About a year ago, a friend called to tell me she was having another baby. “That’s wonderful!” I exclaimed. “But . . . are you okay? You sound sad.”
I could hear the tears in her voice. “Oh, I’m happy,” she quickly said. “I’m very thankful, it’s just . . . my pregnancies are so hard! Last time it was really rough, and I just don’t know how I’m going to do it again. I’ll be sick and exhausted and so uncomfortable, and this time I have to take care of a toddler, too!”
“I understand,” I said sympathetically. I looked at my three little girls playing in the living room. “But it’s going to pass so quickly! You just need to pamper yourself—get a prenatal massage, schedule a maternity photo shoot. You know, celebrate it!”
Fast-forward one year. My friend has a beautiful baby boy, and I’m twenty-three weeks pregnant with (surprise!) baby #4. After an exhausting weekend, I have hit my absolute limit. Thankfully, the kids are with their grandparents for the afternoon, and I collapse into bed.
Everything aches. I can feel the blood pulsing through my swollen veins. I’m so hungry, but my stomach is already painfully tight with no room to spare. I just want to sleep, but I can’t stop fidgeting my restless legs. All of a sudden, one sob slips out. And then another. Before long, I’m boo-hooing so hard the bed frame is shaking. All I can think is, Maternity photo shoot?! THAT’S the advice I gave my miserably pregnant friend?! Schedule a maternity photo shoot?
I want to go back in time and slap myself, but instead I waddle downstairs where my husband takes one look at me and says, “Oh honey, come here.” He pulls me into his lap just like I’m two years old (which is exactly how I feel) and says, “Tell me all about it.”
“It’s just so hard!” I cry. Then I ramble on unintelligibly about my advice to my friend ages ago. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I don’t need a massage or a photo shoot . . . I need truth!” I sob. “I need the Bible. I need the Bible!“
I go on like this for a while until Clint finally interrupts. “Sweetheart?”
“Yes,” I sniff. “Do you have some advice?”
“No . . . ” he lets out a low groan, “But you’re kind of crushing me.”
The Shameful Struggle
In many ways, struggling with pregnancy is a taboo topic. Because the pain of infertility is so real and raw, it seems wildly insensitive to suggest that pregnancy is anything but a blessing. Not to mention carrying a baby feels like your first official job as a mom.
If you’re already struggling, does that mean you’re already failing? And what kind of ungrateful person wrestles with a good thing? Talk about “first world problems”! What would others even think if they knew you were having such a hard time? Oh my goodness, would they pity the baby for having such a weak and whiny mom?
You could drown in the guilt and shame. But the reality is, pregnancy truly is challenging. If you’re reading this article, I probably don’t need to convince you on that point. The real question is, how do we navigate it biblically?
For starters, we must take “pregnancy” out of the worldly context in which we’re used to viewing it. It’s not all about maternity clothes (or photo shoots!) or celebrity baby names or stretch mark cream or all the other things we google constantly. Those things aren’t inherently bad, but they’re not the big picture. Ultimately, carrying a baby is about faithfully serving Christ. You know what that means? It means the reward of pregnancy isn’t just the baby. It’s becoming more like Jesus.
Four Ways Pregnancy Sanctifies Us
How does pregnancy make us more like Jesus? If you’re miserably pregnant, let me share four truths with you, and let’s cling to them together until that blessed day when our water finally breaks.
1. Pregnancy smashes body image idols.
One of the greatest ways pregnancy sanctifies us is by attacking a mighty enemy: the idol of body image. Before pregnancy, I never realized how deeply I associate my figure with my identity. It’s not like I’ve ever had the body of a supermodel, but it triggered my deepest insecurities to trade a waistline for a watermelon. Yet each day as you and I make that exchange, we have the opportunity to embrace the biblical truth that our value has nothing to do with numbers on a scale or stretch marks we can’t control or swollen ankles and a puffy face. We are beautiful because Christ’s love makes us lovely.
Ezekiel 16 tells the story of God’s love for His people, who are personified as His bride. Verse 14 says:
“And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.”
True beauty is the result of being loved by a beautiful God. It’s not the result of an hourglass figure or silky smooth skin. Some of us have heard this teaching for years. But pregnancy tests it. Are we really going to stand on the truth? Are we going to embrace it, believe it, and in so doing, honor God with our faith?
2. Pregnancy trains us to value truth over emotion.
A second way pregnancy sanctifies is by training our minds. Think of it like spiritual exercise. You know how athletes sometimes train with ankle weights? They put an additional burden on themselves so their bodies will build endurance. Pregnancy hormones are like ankle weights for the soul. For nine months (and a few months postpartum) our emotions run amok. We feel tears spring to our eyes when our favorite restaurant changes the menu.
But what better time to practice valuing truth over emotion? Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I’ll tell you one thing—I sure can’t understand my own heart when I’m bawling in the kitchen because someone ate the last Oreo. The old Disney adage to “follow your heart” just isn’t true! We cannot trust our emotions. That’s why we stand on biblical truth. And sister, if we can stand on it now when our estrogen levels are through the roof, you better believe we’re going to come out of this thing stronger than we were before!
3. Pregnancy teaches us to trust instead of control.
Another challenge of pregnancy is the ocean of unknowns. How many times have you held your breath, praying there would be a heartbeat when the doctor puts that microphone on your belly? I do it every time. I toss and turn the night before the anatomical ultrasound. I google the Zika virus when I can’t fall asleep.
We are completely powerless! We can’t control the changes in our body, the sex of the baby, the health of our child, the time he or she will choose to arrive, the details of labor and delivery. It’s terrifying! But it’s also a blessing. The truth is, we never have control over our lives; we just cling to illusions of it. One of the beautiful realities of pregnancy is that it obliterates the illusion. We feel our need for God. Look at these verses from Jeremiah 17:5, 7– 8:
Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. . . . Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
4. Pregnancy develops a sacrificial spirit.
Finally, growing a baby has the potential to grow a sacrificial heart as well. It is one of the most tangible ways we lay down our rights for the sake of another. The fact that it’s uncomfortable, and even painful at times, reminds us of the way Christ suffered for our sake. He gave up so much more than a waistline or raw sushi or a good night’s sleep.
[Christ] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:7–8).
I’ve started saying one simple sentence every time the discomfort of pregnancy is really difficult. Sometimes I say it out loud, and sometimes I just whisper it to the Lord. I tell Him, “It is an honor to serve You.” It is an honor to let our bodies be vessels for His good work! It is a privilege to be inconvenienced for His glory, to be a living testimony of joyful service to Christ.
Gorgeous, glowing, pregnant mama—which of these four truths do you need to cling to today? Leave a comment below, and I will pray for you. Praise Jesus, we don’t have to journey alone!