Those first flutters of movement in my womb are always so exciting and welcome, confirmation that a new life is growing. How many nights I’ve spent lying still in the darkness of the night, hand to my bulging tummy, awaiting and praying for those barely detectable twitches. Sometimes I’ve held my breath so as not to confuse my own bodily motions with that gentle stirring from my unborn child.
All those baby books outline the milestones to expect and when to expect them, but they can lead to unnecessary anxiety if we hold too fast to their promises. Like so many other blueprints for life, we need to keep in mind that as individuals we may not fit precisely into the documented specs.
Our Architect employs unlimited parameters, He draws from a knowledge and creativity far beyond our human capacity. I forget that too often and find myself frustrated when I’m not reaching the sixteen week mile marker for baby detection. You’d think after carrying more than a dozen souls, I’d learn to fully embrace that lesson, but unfortunately my stubbornness persists.
Those barely perceivable motions feel somewhat akin to a butterfly’s landing, soft and fleeting. Usually, I second-guess them, wondering if it was really baby or just some ill-timed, gas bubble. Most often my husband has to wait a while longer before he can share in my enthusiasm because those first flickers are too gentle for him to sense.
As those kicks and turns become more noticeable, they disturb me at times. Not that baby’s activity is no longer welcome, but it takes me by surprise and my brain needs a moment to process what is happening inside. It’s similar to a sudden discomfort, like when a random pain or abnormal twinge seizes our attention and our thoughts attempt to process the source. That is not to say, the tiny one’s stretches and internal pokes cause actually discomfort, but in the earliest phases I’m not yet familiar with the infrequent stirring so my brain instinctively sends out an alert. Sometimes my post-womb children can have this effect on me. One of them may unexpectedly grab on for a cuddle when I’m in the middle of washing the dishes or folding the laundry and my first reaction is to jump or brush their hand away. It takes my scattered brain a moment to understand their intentions.
Now that our expected one has grown for these last eight plus months, his/her kicks, pushes and twists garner my attention easily. A foot pokes out here and the long back presses there. Astonishing how he/she even reacts to Daddy’s pep talks or a sibling’s searching hands.
Just the other night I awoke abruptly from a sound slumber. The full weight and girth of this big baby belly is already preparing me for the night-time feedings to come as I rarely sleep for more than an hour at a clip in between bathroom pit stops, but this time felt different. From the depths of my quiet stillness, I suddenly opened my eyes to discover my tummy fully engaged in wild activity, like a full swing party was going on inside of me.
Lying there on my back, watching my taunt, stretched skin rise and fall like a rough tide, I thought about the Holy Spirit. The invocation, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love,” sparked in my mind. How often I’ve invited Him into my life in recent years, offered Him my entire self. Now in this moment of motherly solitude, I glimpsed a correlation.
It was my complete openness and surrender that allowed the Creator to conceive life within me, but that life took on more than one form. Yes, there is the tangible, visible creature who will be delivered into my waiting arms within the next seven (or so) weeks, but there is also the mysterious Third Person Whose residence will continue to dwell inside of me.
Like those first baby flutters, I suppose my awareness to the movings of the Holy Spirit were equally elusive. My prayers, at times, seemed to go unanswered and I wondered if perhaps my offering of self was too deficient. Attempting to follow the advice of other faithful advocates, I may have caused my own frustration by forgetting that the Divine Plan is custom tailored, not a one size fits all design. If I try to mirror the steps of my favorite saints, I’m probably dooming myself to failure. Not because their example is unfit, but because my foot simply requires a different size.
Thinking back over the last few years, I doubt my husband could perceive the early changes either. My periodic depression and ready tears probably masked the smoldering flame of that Spirit. And than there was that ever present self-doubt battling to capture my attention and discourage my progress. Similar to that tiny life beginning to gain the strength to make him/herself known, the kindling had only started to catch hold.
Not unlike those internal movements that momentarily disturbed my peace, the Third Person stirred up unexpected changes. Things I once took for granted, He now calls me to reconsider. Recently, I’ve started a weekly thanksgiving list and it sure has helped me to reexamine my petitions list. It’s not so easy to beg for more “stuff” when I seriously reflect on all the blessings I’ve already received. Too many times to count, I’ve asked but forgotten to thank. Rather humbling to be reminded of my own selfishness when I am so ready to remind my children of theirs.
While the intentions of the Holy Spirit are certainly unquestioningly good, His admonitions and challenges can sear the heart. Thinking of St.Teresa of Avila, I can hardly imagine her transverberation or spiritual wounding of the heart. She describes the experience as “pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.” I cannot claim such blessed torment and in truth it stirs up a bit of fear because I’m not sure that I could ever be so docile to or worthy of the Spirit’s full flaming charity.
But I suppose that’s why the Holy Spirit arrives as a small flame in need of fanning. Certainly as a mother, I can see the need for time to grow accustomed to and prepared for the joyful pain and sacrifice of birth. The thought of having to go through labor without first walking through the steps of pregnancy seems terrifying. It makes me think of trying to run a marathon without having taken the time to train.
Lying there on my bed watching all of that internal activity, I considered how the Third Person’s presence has become more apparent. Not that I’m His perfect steward by any measure, but I am more aware than ever before of His movements in my life. Hopefully, in due time I will succeed in helping to set this world aflame by delivering His Presence for all to see.