Aleteia

How pregnancy teaches you what love is

PREGNANCY
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There are lessons you learn from being pregnant, and they last a lifetime.

My first child taught me so many things from the first day I found out I was pregnant.

I was surprised and overwhelmed by the massive rollercoaster of emotions and the unpredictable vomiting and constant nausea that didn’t go away until a month before his due date. All during pregnancy, he taught me how to love despite the discomfort. Then, he kept teaching me about love after pregnancy. When he arrived, he taught me that love doesn’t mean goosebumps or butterflies. It means showing up and caring for someone even when you don’t have the emotional connection you expected. That may come with time (especially when you figure out good solutions to postpartum depression), but until it comes, your love for your child is just as great on days that you feel that love as on days you feel nothing. 

My second, third, and fourth babies didn’t live longer than a few weeks each before I miscarried them, but my pregnancies with them taught me how to love amidst fear and loss. I learned it was worth it to care about each baby and celebrate their lives, even if I would never get to hold them or watch them grow up. My son helps me with this as well. He remembers them at the most unexpected times, and talks about how we’ll get to meet them one day.  

My current baby, safely living inside of me at the moment, has taught me joy and wonder. Every day I’m still pregnant I marvel at each kick and flutter inside of me. I thought nothing would be more powerful than my amazement at that first pregnancy with my living son, but my amazement at the beauty of life with this baby has far surpassed that. As I grow to realize how little I do control in life, my appreciation for this new life grows in turn. Why have I been blessed with this child? I don’t know, but I’m so grateful. 

Now I just need to extend these lessons I’ve learned from my children to everyone else I encounter. Can I love the other people in my life despite the discomfort they cause me, and even when I don’t feel any emotional connection with them? Can I love people I know I might lose soon? Can I look at people I meet with wonder and awe at the beauty of their lives, marveling in gratitude that they exist?

These lessons are much easier to learn and live out with those you helped create and carry inside of you. But I know I am called to love more than just my own flesh and blood. Loving my neighbor as I love myself….therein lies the call. That means loving the people who have hurt me or upset me in the past. That means treating my acquaintance, my friend, the stranger I just glanced at, with respect and dignity on days where nothing is going right and I’m stressed and annoyed. Will I feel like I love these people? Probably not. But that’s not the point.

What about people I know who are close to death? Or people who are close to moving out of my life? Can I actively love them instead of choosing the easy route of letting them slide away? What about the people I disagree with? The people who seem to inconvenience me or frustrate my plans? Do I recognize the beauty of their lives? The miraculous fact that they are alive and present in this world? 

I have a long way to go. But, now—when the world seems to be caving in—is a perfect time to keep striving to love.