Before her son was born, she was being primed for an awakening. Being pregnant taught her about expecting, waiting, nourishing and sharing. Being a mom taught her even more.
Parenthood recalibrated Lilly's faith. Through her parental eyes she grasped that God, as parent, may be acting or not acting for reasons she simply couldn't understand. Through her son's blue eyes she soaked up the simplicity of life and faith.
Cling: Faith Lessons from my Son’s Early Years is a collection of essays about faith, parenthood and childhood. Each chapter explores an insight into child-like faith – lessons on dependency, joy, trials, communication, perseverance and much more.
An older woman turned to me. Her eyes twinkled and her lips curled upward indicating her familiarity with my mysterious situation. My globular stomach was hard to ignore.
She said, “You look like you’re expecting.”
I nodded, feeling the weight and the joy of both the baby and the expectations. She, like every mother who sees a mom-to-be, told me about her own children, her own pregnancies, her own waiting. The few surrounding people chimed in with the usual questions. What are you expecting? A boy. When are you expecting? July. Where will you deliver? Not far from home.
There’s no better term for pregnancy. Pregnant reminds me of being ripe like a pear. With child reminds me of Mary, and I assure you, this was no immaculate conception. Expecting, though, perfectly describes what happened to me. I was waiting.
And not just for the baby or the final delivery. I was in waiting — entrenched in it, living and breathing the waiting. It consumed me. My mind constantly tried to prepare for my son’s arrival by wondering and planning and nesting, but it was the expectations that consumed.
As I waited, a basketball grew on my front side, counterbalanced by my growing backside. It seemed jealous of my stomach, so it entered the growth race. I cheered for my stomach, hoping the baby grew more than my butt. I was tempted to wallow in the small miseries of pregnancy and the larger coming miseries of delivery and sleeplessness, but instead I crept on with expectation, knowing that this tiny, encapsulated child was brimming with life.
While I waited, he constantly reminded me of his presence by flipping and turning and twisting and kickboxing inside me. All the commotion encouraged me to project my opinions on his traits. I decided that he rubbed his feet together when he's trying to sleep like me. He loved peanut butter cups, but who wouldn't (besides his father)? And I thought he was very social — he wiggled and squirmed at the sound of his dad’s voice as if he couldn’t contain his desire to interact.
I was expecting — expecting that he would take traits from both his father and me.
Pregnancy is a time of waiting, of expecting. It’s also a time of changing, of growing. It is as people say — pregnancy takes over. When my son was conceived as a mere concept, a possibility, I knew he would invade my space, but no one told me pregnancy was an open invitation for everyone to invade my space.
Awkwardness should be defined as "a perfect stranger touching one's stomach." The first time someone asked to touch my stomach, their eyes glimmered and their fingers simmered as if they were about to boil over with joy while anticipating the awkward hold. I wanted to stare at them long and hard and respond honestly, rejecting their request abruptly by telling them it's weird, invasive and inappropriate. Why did they want to touch my stomach, especially considering he was perfectly still every time someone asked?
But something in me caved every time. I nodded, tentatively. My mind shrugged. There was no reason to accommodate these strangers' requests, but I couldn’t come up with a good excuse. I considered telling people he was very shy or had a phobic reaction to stranger's hands, but in the end, I stood still while strangers touched my stomach. Perhaps they thought they were extracting the fountain of youth or determining his aura, or perhaps, they were so delighted they couldn’t contain themselves.
As a walking two-for-one deal, I came to experience people in a completely different way. I've always been shy and to myself. I don't make small talk with strangers. But the blob on my stomach served as an open invitation. It read, "Talk to me. I'm pregnant."
Everyone did. The grocery clerk remarked "Not much farther, eh?" The woman in the line next to me declared, "It's a boy. Isn't it?" When I affirmed her rather presumptuous assumption, she told me she carried all her boys that way. But the woman on the ferry told me it couldn’t be a boy. According to her I should have showed more if it were. The runner yelled through panted breath, "Congrats!" And at a crowded restaurant, a couple gave up their buzzer so I could be seated immediately, rather than wait, because I was pregnant.
Not everyone was kind. Some people found it annoying that I took up additional space. Other people did everything possible to avoid eye contact in a restroom line. They feared that I required — or expected — special treatment.
But overall, my son, in the form of a blob, taught me that people are friendly. With or without child, I should acknowledge others with a smile and find common ground to remark on. I should delight in another's monumental moments. I should enjoy the small things. And I should always celebrate children.
While I hoped strangers wouldn’t continue to touch my stomach once it returned to its original focus on food and organs, I grew to expect the exchange of pleasantries. I still look for people to give me a pat.
Denise Lilly lives in Topsham, Maine with her husband and two sons. She spends her days in the daily grind of motherhood while trying to capture and cultivate beauty through the written word. Follow her writing at www.deniselilly.com.
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