What Co-creation Really Feels Like

On the cereal box, there’s always some arbitrary recipe that’s supposed to induce you to pour out the whole box at once to make “bran cookies” or some other non-dessert. Add your Frosted Flakes, all ten cups of it, to a bowl of peanuts and apricots–and voila–you have twelve cups of trail mix that no one wants to eat, and there’s nothing you can do about it now. The potion is mixed. You can leave it out on the counter in a plastic bag indefinitely, or you can throw it away and start over.

So it was in the earliest days of this pregnancy–another baby? It sounded like an ok idea in theory–why not? Throw in the peanuts and apricots.

Almost immediately, upon mixing the potion, I sunk into a groggy primordial funk. My grandma died. My dog got hit by a car. My husband and kids all smelled funny to me, and I could feel myself being sealed up in an over-sized ziplock bag of nausea-inducing ephemera.

If there is a “contraceptive mentality” in Catholic marriage, it has almost nothing to do with abstaining from sex to space babies. Rather, it’s about wanting to undo or interfere with something that’s already taken place. God pitched me a ball, and I wanted to throw it back, hard enough to leave a bruise. What a dumb idea it was to play this game.

My husband and I are not good planners. We itch, we scratch, we treat the wounds, and for the most part, we’ve ended up a little richer for closing our eyes and taking chances. But sometimes it takes longer for a wound to heal, and you have to wait in uncertainty and discomfort until it does.

I would like to say that I could NEVER act against a pregnancy, but temptation is such that it throws all of life’s options before you, including the option for death. I didn’t want to cause it, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have been slightly relieved to throw out all the unpleasantries of the first trimester, and the subsequent discomforts yet to come, and start over with my former health and vigor.

Of course, I would have felt incredible sadness at such a loss–I’ve experienced miscarriages before and they’re devastating. I would have mourned and felt pain. But I’d also have figured out a way to move on, even if I had to fake it for awhile. The pain of retreat seemed preferable to the pain of bearing forward.

Such is no longer the case.

It’s really difficult to pinpoint exactly when one’s feelings about a pregnancy transmogrify. Sometimes, it’s the moment you realize that the loss of it is really possible. Sometimes it’s with the baby’s first movement, which confirms in a way you’ve always suspected, that pregnancy isn’t really about you.

Over the weeks of rebellion I began to discern a person in there taking shape, arms and legs pushing against my ribs. I’ve made note of the ways this child’s head will butt against me, and how she will roil and hiccup into our family.

I have forgotten completely who I was before the prospect of this new person entering the world. I don’t know her name, nor what she looks like–but I WANT HER!

I remember clearly, after giving birth to my daughter, these were the first words I said, “I want her! Give her to me!”  I had no idea to whom I was speaking. Maybe I was talking to those rubber-gloved hands separating me from this person who’d made me uncomfortable for so long.

But even if, for some reason, I did not want her as vehemently as I did, her very existence trumped all of my desires.

She had wrung me out completely, leaving me empty and bleeding on a table. All of my children have done so–and never have I felt love so pure as in that moment when you have been emptied and wait with open arms.

I imagine the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross must be the forerunner to such feelings. To be powerless, with open arms is the ultimate symbol of poverty, and yet to undergo agony and pain as a gift to others that may never be returned is a taste of the way God loves. This is what it means to be a co-creator.

It’s difficult to know this at the beginning of a pregnancy, even though I’ve known it before. Wounds hurt, but as they heal they transform you into someone you never knew you would be–someone who can be, even if only for a moment, pure love for a stranger.

About Elizabeth Duffy
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  • Karen in SC

    Beautiful…made me thing of a line in the Avett Brother’s song “A Father’s First Spring”: The realest thing I ever felt, Was the blood on the floor and the love in your yell”.

  • Victor

    (((and ultimately as beholden to a big bang borne upon the intentional winds of “yes” as was the very first moment:If there is a “contraceptive mentality” in Catholic marriage, it has almost nothing to do with )))
    So true! I recall when my wife was told by a strong arm rock doctor that she was pregnant again. We already had five planned loving girl angels and me being a Catholic still didn’t keep me, me and me for a day or two from quietly crying to GOD (Good Old Dad) telling HIM that “I’M” not working and I just lost my car so why would ya let that happen? Long story short, after two days or so, I had completely accepted “IT” and “I” was very happy and my heart was singing songs like, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VezWYCXVXAE&feature=autoplay&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR&playnext=8

    Longer story short, my wife was told at her next appointement that she really was not pregnant and somehow I’ve learned how to listen to GOD but “IT” has not always been that easy NOW.

    Go figure “IT” was probably the boy that you always wanted butt look on the bright side Victor, we gods later on give ya R and R Victor to make UP for our little mistake!? :)

    Please don’t get me started sinner vic. :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi3r3FXG84I&feature=autoplay&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CsoL1wb57KE3PhIWCcedxR&playnext=1

    Peace

  • http://owenswain.com/2/ Owen

    This piece is happily, wildly incongruent with contemporary thoughts on woman’s right to her own body including those thoughts of too many Catholics.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    A wonderful piece Ms. Duffy. As a man I can never experience what you experienced but you drew me toward that experience. I loved this paragraph:

    “I imagine the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross must be the forerunner to such feelings. To be powerless, with open arms is the ultimate symbol of poverty, and yet to undergo agony and pain as a gift to others that may never be returned is a taste of the way God loves. This is what it means to be a co-creator.”

  • The Korrektiv Troll

    Aw, yeah.

  • StephC

    Just shared this with friend who is newly pregnant with her 6th and her reply was, “…she describes our reality poignantly…”
    DH came down while I was typing last night, and asked what I was reading. I (32 weeks along here with #4) tried reading the entire piece aloud to him, and was caught short by the end with tears and multiple lumps in throat.
    “…love so pure as in that moment when you have been emptied and wait with open arms…” That line phrase will stay with me a while, I do believe.

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  • Momof4

    Lovely. Really. Our mutual friend, Lauren, sent me your way. You do have a way with words. Honest. Striking. Real. You’re pretty cool Betty.


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