Great With Child

  • Publish Date: 2008-04-15
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Debra Rienstra
  • $38.63
  • Save $27.16

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Not so much a thought as a pinpoint on the horizon of thought; not so much appearing as the world slowly rolling to reveal it; not so much the world but a breath of eternity, releasing this infinitesimal Yes. Between meetings and paperwork and meal plans and financial decisions and the seemingly more substantial everything of life, it drifts quietly toward resolution, takes hold in a little crevice of mind, and begins. There is time now in the cluttered shuffle of things for only this tiny Yes.

We have been speaking of it, my husband and I, with few and careful words, as it has a kind of sacred piquance. To speak of it aloud too much might flatten or dishonor it. But this slip of assent will grow.

For me this Yes arises from within the kind of human hunger that memory forms and feeds. Five years after Miriam was born, three after Jacob, I remember their babyhoods with a mute, heart-clutching nostalgia. This is a fresh longing now for an experience (or the preserved portion of it) I have lived before: first, the deep attentiveness of pregnancy, then the harrowing intensity of birth, then that surrender of the self to demands that press the boundaries of endurance and to a small person who, once here, will make any previous life seem impossibly incomplete.

There are other strands of hunger tangled up in this, too, spindly little shabby ones: a weary desire to escape the routine, the inconvenient, the tedious difficulties of getting up, going to work, coming home. I half know I'm looking for change and variety, excitement, risk, for an escape.

But deeper than all that is the peculiar hunger of the body itself. Not for sexual union, although of course that human longing for intimacy is caught up, masterfully, with the desire to create. The body-hunger I feel is low in the gut, a kind of emptiness repeatedly reaching out to be filled. It is ancient, archetypal.

I came across a strangely unembroidered, uncontextualized oracle in the biblical book of Proverbs that tells me I'm not the only one to feel the womb itself seem to cry out in this hunger:

There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, Enough! : the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, Enough!

The longing to create life is elemental, on the level of fire, earth, and death. The steadily humming tissues and organs, as they play out their unconscious patterns, long to serve something spiritual, to touch the eternal. Perhaps the mortal body snatches out toward the immortal body. I believe that immortality is not a matter of disembodied spirits floating about in some cloudy afterlife, but of flesh, the carnal, renewed and perfected beyond our imaginings, reborn with all of creation. It does not seem strange to me, then, that our physical bodies lean hard, with our souls, toward the eternal.

--Debra Rienstra, from chapter 1, Longing, in Great with Child

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