We sat in the car for a minute, the gray overhead of sky mocking us, daring us to come out so the rain could pour over our heads.
I sat with my seatbelt on, determined to melt into my own hands by staring at them long enough. Nervous.
All day, I had been excited by the impending “Birthing Classes” we would begin in the evening. But after a short fight over dinner, a long silence in a short drive, and a multitude of negative thoughts, I reconsidered. Once again, I was taking a step away from myself and becoming someone I didn’t know- someone I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know.
Classes should be exciting, right? After all, it’s been a long 34 weeks. I should be over my nerves by now, shouldn’t turn away from people I recognize so they don’t see my bump, shouldn’t feel shame when someone’s eyes flicker from my belly to my left finger to my unwrinkled, un-cosmeticked face. And yet.
My husband finally forced me out of the car, and we walked towards the church building where our classes are held. He chattered excitedly as he tried to open the doors to various entrances, trying to beat the rain that hung heavy in the clouds above us. I wanted it to come down, to give me physical reasons to feel the way I did inside, cold and bitter and uncertain, but my husband found a door that opened and I forced myself in before I could give in to my thoughts.
We entered a small room that resembled a grandparent’s basement: wooded wall panels, carpeted floors, smell of cat. Chairs holding bulging mothers and awkward-looking dads were arranged in a semi circle around a projector screen, table, instructor and laptop. We wrote our names and our due dates on pieces of colored paper and pinned them to ourselves as we were instructed to. I looked around the room of expecting couples, confirming my suspicions: we were the youngest ones there by about 5 years. We picked seats and I resumed the activity of hand-staring for a while, then asked my husband to grab me a cup of water from the back of the room. As he got up, my eyes followed him, looking around the room for the first time.
What caught my eye was a small picture. As we were in a church room, it was a painting of Jesus, praying in the garden of Gethsemane hours before his death. The painting was not exceptionally done, was not large, and to any other person in the room, Christian or not, it would likely fall under the radar. But it stood out to me in that it was a depiction of the way I had felt when I first discovered I would be having a baby. It was the way I was feeling sitting in the basement with all the adult couples and their planned babies and planned lives. The dread of feeling the pain. The end of the comfort I had lived. The ridicule I would face, maybe not openly, but behind my back. The fear of abandonment, and of the unknown. The true dying to myself. All of Jesus’s pain resonated with me… And I realized that though I was isolating myself, I was not, and could never be, alone. Jesus prayed for his “cup to pass”, the same way I had often prayed my pregnancy wouldn’t be real, but He had the courage to take on a challenge much greater than mine. How could I look at my belly, feel my son kick me, and tell him no? How could I possibly doubt my own strength, when there existed a human being that gave so much more than He would ever ask me to?
As my husband brought back a foam cup of water, I resolved to be stronger. Outside, the rain had audibly begun pouring, but I was inside of this building, holed up with other couples, none of us affected by the storm.
Once outside myself, I actually had a nice time in class. We learned where all the weight we were gaining is going (a sad amount to my rear end), what to pack for the hospital, and about how big our babies were. My husband and I met a couple sitting next to us from Taiwan, who were surprisingly in the same boat we were: Wife had just graduated, husband was still in school. The woman took pictures of every little event during the class, from her husband holding the fake embryonic sac to their booklet, excited to send photos to her family depicting their adventure, eager to document every positive.
I learned many of the men in the class were farmers who the wives were worried wouldn’t answer their phones when it came “time”. I learned there was a woman there who was pregnant with her second child, due before me, and much thinner than I. I wondered “why does she even need to be here then?” and then hated myself when she discussed that her labor had been ‘complicated’ as her face broke.
We watched a video of the final pushing stages at birth, and I wiped my eyes as I watched a real mom hold her real child onscreen. My husband put his hand on mine and I knew- I knew I could do this.
When class ended we put up our hoods, expecting rainfall outside- but none came. The only sign of the downpour was the wet grass and concrete. We stayed dry and on the ride home, I felt ready.