By Rachel Held Evans
“Congratulations! You’re six weeks pregnant and your baby is the size of lentil bean!”
And so began the veritable cavalcade of fruits, berries, and legumes the pregnancy industry has selected as apt representations of the little life growing inside of me.
Blueberry. Kidney Bean. Brussel Sprout. Kumquat.
….Only with a beating heart, growing brain, and more love willing it onward that I ever thought possible.
The lentil bean stage was eight weeks ago. Dan and I got a second glimpse of our now lemon-sized addition in an ultrasound last week, and just like last time, he or she was kicking up a storm.
“Very active!” said the OB.
So now we spend our afternoons giggling and groaning and dreaming about what “very active” might mean - a boy? a ballerina? a crier? an adventurer? a swimmer? an early bird like Dad? a little hellion we’ll have to chase around the house?
It’s the unknown that makes a pregnancy exciting, and it’s the unknown that makes it so scary too.
In addition to the expected nausea and fatigue (...my goodness, the fatigue...), I’ve been hit with a potent dose of fear. Dan and I privately grieved a miscarriage last year, so these last 13 weeks have tested my nerves and my faith like never before, with every subtle shift in symptoms, every little twist of abdominal pain, triggering a reel of worst-case-scenarios in my mind.
In the midst of this hormone-infused miasma, I’ve found myself drawn to familiar yet forgotten lines from Scripture:
“The days were accomplished that she should be delivered…”
What worlds are hidden in those nine words!
And so, like millions of women before me and millions of women after, I’m practicing the spiritual discipline of taking it a day at a time.
Each day is a gift. Each day is an accomplishment. I cannot imagine, much less control, the future. But I can do the next thing...even if the next thing is to give up and take a nap.
Where You Come In...
As nervous as I’ve been, I’ve also been grateful.
I’m grateful for access to quality prenatal care. I’m grateful for ultrasounds and breastfeeding classes and competent OBGYNs. I’m grateful for a state-of-the-art NICU unit a stonesthrow away from my delivery room. I’m grateful for a supportive husband and family nearby.
I’m grateful that, unlike the women I met in rural Bolivia, I won’t have to walk fifteen miles to an under-equipped clinic to deliver my baby. I’m grateful for the freedom I have to eat well, to prepare, to space out future pregnancies in a healthy way, and to make good decisions for our family.
But these are not blessings to take for granted. Every year, nearly 303,000 women in developing nations die from preventable complications during childbirth, and 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday each year. Far too many mamas will bury their babies before they even get to know the sound of their laughter or the tenor of their cries. And far too many will suffer debilitating injuries or even death due to dire but preventable circumstances.
(To get a sense of the need, follow this journal from an OBGYN serving in Sierra Leone.)
The thing is, we know how to turn these numbers around: better education, access to contraception, and improved and affordable prenatal and infant care.
Melinda Gates, a passionate advocate for improved maternal and infant care worldwide, puts it this way: “To help women and children fulfill their potential, we need to make sure they can receive the right kind of health care at every phase of their lives. Each aspect of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health connects to the next.”
(See Melinda Gates’ TED Talk on the role of contraception in curbing maternal and infant mortality as well as abortion.)
So, in honor of the new addition to Team Evans, I’m joining Melinda Gates, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kay Warren, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and host of other Christian advocates in their support of an organization called Hope Through Healing Hands, and in particular the Faith Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, which seeks to galvanize faith-based leaders and their constituencies around the issues of maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) as well as healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies (HTSP) to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality around the world. (Note: Hope Through Healing Hands does not fund abortion. Learn more here.)
Dan and I will be blessed with plenty of gifts, plenty of diapers and onesies and gear (...my goodness, all the gear!)... So if you want to offer a special congratulations on our big news, jump over to my fundraising page to leave a message and a gift in support of Hope Through Healing Hands.
Every woman deserves the chance to see the days accomplished that she should be delivered.
Every woman deserve the chance to watch her children grow up.
May our good news lead to more good news for mamas around the world.
(Note: Another option for supporting Hope Through Healing Hands is to pick up a copy of The Mother & Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope (2015), to which I contributed a chapter!)