I hear a lot of women say they feel like they've been pregnant forever by the time they've reached 8 months, but I still feel like I just found out yesterday. What? We're having a baby in 8 weeks?! It still hasn't registered in my head this is a reality. I'm sure when those contractions kick in and I find myself in a birthing suite, it will start to become real to me.
I've started to feel the weariness of carrying around a mini-human. I move a lot slower, and my reserve of strength is quickly dwindling. But I am blessed with a superstar husband who not only helps when I ask but keeps an eye on me and takes initiative even when I don't say anything. It's made things so much easier on me, not feeling like I have to keep all the plates spinning on my own.
January also marks my last month working at the thyroid clinic. I feel incredibly bittersweet about it. I've worked with some of the staff ever since we came to Cambodia three years ago, and I helped set up the clinic and worked there from day one. (You can read posts about my medical work in Cambodia here, and check out one of my first posts about the clinic here.) But now God is calling me to a different kind of adventure. I pray that I would take advantage of every remaining day I have left, working with people who have made my life richer.
One of the surprising things I've really enjoyed about pregnancy is walking. No, seriously, walking!
During my first trimester (which was a beast), I had zero energy - I could barely get off the couch to eat dinner, let alone think about working out. So I accepted my new limits and committed to performing the bare minimum - walking in the neighborhood. I knew I couldn't do my Zumba videos for my whole pregnancy, and even my prenatal workouts seemed a bit much some days. But walking? I can do that.
And I have been surprised at how something so simple can build community.
We have a long dirt road that stretches from a rice field back to the main highway, where our house is located. I found that if I went back and forth twice, it took me about thirty minutes - a decent amount of time. It's around 2 kilometers long (about a mile and a half) - not challenging, but I shoot for time over distance.
When I started walking, I was visibly pregnant. The neighbors stared and talked and asked me, You're exercising?! You're pregnant! I had to explain to them, Yes, it's safe and actually healthy for pregnant women to exercise. In Cambodian culture, pregnant women aren't allowed to do anything. They're seen as extremely delicate and prevented from anything resembling light labor. So my neighbors were a bit shocked to see me briskly walking down the road. A few times, I even jogged. But I didn't want to upset them too much, so I stopped (and I got lazy).
But walking the neighborhood and being more visible to the neighbors opened doors to talk with people I've never had before - especially since I was pregnant. Cambodians are curious about outsiders and have no qualms asking personal questions about basically everything. Last week, one of my neighbors wanted to see what my stomach looked like and promptly lifted up my shirt. I get asked if I'll breastfeed, if I'll get a c-section, what the baby's gender is, where I'll deliver the baby, why I don't want a Cambodian doctor, what food I eat...anything is up for the asking!
Luckily, I don't have a lot of personal boundaries, and God has given me good humor and grace to answer some of the less-delicate questions. It has challenged my Khmer language and also given me the opportunity to ask them questions, too. And some of the women have even joined me on my walks a few times.
Other missionaries told me having children opened new doors in relationships with nationals, and they couldn't be more right. Pregnancy seems to normalize me and makes me seem a bit more relatable to the Cambodians in our neighborhood. I am so thankful for how this baby has already opened the door for better community here - even if it's restricted by my struggling language skills and different cultural practices (no post-birth-roasting for me!).
God is stretching me in countless ways as I approach motherhood, and I couldn't be happier to be on this journey.
I'm curious to hear from you, if you're a mother - what is one specific way motherhood or pregnancy stretched you personally or spiritually?