When my Labrador retriever was pregnant, she steadily grew bigger and bigger until her belly was nearly brushing the floor while she walked. It was quite the sight to watch her slowly rise-up from her bed. We expected around 6 puppies, average for Labradors. Little did we know there were 11 puppies inside her, slowly becoming ready for the outside world.
Every creature has a different gestation (pregnancy) time: dogs are 60 days, alpacas 360 days, grizzly bears 215 days, hamsters a quick 21 days, and humans are usually around 270 days. It takes a different amount of time to grow different sort of creatures.
For humans, the mother’s body makes physiologic changes to accommodate growing a new person. The first few weeks, only she might notice the changes of feeling nauseous, experiencing food aversion. Gradually though, her belly will grow larger, and others notice what is happening. She’s growing a baby! As a mother’s body changes, some moms have the time of their life, while for others it is the most difficult months of their life. Eventually, as baby is finished growing and ready to come out, her body begins contracting to push baby out, and sometimes assistance is needed to pull baby out. Once labor is finished, the mother’s body begins a process of repairing itself and her uterus shrinks, although not completely back to what used to be normal. Pushing a baby out leaves changes anatomically and physiologically, and socially as well, as there is now a new member of the family.
God describes various changes he initiates in individuals and in groups as comparable to gestation as well as to labor, and those changes create a new normal for the person or group. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (James 1:18), referring to the individual soul’s new birth into the spiritual life with God. Jesus described to his disciples that his upcoming crucifixion would be grievous, but his resurrection would bring their group a joy that far outweighed their grief, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:21-22).
I think the analogy of gestation and labor help me understand the process of change better. Some changes are small, like hamsters, and are finished in a few weeks. Other changes are larger and require more time. A big change I went through was moving from the classroom to the clinic in 2018. As my outward goal changed from book-learning to patient-learning, my attitude changed as well about what was important and what success looked like. A big change everyone is still going through amidst COVID-19 are the shifts in what we value about communications, public health, and the economy. Nothing in life stays static, but is either in the early stages of gestation, closer to delivery, or in the aftermath of delivery. I keep finding that going through these stages of ‘gestation’ by talking to God about them makes the difference between me trying to make a big change in a small amount of time (a bear momma trying to birth a bear cub in the time it takes a hamster to give birth), or to take too long to make a small change (a hamster waiting around the time of a bear’s gestation to birth a baby hamster). What about you? What changes are you experiencing individually or as part of a group? How are you navigating those changes?