One of the things that has changed a lot since getting pregnant is my prayer life. In all honesty, prayer has been more of a struggle since getting pregnant than I thought it would be. I mean, what’s not to be grateful for? He’s co-creating a soul with me, gifting me with life and motherhood. Shouldn’t that draw me to prayer?
In a way, yes, being grateful for this child does draw me to prayer, but in another way, pregnancy has totally changed the way I pray. On a purely physical level, pregnancy has radically changed the way I experience Mass. Kneeling is something I gave up on months ago. At first, I simply got really light-headed whenever I kneeled, so I stopped for a time. By time I could kneel without getting light-headed, I found that I’d outgrown the pew, so to speak. The bump simply doesn’t fit in most pews while kneeling. Instead of being able to kneel like normal, I found myself kneeling and yet awkwardly leaning back (thus straining my muscles) to accommodate the bump – not a great option either. More often than not, Sunday Mass leaves me wiped out. The constant stand, sit (not kneel) motion leaves me dizzy, so half the time I end up sitting throughout most of the consecration.
Can I be honest? I hate it. I loved reading Pope Benedict’s Spirit of the Liturgy and realizing all of the reasons we stand and kneel when we do, and how our body and our posture connects to the liturgy and how we pray. I love that our worship incorporates all of the senses and movements of the body, and being limited in how much I can actually move during the liturgy is frustrating, to say the least. I want to kneel. I want to fully genuflect, whether it is entering/leaving the pew, or before receiving communion. And yet I’ve reached a point in pregnancy where a full-on genuflection would probably end up looking like a turtle on its back because my balance for such things simply isn’t there. If I’m being really honest, there are even times when I’m just so frustrated with my inability to move that it distracts me from the Mass. I spend the time stewing in my spot, looking between people’s backsides for a chance to see the altar, instead of spending it praying. Rather than close my eyes and see with eyes of my heart, I feed the frustration and annoyance because of what I can’t see with my actual eyes.
I know, at least in my head (my heart is another story) that this limitation is (1) temporary because, despite what I may some times think, this pregnancy won’t go on forever and (2) a challenge to increase my prayer life. My prayer and experience of Mass shouldn’t be based solely on what I can see or how I can or can’t move – it should also be based on the heart, on the sounds, and on the community. I also know that after I give birth, though my body will let me kneel again, a crying baby may not allow for such an experience of Mass. In a way, all the frustrations I’m experiencing are teaching me patience – patience with myself, but also patience for the days when a screaming/fussy child will take me perhaps further away from the physical experience of Mass than I’d prefer. Does that mean I should just give up now? On the contrary, it is teaching me to persevere because not only is God worth that effort, He continually ‘shows up’ and blesses me despite my frustrations and inability to move or pray the way I want to.