I am 30 weeks pregnant. “In the home stretch” as everyone likes to say. I’m not one of those people who has an easy pregnancy – where time flies and there are no side effects each and every day. Now that I’m on my third pregnancy, I am absolutely not convinced that “every pregnancy is different”. My pregnancies have all gone like this: 18-22 weeks of morning sickness (not just the “oh I feel nauseous”, but the kind where I find myself sitting on the bathroom floor every morning); about 6 weeks of sciatic/random aches and pains; rounding out the final 12-16 weeks getting randomly sick in the mornings again accompanied by constant aches and pains. I have always said pregnancy is about two months too long. The last two months, for me at least, always feel all-consuming. I can’t move, sleep, eat, and so on without the reminder of “you’re growing a human” stopping me mid-action of any of those tasks. This pregnancy, everything is “more”. More morning sickness. More sciatic pain. More painful movements. More humans on the outside of the womb to tend to. More things to get ready – like merge two kids into one bedroom to make room for baby, buy a bigger car… the list goes on.
For almost the entire time of knowing I am pregnant, I have acknowledged that all of Lent has to occur before I have this baby. When people say “wow! May is approaching fast!” I almost always respond with “not really, we still have all of Lent to get through”. When I say I’ve been looking forward to Lent, I’m not even a little bit kidding. I suppose I should preface by saying that I typically do enjoy Lent – pregnant or not. I enjoy the Church-wide effort of focusing on praying, fasting, and almsgiving. I like knowing that we are all trying to sacrifice something in our lives because Jesus paid the ultimate price when He sacrificed His love for us. For me, it’s always been a chance to rid myself of something that I know gets in the way of my focus on Jesus. Some years that has been social media, or the Dr. Pepper that I looked forward to more than any kind of prayer. Some years my focus has been more on praying more, which naturally forced me to rid myself of something worthless filling my time.
Of course this year, being pregnant, my Lent will look different. I truthfully can’t go longer than about two hours without eating something of substance before I start to get light-headed, nauseous, sometimes sweaty, and all-around miserable. It results in the rest of my day being about playing catch up to nourish myself and my growing baby. So fasting is practically off the table. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I have and intend to abstain from meat. However, fasting in its truest sense is off the table.
Yet, pregnancy has taught me something about fasting. Sometimes pregnancy, no matter the time of year, feels like Lent. The sacrifice of my body, some of my favorite foods, aches, pains… all of these “inconveniences” can feel like the fasting aspect of Lent. But the suffering of pregnancy has a purpose: a new life. There is meaning in what my body is doing, just as there is meaning that Jesus suffers during Holy Week and Easter: eternal life.
My focus this Lent will be on prayer. Not just praying “more”, but praying more deeply. I typically find myself having a mental checklist of things/people I pray for daily. More often than not, my prayer becomes that – a checklist. So I’m making the effort to dive deeper. Mainly still focusing on spontaneous prayer, but I also realize that we’ve been given some beautiful prayers. So doing things like saying the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” slowly is also a goal of mine. Oh, and I shouldn’t leave out that I’m FINALLY going to finish the Bible in a Year podcast. I’ve been stuck on day 305 for about… 500 days. Like, come on… wrap it up, Erin!
Lent can feel like the longest period of time when we think about how far away Easter is. But this year, 40 days feels like nothing. I’m 7 months into pregnancy, after all! I’m excited for Lent not only for the time to really focus on my prayer life, but also because Easter is coming. We know before we can celebrate Easter, Jesus has to die. He will sacrifice His life to give us a chance at Eternal Life. But the Resurrection is coming.
I will never once equate myself to knowing that kind of sacrifice. But for me, Lent and “my Lent” is here. “We still have all of Lent to get through…” The statement I’ve been using to try and get people to realize just how long I still have left in this pregnancy – that time is here. I’ve never been so excited for these 40 days. So bring it on. Suffering and sacrifice for just a *small* blip of time – 40 days or 9 months – results in joy… and life!