My water broke in a parking garage.
I was on a band trip. About to play a really important show. The guys were unloading gear from the van, but I could feel the baby- heavy inside of me- and my water broke.
Ryan was frustrated. Really? We traveled all this way for a show and your water breaks before we get a chance to play? Can you just hold it in, Jen? The other guys were indifferent. They kept unloading gear like nothing had even happened. Like they didn’t notice I was standing in a puddle of water.
But they did notice, they just didn’t care. It was almost like- yeah, your water broke. But you live long enough lady and everyone has their water break. I’ve had mine break.
They kept doing what they were doing and I was puzzled. Didn’t they see what was happening? Didn’t they understand? The baby is coming.
In that moment, something happened in my heart that I had never experienced. I felt like I was in my own world. One laced with more beauty, excitement, hope, and anticipation than I had ever known before. I felt myself glowing. There was a deep joy oozing out of me that I had never known. I could feel it in my fingertips and my toes and deep in my belly.
No one else existed. Just us. I had never wanted to give birth so bad in my life.
Hours later I was at the hospital. Pushing. Sweating. In so much freaking pain that I think I was biting Ryan’s arm.
And then I woke up.
Covered in sweat. Heart pounding. Body sore. As if I had really been pushing. Ryan laying next to me, sound asleep. Annie down the hall.
I woke up in my quiet, peaceful home. I could hear the clock ticking in the living room. The hum of the air conditioner. The birds outside my window. It was dawn. And I was deeply aware that there was nothing in my belly.
I wasn’t in labor. I wasn’t even pregnant. And what was worse, the dream ended before I delivered. I didn’t even get to find out if it was a boy or a girl.
Tears began to steam down my face. I felt such loss and sorrow. What a cruel trick. Why did I have to wake up mid-labor? I laid there and desperately wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. Couldn’t I have that much?
Blue or pink. Football or ballet. Bloody knees or bloody drama. Why let a girl dream that kind of dream and not get to see the end?
Ryan woke up to my whimpers.
“What’s wrong baby? Are you ok?”
“I just almost had a baby. I mean like really almost had the baby in my dreams. I’m covered in sweat and my stomach hurts from pushing. And you didn’t want my water to break and the guys didn’t care. And I was in the hospital biting you and screaming in pain,” and then the tears really came, “I- I- I- didn’t even get to have the baby. I don’t even know if it was a boy or a girl,” I was sobbing. In a little ball in my bed- at 6:00 a.m.- mourning the baby I didn’t give birth to in my dreams.
This is how every man wants to be woken up in the morning.
“But Jen- you don’t even want to have another baby.”
“I know, I didn’t think I wanted another baby. But what if we are supposed to? I mean, what if the dream was a sign? I don’t know. It really seemed like I was having a baby...”
“Ryan- I was so happy in the dream. Something was beaming deep inside of me. There was this deep deep joy. I can’t explain it. But I’ve never felt anything like it before in my life. It made me want to have a million babies. I knew that what was happening was holy. Waking up and it not being real- not even knowing if I had the baby- whether it was a boy or girl- I don’t know. I feel heart broken.”
“It was just a dream Jen. It’s ok. We don’t need to decide whether we should have another baby at 6:00 a.m. after a bad dream. You should get up. Have coffee and read before Annie wakes up. Clear your head.”
This sounded like a good idea. But all I could think about was the fact that coffee is really bad for the baby. You know- the baby I wasn’t actually pregnant with.
This is about the time I would encourage most people to go see a therapist. Lord knows I’ve seen my share of them.
My soul was frazzled. Not just by the dream, but by the season in life that seemed to churn me up and spit me out three counties over, mangled, in a river I didn’t know.
So I decided to go talk to someone. I needed some serious soul therapy. Except this time, instead of seeing a therapist, I decided I wanted to see a spiritual director. My mom had been seeing a spiritual director for years and had always encouraged me to go, but I always turned her down, because- what the heck is a spiritual director?!?
Sounded like some sort of voodoo doctor to me.
But for some reason, after the dream, I knew something deep was going on and I needed more than coping mechanisms that a therapist would teach me; I needed someone to help me examine my soul. So I called him.
A spiritual director, I have now come to understand, is not a voodoo doctor at all. Having a spiritual director is like having a guide. Someone who sits with you, listens to you, asks you questions and helps you to see how God has generally spoken to you in the past so that you can better understand how God might be speaking and moving within you in the present. Basically- a person that helps you define God’s voice and prompting in your life.
I’ve always felt a sense of nakedness when sitting with a counselor or therapist. Being with a spiritual director made me feel a little more naked than I ever imagined I could feel. You’re not just bearing your bad habits, family feuds, or strange voices in your head... you’re telling someone how the invisible, omni-present, creator of the universe talks to you. And that’s just weird.
“So,” he said, “What has God been speaking to you lately?”
I couldn’t think of anything. Not one single thing.
“How has he spoken to you in the past? Through music? Being outside? Reading scripture? When do you remember really hearing his voice or feeling God’s presence?”
Nothing. I had felt dry for so long, I was having a hard time remembering. And, I was basically convinced that God wasn’t talking to me anymore, anyways. I was in his access of evil.
“What are you dreaming about Jenny? At night. What have your dreams been about?”
“My dreams? Who told you I was dreaming? How did you know?”
I sat there, thumbing the coffee cup in my hand not wanting to tell him- not wanting to know what he might make of it. Not wanting to sound too crazy.
“I’ve been having crazy dreams. For a few weeks now. Nearly every night, I wake up midway through labor. Heartbroken that I have not had a baby. But I don’t want another baby. In the dream I am deliriously happy though. I cannot wait to give birth to this child. And then? Nothing. I wake up covered in sweat, with cramps in my stomach, as if I am contracting, and I realize I am not in labor at all. Nothing is coming out of my body. And I’m laying there with tears rolling down my face wondering why the baby I don’t want isn’t coming. I guess I am supposed to have another baby? Only- I really thought I was done.”
He let my words settle in the air. And we sat in silence.
"Jenny, has it ever occurred to you that God might be trying to talk to you in your dreams? That he might be giving you a name for this season in your life?"
"Here’s what I see. A girl who is going through major life changes. A girl who is transitioning from what always was into unchartered territory. A girl who, perhaps, must have a season of gestation- a season of waiting- while new things grow. Jenny, what if you are not supposed to have a baby at all? What if these dreams are there to show you that you are in labor? About to give birth to something new? And you wake up heartbroken because, in the dream, you don’t know how it ends yet. You want to see whether it’s a boy or a girl. But it’s not time yet. You are not ready to deliver yet. But you are pregnant. That’s the important part. You are pregnant with something new, and beautiful, and kicking and tossing and turning... you’re just not ready to give birth yet. Your water hasn't broken yet.
It was a moment where the words of truth are spoken and an explosion of life and clarity come rushing back into your soul after a long winter of silence.
We spent the next hour talking about what it was like to be nine months pregnant.
It was miserable as a matter of fact.
I was so fat I could barely feel my fingertips or my toes. I tossed and turned in my sleep. And with every movement Annie made in my belly, I was convinced that this must be the beginning of labor. I would wait, with nervous anticipation for the contractions to start. Hours later I would be disappointed and frustrated to find out that it was just gas.
Nine months pregnant is the longest waiting game ever.
And, it’s a lonesome waiting game. As much as your partner wants to be there for you, there are places he can’t be. He didn’t feel Annie’s fingers tickling the inside of him. He couldn’t feel her toes, wiggling around; her legs kicking, fighting for more space. He didn't feel the hiccups or know when she woke up and when she went to sleep. So he couldn't fully understand the rise and fall of my heart every time I thought my little person was coming.
Waiting games can be so lonely.
You can’t rush it. You can’t make it happen any sooner than it’s going to happen. You are convinced that the thing you want to happen so badly is going to happen any second. And yet the minutes tick by. The hours tick by. The days tick by. You busy yourself and try to not think about the thing that you so desperately want to see. You try and give it space. You try and live like you are not living in-between. Like you are not becoming. Because you are tired of becoming already! You are ready to be becomed!
You have endured a long season of complete change and you are so close to answers. You are so close to seeing the end, so close to giving birth to something new, so close to the next chapter of life...
and yet you are still, so friggin’ pregnant.
This is how I came to realize that I was in the in between.
This was the beginning ofthe becoming.
Needless to say- I spent months seeing so many pregnant things that it almost became funny. Outside my apartment window a bird made a nest and laid four eggs. This only became humorous after I had the lightbulb moment that I myself was nesting something in my soul. Annie and I went searching for other birds nest's because I found it rather strange that a bird would camp out by my bedroom window to have babies. We didn’t find a single nest in our whole apartment complex! And day after day- I would dream about being pregnant at night and wake up hoping the darn birds had hatched already; as if their hatching would be the gateway to mine.
(Ryan was really worried the birds would hatch and then be eaten by a dog or thrown around by a neighbor kid. He would always say, “Jen, you know a lot of birds don’t make it after they’re born. I just want you to be prepared for that. If these birds die, that doesn’t mean you are going to give birth to something that dies too. It just means- well you know- birds die.”)
My world became inundated with writings, people, scripture, movies, even critters who were pregnant with new; but not yet laboring. As if God were out to prove some master lesson that all things must endure being nine-months-pregnant before laboring and giving birth to something new.
My soul was nine months pregnant. My life was nine months pregnant. My future was nine months pregnant.
Waiting for labor to begin.
Waiting to give life to something new.