The universe within me

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You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.

-- Psalm 139: 13-15

How can I sleep when a universe foments within me?

Cells dividing, DNA directing, body parts forming, details emerging ... all part of a new life, a collision of reproductive goods, a flash of pulsing light where once dark nothing reigned. All this happening in me, right now, a soul inside a soul.

A miracle I could not comprehend until I felt its effects.

A miracle that in the peaceful still of midnight, when the entire world pauses, pregnant with possibility, makes its mother get up to pee. Again.


After thirty years of daydreaming about being a parent, I have become one. Yes, I'm pregnant. No, the baby won't be in my arms for several months. Already, however, I feel the weight of parenthood bearing down, the responsibility to do as right by this little person as humanly possible (oh, and how human we will be) because I and my husband chose to create them. We chose to toss our most essential selves into the cosmic roulette wheel, and now we choose to accept the outcome of the bet.

This first decision isn't the biggest we'll face. You could argue that step #1 was the easiest (and the most fun!) because parenthood and personhood and LIFE were still theoretical from our vantage point on the cusp of creation. Our lives did not change in the trying, but in the achieving, they were immediately transformed.

Talk about revelation on a cellular level. The very core of my body is no longer mine alone. Now I move and eat and sleep with another beating heart in mind, and that little heart demands significant energy and attention, despite the surreal acknowledgment that I have no idea yet who possesses that heart.

Honestly, would you let someone you never met push you around? You would if they existed because of you, that much I can say. Thus I find myself focused entirely on keeping this peapod-sized human alive so they have a chance to become the best regular-sized person they can be.

But my focus will not be enough -- not now or ever. Even if they come out perfectly shaped and developmentally sound, the world will inform and evolve them in ways I can neither comprehend nor wrangle. All our love, all our financial investment, all our insistence on the consumption of homegrown vegetables will not set the full course of our child's life. There will be something in them that is uniquely, solely theirs -- a way of inhabiting their time on earth that perhaps we can attempt to foster, or correct, or applaud, but that we will never truly own in the way they will.

Every time I picture how our child will look (dark hair, wide-eyed stare) or act (curious, cautious) or feel (sensitive, delighted), I must remind myself of the infinite combinations that lie ahead. After all, we want this child in our lives not to satisfy our egos, but to manifest the depth of creation. Their existence, no matter its ultimate window dressing, will testify to that wonder every day of their lives. In this way our child is a constant prayer; their formation, a radical act of hope; our stewardship, a daunting display of trust.

I hope we can live up to it. (Read: Please dear God, don't let us screw this up.) Because this journey has precious little to do with bulking up on folic acid or bulwarking our finances. It's about taking the same care with our hearts I am taking with my body -- the same attention and attunement to nature, the same surrender to unseen forces, the same orientation toward the divine.

Child of ours, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. For that alone we stand in passionate awe, already overwhelmed by love.

Prayer #323: The Heart of the Matter

Of all the natural forms I've seen You take -- cloud-shrouded mountain peaks, technicolor sunsets, vast purple star fields -- not once did I picture You as a blurry kidney bean on a shaky sonogram screen, shifting in response to a poking wand, focusing every ounce of energy on throbbing an infinitesimal heart.

The rhythm of iambic pentameter, poetry scholars say, mirrors the heartbeat, which is why our human speech falls so easily into the pattern: that what we speak will echo what we are. But today, when through the womb's swishing tides I heard my child's undeniable pulse -- da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM -- I thought the scholars' assessment incomplete. We are more than actions, more than words. We are at our core simply alive, and anything that shares this fundamental state can communicate without language, matched beat for beat in our energy and potential.

As I entrust my body to you, Ultimate Creator, let we who shepherd this new life also entrust our hearts -- not the reliable workhorse pumps in our chests (though please, protect them too), but rather our limitless capacity for soul-fed love, our red-blooded zest for communion, so that we prepare with intention, participate with solemnity, and celebrate with unbridled joy.

Alleluia, Amen!