"Are you sure you're not having twins?"
It's the question you might think I'd get from a stranger, but I find it's the question I ask myself as I look in the mirror and then I reply... to myself, "Nope, that was the last pregnancy."
It's days like these that I have to do some serious reflecting to pull myself back to the reality of what it is I'm doing.
Years ago, I was helping out with a retreat. I was expecting my sixth... or seventh... I honestly can't remember, and I was leading a small group of teens, a couple of whom were reluctant to add much to the conversation. I kept praying for this one girl in particular, who appeared to be high maintenance incarnate. She was thin and attractive and had an air of condescension and my heart hurt for her, because I could sense great pain. Near the end of our session, I had just about given up, when a crazy thing happened, there was a huge roar as a great gust of wind blew open a heavy set of metal doors near us. It shook us and when I turned back to the girl, I saw she was sobbing. She let out a wail, "I hate myself!" It was as though the Holy Spirit tore her heart open with the same intensity as the doors beside us. "I can't look at myself in the mirror. I can't eat because I feel so ugly. I'm bulimic and I can't stop because I hate myself. I hate my body. I don't know how to break free from this."
I was stunned. She looked perfect! How could she feel that way? There I was sitting with my swollen face, big belly, stretch marks and puffy feet and in spite of it all, I didn't hate my body. But then it hit me. I knew my worth because I could see myself through the eyes of the One who chose me and formed me. He is the One who loves me and has made me aware of my dignity as His irreplaceable daughter. My mouth opened and a song of the Father's love for His daughter poured out. I don't remember everything I said, but her heart had been opened and I felt like the Holy Spirit was rushing in to assure her of her innate worth and to infuse her with hope and healing. I knew she would have a long journey ahead, but something beautiful had begun within her.
I think about that experience often when I'm feeling like I ate the Goodyear blimp. Pregnancy with all it's beauty has been a sacrifice. It seems that every time I work hard to lose weight, I learn I'm pregnant again and while I'm so excited every time, I still have to sigh as I realize I'm not going to fit back into pre pregnancy sized clothes for a very long time. I have stretch marks from the highest point of my belly all the way down. It looks like a tiger was sharpening his claws on my stomach and I have to prepare a farewell speech to my dear friend Energy - parting is such sweet sorrow! But I've been given the gift of understanding that my body has the potential to bring a new, unique, eternal soul, full of unimaginable potential into the world. This sacrifice I'm making (though I may no longer fit the secular world's standard of beauty) is actually what makes me shine in my Father's eyes, and in the eyes of my family.
In a culture that screams, "THIS IS MY BODY, I can do what I want!" I long to be the echo of my Savior's voice, "This is my body, given up for you."
I want to look at my scars and unite them to the marks of a body scourged and given freely so that I might live, "...By His stripes, we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) Then I could see the stretch marks as extraordinarily beautiful, an offering for my babies and a reminder of His love poured out for me. When my back gives out, I want to reflect upon the weight of the cross on Christ... and I can't wait to look into my little one's eyes in a couple of months, knowing that I was willing to hand over my body so that he or she might live, just as my Lord did for me.