Pregnancy is a mix of Advent and Lent.
I came to this realization yesterday morning, in between revisiting (there’s a nice euphemism) my first breakfast and scarfing down my second.
Here it is – Easter! Spring! – and I’m still feeling crummy. I had hoped the change of seasons, liturgically and naturally, would bring a turning point for me as well. Now that Lent has past, it will be All Easter, All The Time, right?
Instead, the journey of carrying this child remains a blend of Advent’s waiting in joyful hope and Lent’s sacrificial suffering. Now that baby kicks and moves all day long, I do have happy Advent moments of anticipating the birth and the wonder of meeting my child face-to-face. But I still have difficult Lenten moments of exhaustion and sickness.
As in Advent, I need to prepare for this birth – in my mind, in my body, in my home. As in Lent, I need to discipline myself for the suffering this work requires, to enter more deeply into the mystery and the transformation.
Perhaps it is right that the work of bringing new life into this world leads to both the birthing place of the stable and the dying place of the cross. We need both to die and rise with Christ.
But it also strikes me that our church’s rhythm of the liturgical calendar has much more to teach us about the vocation of parenting.
So much of our work as mothers and fathers is Ordinary Time. We change diapers, wipe noses, make dinners, tie shoes, read stories, wash laundry, run errands, sing songs. The days begin and end, nothing exceptional. But the living we do during Ordinary Time is important. It creates the foundation of our relationships, our families, our homes.
When life’s moments of Advent and Lent roll around – the anticipation of big events, the trials of preparation for life changes – we find our senses heightened. We notice how quickly our children are growing. We notice how we are growing as well. We wonder what lies ahead. These liminal times of in-between, of waiting for what comes next and preparing for how it will change our family life, interrupt our Ordinary Time and remind us of God at work in our lives.
And then there are the great feasts: the Christmases and Easters, the birthdays and anniversaries, the baptisms and confirmations, the marriages and graduations. Our high holy days as a family remind us to feast as well as fast. To splurge where we normally scrimp. To celebrate the highs so that we can pull through the lows.
The wisdom of the church in living by the rhythms of a calendar, of our life together in liturgy, offers us the perspective that we need for parenting’s challenges. This, too, shall pass; we do not stay in Lent forever. But neither can we indulge in Christmas every morning.
Instead, we are given lots of Ordinary Time to live, and to live it well.
(Now if I could only stop spending my mornings hunched over dry toast like a Lenten penitent…)