The Fearful Pregnancy

In college, I went skiing over spring break with friends who were avid skiers. Ever the extrovert (and follower), I was willing to try it even though I had only recently taken my first skiing lessons, and didn’t even like to ride a bike fast down a hill, let alone be attached to skis going down a frozen mountain. I carefully planned my ski routes, avoiding anything that resembled difficulty or adventure. But I must have misread the map, and I ended up having to go down a hard hill to get to a more comfortable hill for me. Faced with the prospect of going far too fast for my liking down an unknown hill, I did what any reasonable person would do and instead slid down on my bottom. I knew I had to get down the hill, so I too took the least risky way possible.

A few years ago, I was faced with the exact same dilemma, except my reasoning for standing at the top of a hill that terrified me was not because I misread the map but because my fellow skiers had misled me.  (Why I keep skiing when I’m terrified of it is a post of its own, I’m sure). What they deemed “relatively easy”, I called a death trap. This time there was no convincing me down this hill. I still feel the knot in my stomach when I think about it too much. I had no idea how that hill would end, and that scared me. I had no idea how I was going to ski that hill, and that made me want to quit while I was ahead. But there was only one way out of that situation (unless I wanted to have ski patrol come take my terrified self off the mountain)—I had to ski down it.

So I did. And I screamed the entire way down (and someone has a video to prove it).

Pregnancy feels like this to me sometimes.

Pregnancy feels to me like standing at the top of a double black diamond ski slope and being told the only way out is to ski down it.

It’s not the baby that scares me, it’s all that could go wrong. And with my history, I have had enough go wrong to know that even a growing baby and strong heartbeat don't guarantee a positive outcome. Looking down the mountain of pregnancy, I know there is only one way out of this thing. I will deliver this baby either in a rush of exhilarating joy, or a rush of grief. It sounds morbid, but of all the things that I’ve faced in my life, pregnancy is one that has scared me most. I spend the better part of nine (more like ten) months in a moderate state of panic.

And yet, I love having children. I love the early moments after their birth. I love feeling my babies move inside me, evidence that they are still there. I love newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers (and I’m sure I’ll love older kids once my kids get to that stage). But I know that there are only two ways to get children (birth or adoption) and both carry fear and risk.

Skiing downhill is fearful and risky, too. It’s scary. It’s uncertain. It can cause pain and grief if you crash. But it can also be exhilarating. And that’s why people keep doing it. It’s even why I would keep skiing those easy hills. I was still scared, but the rush was too much to pass up.

I’ve struggled lately with feelings of guilt that I am relieved that this baby will likely be our last biological one. I know birthing him won’t remove fearful circumstances. Bringing him into this broken world only ups the stakes. But there is a sense of relief that this part of the difficulty is almost over, and I find some encouragement in that. I will find new things to fear, but most likely (unless God surprises us) I will not face this specific fear again.

As I was sharing my guilt with a friend the other day she helpfully tried to pinpoint if my guilt was biblical or false. After asking me some questions she said, “I think you are okay in being relieved that it’s almost over, much like scripture points to our relief when the pain of this life is over." She was referring to Romans 8:22-24, where we see that creation is also groaning in the pains of childbirth, and also to the joy that is talked about in scripture after a woman receives her baby in her arms in the moments after birth (John 16:21). The process of bringing children into this world is a metaphor for our collective groaning for our final redemption. We should want to be free from it, so we can get the “baby” we are all longing for. But along the way, we will endure many things that cause us to fear, doubt, and grieve over life in a fallen world—and that makes the expectation of the final hope that much sweeter.

I’ve finally started allowing myself to dream of this sweet boy (did I mention we are having another son?!?!). After a rough and uncertain first trimester, it has taken the better part of the second trimester for me to believe that he is really here, inside me, growing and by all appearances, healthy. But I hope and groan for his birth in the same way I groan and hope for my coming redemption. Fear may plague me along the way, and be the great fight of my Christian life, but I can trust that it won’t last forever. Redemption is coming. And Lord willing, his birth will end with joy.