Bellies here, there, and everywhere.
Women with my familiar waddle and swollen middle and moms with tots pushing strollers held at a distance for new ones still growing inside. Some with faces of expectation as they sort through maternity racks or tiny duds for infant torsos and some with anxiety as they rush to still accomplish what they must while carrying this extra weight (or is it an extra burden?).
The thing about each of us in this sorority of impending motherhood is that nothing but our matching bellies is the same. I think about each story, each beginning of the little lives growing inside and wonder about the choices that each mama-to-be had to make to carry this child. Which ones were planned and are eagerly awaited? Which ones were suprises and even mistakes, the unintended result of an improbable union?
Nothing about each expanding waistline tells the truth of what is swirling and swelling inside. Baggy shirts hide more than lumpy ripples in soft flesh and reveal nothing of the wrinkles in another's lifetime that this new soul has set in motion.
Life is a gift but to accept it is a choice. This line of reasoning seems easy to conceive and even to advocate when such was a view held before conception. Two solid lines on a plastic stick give a thousand reasons for rejoicing when soaking them has become a practiced ritual after the exercise of love for the purpose of babymaking. When bank accounts are heaving and youth is in your favor and the stars have finally aligned and your perfect partner is at your side and all the world agrees with you that this is perfect and right for you right now, life is a gift wrapped in a million dreams.
But not every life is a result of desperate prayers and yearning hearts. Many are birthed in wombs of ones who will come to be known to some as nothing more than baby's mama, a single heart given the enormous responsibility of raising her child alone, on her own resources, and without the support of another. Some sprout in bodies past the age of desire - mamas who have been there and done that and can't imagine the journey and hard ache of another eighteen years plus with all the limitations her maturity now sets. Others will be born into homes of hardship or places of poverty and even given up by the ones who will bring them forth.
One in a thousand will form with an extra chromosome and three out of every hundred will join the land of the living with a fight to survive already set before them. The majority of these will be known to their parents before they ever meet face to face.
And yet each of every such life growing in the bellies of women I see every day will have been chosen. Against the odds. Against popular counsel or reigning cultrual opion. In defiance of the statistics and bottom line. In simple faith that somehow, some way, the choice that was made one day during these nine months will be revealed as a gift.
We become mothers by purpose. Whether expectant or uncertain, at some point we decide that we are going to do this. By desire or by surrender, on purpose or off guard, through natural pregnancy or by obedience in adoption, we will do this because we have purposed in our hearts to cherish this life.
To the mamas of wanted babies and too the baby mamas, the ones too young, too old, too poor, too settled, those over-tired, under-eager, and beyond burdened, thank you for choosing life. When you could have stuck it to your babies and raised a middle finger to the heavens, you choose to gift nine months and a lifetime of forever being connected at the heart to a little one you've yet to meet.
Every time I see your obvious belly I wonder what your secret story is. I wish I could ask you and applaud you and raise my middle in a belly bump of solidarity to yours. I hope for a serendipitous meeting in the future in case I need to borrow your strength or lend you mine.
But I always thank God for you, mama-to-be, for choosing to walk around with your heart purposefully placed inside your expanding belly for all the world to see your gift of life.
//photo credit: my daughter, Eliana