Four days until Spring, or so Google tells me. Yet two nights ago my husband and I sat huddled by our wood-burning fireplace while working on taxes. I’m sitting in Starbucks in my puffy winter coat and keeping track of the warmest spots in the house to work.
This is the South, after all, and soon enough the outside temperature will make up for our older home’s lack of insulation. Spring and summer are both headed our way, and this year, the summer months hold special promise for our family: we are expecting our first child at the end of August. We laughed on our hospital tour when the nurse told us that no matter how sweltering it is outside, my husband will want to bring a coat to wear indoors. The last months of pregnancy, let alone birth, are difficult to imagine without air conditioning!
Though I’ve heard my baby’s heartbeat on two different doctor’s appointments, and even seen a little smudge on an ultrasound, it’s a little like waiting for winter to pass. There are signs that Spring is coming: a bright cardinal who knocked on my window and quickly flew away and new twinges in my body that alert me something is changing. But I can’t quite grasp that it’s new life yet, or what that life means for the rest of mine.
“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Many of my friends know the story of how I read far too many Christian marriage books before our wedding. The problem was not so much that I read books, but that I thought I could understand marriage from the outside. I thought I could study it like an academic subject and prepare as you would for an exam.
As I prepare to become a mother (or rather, grasp that I already am one), I instinctively reach for books. I put probably a dozen parenting and baby care books on hold at the library yesterday, and toyed with the idea of setting myself an assigned course of reading for each month remaining. As if I could arrive at the hospital to give birth with my mothering degree already in hand. Absurd.
Pre-baby reading might make more sense than my pre-wedding studies. After all, keeping your spouse alive is generally not one of the first tasks of marriage. We will need some technical knowledge when we welcome our baby, and I’m grateful there are so many books to choose from. But let me not fall into the trap of thinking there is any way to “learn parenting” other than experience and prayer.
After all, the best reading for baby may come from entirely different sources.
I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.
—C. S. Lewis, “What the Bird Said Early in the Year”
This poem stands at the entrance to Addison’s Walk in Oxford (pictured above). You can read more about the poem’s background in this article, also the source of the photo.