The first pregnancy test I ever took was three weeks after my wedding day. It was positive. I started vomiting pretty much right then and there.
In the following weeks, as I struggled to adjust to my newly married state while waiting tables at a seafood restaurant and battling morning sickness, I lost some weight. My doctor assured me that first-trimester weight loss was not a threat to the baby’s health, but my gaunt frame certainly succeeded in making me look young, miserable, and pathetic.
Upon hearing the news of my pregnancy, one of my coworkers at the restaurant – a young man who played in a band part time – grew concerned. “Oh no,” he whispered to me, “Do you have a … boyfriend … or anything?”
Well yes, I have something rather like that, I told him. It’s called a husband.
Truth be told, though, that word “husband” still felt foreign in my mouth. I was 22 years old, but I look back at photos taken during those early years and see myself for the child I really was.
I survived the vomitous first four months of that pregnancy by alternately ingesting and then, er, rejecting a delicately balanced diet of ginger ale, handfuls of almonds, frozen vanilla yogurt, and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. Then, right about the time I received a new job offer and was bidding farewell to the waitressing job with its nausea-inducing platters of shrimp scampi, my husband surprised me. With two tickets to Antigua.
This trip would be our last hurrah, my earnest man explained – maybe our last chance to get away together without a child in tow for many years to come.
After my tumultuous introduction to marriage and family life, at the ripe old age of 22, I felt like the hurrahs were already over. I didn’t think I could stomach much more. Literally.
But the trip was important to Dan, and he convinced me we should go. So we two kids – and our gestating baby – boarded a plane early one morning and landed in a tropical paradise. It was there, in the sun-drenched streets of Antigua, that I lost my gray pallor and came alive.
We rented a jeep and cruised the island’s back roads with youthful enthusiasm. We spent our days exploring gardens and sitting in the surf; we ate peanut butter sandwiches in our room and saved our pennies for one big splurge – dinner at an expensive outdoor restaurant. It had tables on the beach, candlelight, live music, and dancing. I would wear my favorite sun dress.
I suppose the dinner was lovely, though I don’t remember much of it. What I do remember was that after we ate, we played in the water while the nearby music still lingered in our ears. I had never felt such a forceful tide before. Again and again, wild waves crashed the two of us laughingly onto the beach.
When we grew tired, we sat, soaked and panting, in the sand. The setting sun streaked the sky with orange, pink, and purple. I breathed the scent of salty water as the sound of music and the distant dancers filled my ears. I took it all in and then closed my eyes to affix it in my memory.
It was as I sat there, with a nascent marriage and a fluttering baby growing inside, that I first felt the comforting strength and security of God’s hand as it closed around us.
God calls us to big things sometimes, I realized. Bigger than we would ever choose for ourselves. Again and again, He might allow us to be tossed about and thrown helplessly onto the shore. But our job is not to control the waves – only to ride them. To trust. To let go. And to know that through it all, He holds us.
I think back to that girl on the beach and I want to tell her that she was glimpsing only a tiny bit of what waves could be like, but also only a shadow of God’s mercy and grace.
But then, I know she will figure all of that out in good time. She’s still figuring it out.
One recent sunshine-soaked afternoon, Dan and I packed our smallish motor boat with the eight life-jacketed bodies of our growing children.
When we were all settled, I looked to my husband at the wheel.
“Where to?” he asked.
“Anywhere’s good,” I answered. And I meant it.
This is an old column of mine that originally appeared at InsideCatholic.