On Joy

“Your baby’s head is definitely down,” the doctor says, pressing her hands firmly on my lower belly. “That’s probably why you’re feeling more pressure. He’s getting into place.”

I wince and nod as she helps me back into a seated position. A small movement ripples through my abdomen and my hand unconsciously goes to the spot.

She turns back to the computer. “Other than pelvic pain, how are you feeling?”

“Oh, you know,” I laugh. “Fine. Nothing you wouldn’t expect near the end of pregnancy.” We share a rueful smile, knowing that life-altering growth almost always comes with pain.

I look out the window at a house down the block spangled with red and green Christmas lights. “Well,” she says, following my gaze, “try to enjoy this season as much as you can.”

It occurs to me on the snowy drive home that I rarely live my life this way.

I’m not a savorer.

I’m a rusher. A doer. A pusher. I try to live three steps ahead and plan for the future. It’s rare for me to sit in stillness, to be present, to rest. Yet there’s something about carrying new life that always forces me to lessen my speed.

My body, like this broken world, aches and groans. Uncertainty reigns. Some days can feel dark. It’s easy to lose sight of the wonder of simply being alive.

But joy is laced through everything.

I see it in flashes. Sharp kicks in my ribs. The smell of cinnamon. The glow of Christmas lights. Sunlight sparkling on fresh snow. The generosity of a friend. Tiny white onesies. Childish voices praying before bed. Holiday jazz. The way my oldest lifts my shirt because the only way he can “talk to the baby” is with his cheek pressed against my bare skin.

I cringed the first time he did this—fighting against a lifetime of body insecurity and motherhood-induced touch aversion. But as I felt the warmth of his innocent breath on my belly, discomfort succumbed to joy.

Because joy itself requires surrender. Vulnerability. The relinquishing of control. It comes, as poet Mary Oliver says, suddenly and unexpectedly, “the instant love begins.”

And in this season—of belly ripples and holy anticipation—I want to give in without hesitation.

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