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Topics: Children, Motherhood, Parenting

A Meditation on Wombs

December 10, 2019
By Vivian Hyatt

It’s a curious story, this drama unfolding in the lives of two women, each one an unlikely choice to participate in the gate-crashing of the universe. God chose women and wombs to house men. And what men! One, the messenger and harbinger of the promised King; the other, the King himself.

And what wombs! One, unused, a house grown old, the paint peeling, wood rotting, shutters dangling on their hinges, no fit place for a child. Elizabeth had long ago given up any thought of a child playing there.

The other womb, Mary’s, sparkled with window boxes and fresh paint, the rooms in order, furniture in place, ready and waiting for a child to come and grow and romp and thrive. But not yet! She did not know a man, in the biblical sense of knowing.

These facts did not bother God. He had chosen.

Each of these unlikely women, with unlikely wombs, said “Yes.” Each welcomed God’s will, hardly comprehending God’s plan: bearing this child for nine months, laboring to give birth, nursing the child at her breasts, changing, bathing, training, teaching, making a home.

It’s a slow process, this method God used to carry out his plan of salvation for the world. Pregnancy, gestation, birth, infancy, childhood, years of training, growth to manhood.

This fact did not bother God. He chose the method. He still chooses the method. And a woman carries it out in her body, after the birth as well as before: a deflated postpartum womb, sleepless nights, sore breasts, veins, tiredness. Her body will never be the same.

Elizabeth and Mary would each need, in the coming days and years, to keep welcoming God’s plan for her life and her son’s life. Each would need to keep reaffirming her willingness to do God’s will, which included watching this son with his strange behavior, his torments and trials, his courage and conviction; she would need to keep saying yes.

When my third child was three, I began to think thoughts of expanding my interests and activities, of honing my writing skills. It looked doable for the first time since I had started having children.

Then, the fourth announced her coming.

I struggled. My husband struggled. We had “planned” three. This was not supposed to happen. But when I experienced complications at the end of the first trimester and landed in the hospital, flat on my back for a week, we both realized that life and death were not in our hands. My husband sensed the God of heaven, the God of life, saying to him, “You don’t want this baby? I can take this baby.”  He wept in humility.

Indicating that I would be “scraped out,” the uncompassionate doctor on duty left me alone. She had already offered to test my amniotic fluid and seemed surprised and displeased when I told her it was not necessary, that I would accept this child even if a birth defect were indicated. She knew this was my fourth pregnancy. Why would I be distressed that I might lose the baby? “Let this run through your head,” she said as she walked out. What else could I do? But the sonogram an hour later showed that the baby was moving. “Oh, it’s alive then!”

God had chosen to give us this unexpected gift.

About that time, I received providential messages from two very different sources: one, a psychologist who happened to mention that even fetuses in the womb can experience rejection. That message horrified me. The other I read in my Bible: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). I was struck with the realization, somewhat belated, that God gives good gifts. I began, by faith, thanking him for this good gift, accepting what he wanted to give me, give our family.

And six months later, our baby girl was born, healthy and giggly, seeming, by God’s grace, to confirm my decision to welcome her, to be thankful.

After her birth, though, I contemplated the fact that if it happened once, “unplanned” by us, it could happen again. And, four years later, it did. This time, my husband and I more quickly acknowledged that it is God who has a right to us, to our bodies, to our family, to my womb. And we greeted our baby son with joy.

In his book, The Medusa and the Snail, Lewis Thomas calls the normal union of a sperm and an egg, resulting in a human cell, a “true miracle.” He pronounced it one of “the greatest astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell…”[1]

How is it that we miss the wonder? We are given either to casual matter-of-factness about this miracle or frustration and even anger over our lack of control of something that is quite beyond our ability to effect or deny.

Very few pregnancies in the universe have had the drama surrounding them as those of Elizabeth and Mary. But when I read in my Bible in Psalm 139 that it is God who “wove me in my mother’s womb,” that his eyes “saw my unformed substance,” and that he has a book in which are written “the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was none of them,” I begin to comprehend that every pregnancy is drama indeed: the unfolding of an eternal person, entrusted for a while to us mere mortal mothers who are tempted to think we have potential life in our own hands — or not — according to our choosing.

Neither Elizabeth’s aged, post-menopausal womb, nor Mary’s young, virgin womb should have been able to conceive a child.

Those facts did not bother God.

He gives. And he gives good gifts.

Thus, I am confident that when God chooses a woman’s womb, she can, in trust, say yes.

[1] Quoted in the book In the Likeness of God by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, p. 42

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