulls me from my inward preoccupation. This story of redemption, born from shameful places – an old woman, an unwed mother, a group of lowly shepherds, a devout servant, a widow prophetess. This story of redemption, intertwined with grief. What a complicated story it is.
It probably is irrational to believe in something so blindly. Sometimes I revel in my foolishness. Each Sunday I look up at the baptismal and hold back tears at the thought of holding another child of ours over this sacred fount. A joy wells in my heart and overflows. Somehow I can see this child that does not look like me more clearly than I could four years ago as I felt a little girl kick and turn and watched my belly button protrude ever farther. Sometimes I am stricken dumb by the absurdity and tongue-tied by my doubt.
I have been telling myself that officially beginning the waiting would ameliorate my anxiety. It was hopeful. And it was true. The application complete, I breathe in the freedom. The work has been done.
I am ready for this season of pronounced waiting – small, quiet, grand, life-changing – waiting.