[this piece was originally published in the Huffington Post]
When I got pregnant, I was scared.
I wanted a child. I felt ready to be a mom, and my husband felt ready to be father, but I was so afraid.
Some women assume everything will be fine in their pregnancies, and find themselves shocked and reeling if it isn’t. I was just the opposite — certain something would go very wrong.
Pregnancy and giving birth were such physical acts, and I’d always felt that I just wasn’t good at the physical. I was an overweight kid. I was terrible at sports. I never felt quite at home in my body. Carrying and delivering a baby seemed to require an intimacy and partnership with one’s physical self that I didn’t feel I had.
I didn’t think I had the needed courage, either. I’d heard so many stories of the things women went through, stories about difficult pregnancies or labors, about terms that ended far too early, stories about getting the test results you really don’t want.
One morning, in the first few weeks of my pregnancy, I walked over to my dear friend Rebecca’s house, and told her the news.
You know a friend loves you when she squeals and dances for you, in a truly uncontrolled and uncontrollable fashion.
When she stopped jumping, I got honest. Rebecca was the kind of friend that I could unburden myself to — the kind who somehow made foggy and overwhelming situations clear, the kind who could make you feel totally understood and normal in your struggles, even as she gently helped you move out of them.
I told her I felt like this having-a-baby thing couldn’t possibly work out for me, how I felt like my body and I, we just didn’t have what it takes to do this.
She looked at me across the table and said, with utter certainty, steadiness and fierce love, “Tara, everything is going to be fine. It’s all going to be okay.”
“C’mon. There are so many things that could happen. How can you know that?” I asked.
“I just know it. I know it. Everything will be okay,” she said.
If you want to know how she said that, think of a redwood. Rooted deep in the earth, strong and straight and tall. Graceful, and not about to be moved by any stormy weather. She said it with redwood strength.
For the next four months, I threw up daily, ate toast and crackers when I could, and clung to a few favorite songs and the breezes from the open bedroom window, to keep my sanity.
It was rough going. But when I emerged, there was a bump on my belly and a baby growing. A few months later, I gave birth to a sweet, healthy boy.
Rebecca pulled an all-nighter, candle lit, as I labored.
Over the months, I often thought back to that first conversation with Rebecca and wondered, where was her worry? How did she know something wouldn’t go wrong? Was she simply reassuring me, and faking her certainty? It didn’t seem like it. Did she have the audacity to think we were somehow immune from those bad things? That didn’t seem like her either.
Not too long after that, Rebecca shared her news with me. “I’m pregnant!” she exclaimed. I screamed with glee so loudly, I woke my sleeping baby.
But late in her pregnancy, I got a message that made me scream in a different way. “Hon, we got some scary news about the baby today,” it began.
This baby needed some help. This baby would not be able to breathe on its own. This baby would need to be raced to a ventilator. This baby would have serious surgery in the first few days of life.
I wish you could have seen what I saw in Rebecca then, and for the months that followed. I saw strength beyond measure. I saw grace. And I saw faith.
What did that faith look like?
It looked like not losing hope that this baby would pull through.
It looked like believing there could be a time on the other side of the crisis, holding that time in mind, and talking about it, again and again.
It looked like having faith in the doctors and nurses and specialists, and seeing their work as a reflection of divinity.
It looked like the choice, made a million times, to take things one moment at a time, to go outside the NICU for a few minutes and pray, or feel the sunshine, or just breathe.
It looked like choosing not to follow the most panicked and fearful thoughts where they would take her.
It looked like Rebecca and her husband praying for all the other babies in the NICU.
I wept when I heard that — that every night they prayed, yes, for their son, but also for all the other babies there.
I realized I had misunderstood what Rebecca had said to me that day, when she told me, “It will all be okay.”
I thought she was telling me, “Don’t worry — your pregnancy will be fine, you will be fine, the baby will be fine.”
But she didn’t say that. She said, “It will be okay.”
I came to understand what she really meant: that even if the things you fear come to pass, it will be okay, honey. Even if there is tragedy, you will be okay.
You will be okay not because life is all light, but because you can stay connected to the light.
That cord never gets cut.
I watched her live that.
I learned from her that faith isn’t about believing we will somehow get what we want most, but rather, faith is believing life is trustworthy, and good, even when we do not.
photo credit: Hans Vivek