Maybe it’s because I’m 33 and the stories of miscarriage and stillbirths among my friends and family are more common than I wish to admit.
Each week, one fruit size larger, I wonder if this baby will hang on to my insides — literally — or will it pass? Doubts come over me in the meanest blackest cloud, and I turn where most people turn in moments of fear: the Internet.
I scroll through tragic story, one after another, convincing myself I — or my baby — are doomed too. I only admit these thoughts to select people, for fear that giving it anymore room to breathe would jinx it. Fear come at me from every angle. My husband will find me, and tell me to get off the Internet. He came home one evening with the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and said (lovingly) that that is all I get to read about pregnancy.
I forget to pray. Like, a lot. Which is sometimes strange to admit as a pastor’s wife. I remember at random times when I’m alone — in the car, or on a walk.
One morning in the shower, I was rubbing my belly, and started praying. Praying for baby’s health. Praying for a safe pregnancy. Praying for a safe delivery.
As my hands were on my belly — I asked God, if God would please consider it a prayer every time I touched my belly.
I had my excuses: look, I forget to pray okay! And I know God is outside of time and space, so it can’t be too much to ask God to hear my prayer when my hands are on baby, right? And in that moment when I asked God this favor, I trusted it. God is bigger than words.
I find myself touching my belly a lot. Like, mindlessly so. I’ll be standing there in the kitchen talking to my husband and my hands will be making circles over my little bump. I smile knowing I was praying. Friends warned me that other people — maybe even strangers — would probably touch my belly too. And then it occurred to me: touching my belly is a blessing, truly.
I grew up in a religious tradition that practiced “laying on of the hands” for significant moments, and then I joined the Lutheran church, and we weren’t quite as touchy-feely as our Baptist brothers and sisters.
But on my husband’s Lutheran (ELCA) ordination, the Bishop invited friends and family to come up and lay hands on us during a sending blessing. It felt strange at first — the act of hands on your shoulder shouldn’t be so weird — and then it was comforting. Our friends and family were literally behind us, literally putting hands on us to pass us a blessing.
A few people have come up and touched my belly. So far only family and close friends. I’ve decided to consider this a blessing. I believe that when people want to touch my belly, they want to bless baby. And not in the abused #blessed way, but in the sense that there’s something going on holy here.
There’s something holy in human touch, too. So, yeah. You can touch my belly. I mean, maybe ask first, but I’m open to that kind of thing.