This is my body, given up for you.
I’ve reflected much on Christ’s words throughout my pregnancy. I do not recognize this rotund belly, cute perhaps but often in the way, which has rejected my once-comfortable jeans. I have no say over what position my child takes in my womb, whether that be jabbing an elbow into my belly button or otherwise. What nutrients may be lacking in my diet—but are required for this little growing person’s development—are drawn from my own body’s reserves.
And I wouldn’t change it. I love being pregnant. My body, slowly transforming throughout these nine months, is a testament to love.
Recently it struck me that, once I have delivered this baby, our relationship will take on a new form, for no longer will my body be my child’s home. I will be empty—and yet full of love, I know. My body will again be my own—and yet not, as I continue to nourish my child, only now with milk I myself produce, and lend my arms for innumerable cuddles. We will be physically unattached—and yet more attached than ever, heart to heart. I will miss these days in which my child is ever close, indeed within me—and yet I look forward to the days when my child will come to me of its own choosing.
And so it is with our relationship to Christ. He gave up His body for us on Calvary—and continues to give up His Body in the Eucharist. But like a child no longer within its mother’s womb, we must choose to come to Him. And like the mother who gives endlessly—but with a joy understandable only to herself—Christ never ceases to offer us nourishment, His love.
In carrying a child in my womb, I think I myself am, in a beautifully ironic way, slowly becoming a child again.
Indeed, this past Christmas was truly magical, as if I were again a small girl entranced by the lights, the tree, the smell and feeling in the air. The thrill of new life—of Jesus Christ, of this little one, of my sister’s sweet Clara, of beginning again—deeply infected me. I haven’t laughed so much and with such gusto in far too long. Nor have I, admittedly, nibbled so much chocolate since I was a rail-thin girl. Enfolded in the warmth of my beloved family’s love and joy and peace, I could not help but loosen up, let go, and live a little. I thoroughly enjoyed the good food provided by my parents’ generosity—but more than this, I soaked up the camaraderie we shared during every meal, every board game. When we bundled up and set out into the brittle cold on Christmas Eve to stomp through the treed lanes with a flickering lantern, gusting out carols between every labored breath, I know we all felt our hearts swell in this shared adventure. Even when we all found ourselves dashing for the toilet on Christmas Day, struck by an unforeseen bug, we bonded—because a family that shares together, stays together.
And I know that, when this little one finally emerges, life will become that much more magical as I begin to see the world through my child’s innocent eyes. Already, my transformation has begun, for my child and I share much even now.
As I await the advent of our first child, I am becoming familiar with its every movement. On the day of birth, I will indeed recognize our little one, this original creation I am coming to know already.
As we approach Christmas, are we familiar with Christ’s movements in our lives, the little ways in which He is making Himself known to us prior to His coming? For He desires that we not be taken by surprise—or miss His advent entirely. He desires that we recognize Him when He comes.
Often it is when I lay down to sleep that I feel the baby moving. I think Christ also begins to move when He senses us drifting asleep. Awake, awake, shake off the night! This shaking from our apathy can be uncomfortable (as a foot in the ribcage will be, I imagine). Either we must ignore Him or we must answer the question now facing us: Where is Christ in my life? Have we been walking blind, deaf, insensible to His extraordinary presence in our ordinary lives? If so, now is the time to open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and prepare to receive Him. And if not, we can always receive Him more fully, like the old mother who has only learned to love her children more with each passing year.
As a young mother, I am faced with such questions as: Who are you, hidden face? What is God calling you to do in this life? Will I be a good mother to you? The answers to these questions dwell within the new life I carry. Soon, yes, soon, I will receive this child, cradle my sweet raspberry in my arms, just as I desire to cradle Christ in my heart.
I was awakened when it was yet dark out, a wailing wind luring me from bed to the window. Peering out, I watched rain lashing viciously at Saint Patrick the statue, a resolute sentinel guarding our home against the storm. Back into bed I crawled, safe and warm.
Later, I awoke to a blue sky tufted with cotton, to green grass caked with rain-turned-snow. No wind. Saint Patrick standing strong as ever.
Simply, to be that child who retreats to a quiet place and waits—this is all God asks when the world is in tumult around us. Be quiet and wait. Do not concern yourself with the storm. And yet, how often do we dash out into the thunder and lightning and rail at the sky to be still, to restore to us the blue and the breeze? And what do we accomplish but to soak ourselves to the core and feel ourselves standing alone and vulnerable before power we cannot control? Engulfed by darkness, we cannot fathom the light—nor the purpose of the storm.
But if we retreat, if we wait, closing the eyes of our soul, we will soon awake to find the sky bluer than it ever seemed, the grass greener, the breeze softer. While we sleep, the world is renewed. For over that which we cannot control, God is Lord and Master.
After a morning spent watercoloring a few charcoal sketches, I buttoned up my coat and took to the dirt road near our home, which cascades down between cropland and flows between wild apple trees further on. This summer, the fields were seeded with corn. When they were at their height, the paper stalks formed castle walls on either side, green in summer, golden in autumn. Sapling maples fringe the road, bursting sweet berry-red to distract from the now-naked fields. Scattered kernels are the only vestige that a castle ever existed on this island.
As my boots were kicking up russet dust, my heart suddenly grew soft, soft enough to absorb the quiet blanketing the countryside, the warm tinge in the air, the pastel sky nestled against the tucked-away fields ahead. Another Rosary bead rolled between my thumb and forefinger, and I realized: God’s will does not always entail suffering. Sometimes it simply means resting in His presence, in His creation. Sometimes it means creating—whether a whimsical watercolor or homemaking with the thrift treasures I scavenged. Why do I often feel that to be accomplishing God’s will, I must be at least a little uncomfortable?
His will is that we love Him—but He also wills to love us. And He loves us by helping us to fall deeper in love with Himself. For me, loving Him is enjoying my husband’s company over a good meal. It is going out for lunch with a friend to share our ups and downs with each other. It is snuggling up by the lamp at night to read an enriching book. In such moments, I am drawn closer to Him through His goodness.
And then there are times when God’s will does indeed entail suffering—but only because suffering will help us to love Him more. If the cross will not lead to resurrection, He simply will not allow it—if this were not true, He would not have become the God-Man. Suffering, with Him, is never without purpose, never without fruit. And this fruit—greater love between Him and I—is only possible if I trust that, in this moment, it is better that I be more uncomfortable than not. This may mean folding the laundry when I’d rather be watercoloring, or writing rather than walking—and sometimes it means taking a Rosary walk rather than writing. It means living across the country from my mother and father and siblings, because here is where I am called to live. It means spending many hours alone, because I am called to write. It means surrendering my desire for a farmhouse and chickens and being willing to live in a city. He can foresee the path that will lead me to greater love—I cannot. And so I must trust.
God’s will, I am coming to see, is never something to be feared, not even when it requires more than mere discomfort—but pain. Even the greatest tragedy He will allow if it will draw us closer to Him. No, He is not a sadistic God who enjoys watching us crawl to Him in our suffering. He is a God who knows that our greatest good is to fall in greater and greater love with Him. And so, whether His will is that I wander through the darkness of loneliness, searching for Light—or drink Lindor-infused cocoa on a Sunday afternoon, feet-to-feet with my husband, I do it for love of Him.
of sweet you,
hidden in the haven of my womb
your little face,
smucked with raspberry jam
the wilds of berries in August
my earthen heart,
perfect it in muddy hands
this earthen heart
is already moving for you
When the future is a haze, the sky is still candy-blue over me. And in the orchard, where the branches reach to entwine their fingers and the apples smile in the sunlight, ruddy-cheeked, life is solid in my hand, sweet and simple. By the trout pond, as I slip my arms around my husband and sigh, I see that the glittering water never ceases drifting toward the river, though the trees guarding it do change, no longer green but strawberry-red. On the pathway among lofty pine and fiery maple, I look ahead only to the next bend. And even on the day when the sky is obscured by wool, and the orchard has relinquished its every fruit, the pond its rosy trimming, the pathway its dappled light—I emerge from the church to be enfolded in honeyed woodsmoke. I know, with a secret smile, that it is His promise to me: I am with you always, ever ready to give you My peace, if only you will pause, inhale the air, and find Me in the moment.
I believe He can be found also in the word, in the mind. But, for me, His most powerful word is that which is unspoken, His most tender touch felt by my heart in the breeze and the grass and my husband’s embrace.
I am but one among the countless number. I notice pregnant women everywhere now, at the store, walking by, in church—and this is only on Prince Edward Island, a dust mite on the map. Closing my eyes, I picture the telltale swell beneath a vibrant sari, an exposed black belly gleaming beneath the sun, the bump betraying a princess’s secret, or the hidden package of a frightened teenager curled up in a bathroom. Whether by surprise or not, we are all carrying what may seem ordinary, given its universality, but is truly extraordinary: new life.
When I first heard my child’s heartbeat, I was the first woman in history to receive tangible proof that another human being is nestled inside me. Diya in India, Maha in Africa, Kate in London, Jaden in America—we are all the first to be pregnant, because something this beautiful never grows obsolete or stale or banal. Like that first tender blossom on the bush beneath the kitchen window (the very bush that has been there for decades and never fails to bloom in spring), new life renews the face of the earth every time. Our breath is ever stolen by that which has lit the dreary landscape—or at least we should be so delighted.
When I look inward to my child, sleeping in my womb, I see vellum flesh too delicate yet to touch, but what I sense is the immensity of creation. Who am I that I should carry a blossom that has never before grown in the garden? I may have prepared the soil, and my husband planted the seed, but neither he nor I decided that roots should shoot forth and leaves unfurl. We merely tend what has been given to us. Yes, rain or shine, our child is gift.
We too have given a gift. Young we may be, yet we have taken part in the greatest feat we can or will ever achieve: creation. A name echoing into eternity, a handprint set into the Creator’s heart, this is what our humble love has given God—another soul to nourish with His own boundless love. This is what we have given the world—yet another extraordinary blossom.
Two little boys, like tin soldiers abandoned on the dusty road, and two little dogs bounding at their feet, one white, one brown. A wheat field to the east, smoldering in the dusk, and swaths of curing canola to the west. Above: blue ripening to rose-gold, in every direction, unhindered by mountain or forest. And a farm, autumn spinning its wreath of trees into a golden crown.
My last glimpse was one I clung to until the last moment. I suppose I feared that in letting go I would lose what I found during my time away from the island—no, not found, but rediscovered. Surrounded by the people who know me and love me best—my mother, father, siblings, and husband—I rediscovered freedom.
I think it is easy to become an island when you live on an island. The world is smaller here, the horizon closer, more mysteries unveiled than not. And yet the sky above is infinite, as it is anywhere else. Discouraged by the boundaries enclosing me, I ceased glancing up to drink of the pure air pouring down from Heaven; my eyes slipped from God’s face. And when you begin to believe there is nothing more to discover outside yourself, your gaze will turn inward, like a wounded rabbit crawling into its warren, where the world is safe and dry but utterly dark.
Big skies. Timidly at first, I poked my head from my hole and peered out. When I saw my family beneath those big skies, delighting in the blue, the breeze, the sunlight washing over them, I realized they were safe, happy—and free. And I could be too. Not strong enough on my own, their love assured me that surrendering my fear would not hurt.
No matter where God places us on this earth—no matter whether my husband, our baby, and I are called to live on an island or not—I know that so long as I look up, I will always find my freedom.
Unexpected little face at the window of my womb. Our muffin, our raspberry, a blue egg in our nest. I had hoped you would come sooner than later but dared not hope too hard—and here you are. Our island child.
I’ve written about you before, dreamed about you. I’ve seen your blue eyes, cradled your body, maybe even heard your name. But there was a time when I would have laughed had I been told you’d come into being among patchwork fields and sleepy villages, on a faraway island set like a ruby in the eastern sea. And yet you could not have been otherwise. Here is where your father came into being, here is where my heart joined to his, and here is where you, a seed gently poked into the russet earth, will unfurl your first leaves.
How I wish you could know what I myself knew as a child: the cabin hidden among evergreens, a refuge overlooking a cool, green lake where the loon cries; or the yellow farmhouse, warm and safe above a cow-studded pasture and a murky creek. You will never taste my Grandma’s saskatoon pancakes or ride in my Grandpa’s tractor—but I know you will make your own memories, sweet and bright, as I did. I pray the pattern of leaves and twigs and berries will be imprinted on your heart as surely as it was on mine.
And I pray your father’s passion for Truth will burn in you like a golden light, defying the darkness. We cannot protect you from every evil, but we can prepare you to face it. No matter how weak we may be, we promise to love you, small one, and by our love may you too come to know and love Love Himself, He who is why we are. You’ll discover beauty and goodness in this world, but remember that such wonder-filled moments are fleeting hints of what is to come. Yes, never forget that this world is indeed your home, but it is not Home.
Together, with your father and I and whoever else may join our nest, we will grow and we will become what we are created to be: a family, journeying toward reunion with our Family in Heaven.