Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.
These words have become my main prayer for the child growing steadily inside me. It’s what I wish to it in prenatal yoga class when our instructor gives us a moment to send the baby a message. It’s what I pray with every twinge, every uncomfortable stretch of ligaments as it begins to demand ever more space within me.
Last month I went on retreat to the north of England for four days. In the walled garden was a labyrinth, formed from raised turf and grass, its path winding slowly towards the centre. No way to get lost. Only space to perhaps find something – a thought or prayer – that was lost.
I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth for a good five minutes before I took my first step in. Then I walked slowly, reminding myself to breath, self-conscious in case one of the other residents should wander into the garden at that moment. I walked to the middle, encouraging my mind to be still when it started to dart off in a hundred directions, pulling my thoughts back with the help of my own word – dwell, dwell, dwell. Dwell here in this moment.
I’d never have done this ten years ago, even five years ago. It might have seemed too mystical, too new-agey. I’d have said with a naive confidence that we didn’t need such tricks and games to pray. We could pray at any time.
I still believe that but now I’m older and I’m better acquainted with grief and with doubt and with heartache. And sometimes my body needs to enact what my heart has a hard time believing.
At the centre I stood and closed my eyes. I made it. I was always going to make it. There’s no wrong turn on this journey, although the double backs in the pathway at moments made me feel like I was getting further from the centre than closer. But here I stood.
I turned to walk out again, the way I’ve come. The labyrinth is a two-journey experience: in to the centre – of truth, love, grace, my own soul – and out again to the world, to the path I will keep walking now.
My hands slip down to my expanding belly as I walk. I’ve become one of those pregnant women who absentmindedly rub their stomach at awkward moments. Now as I walk along the grassy paths, my prayer repeats again: Be safe be safe be safe. And the tears start to roll as I think of the one who wasn’t meant to be mine in this lifetime.
Truthfully? I’m scared for this little one. As much as I’ve prayed against fear for the past two years, as much as I’ve embraced each day as another day toward that midsummer due date, as much as I’ve understood it wasn’t my fault. Still, I quietly beg this body of mine each morning to be a good home, a safe home for this child making itself known more each day.
It is totally surreal, this round bulging of my stomach. It feels too good to be true many days, that I will actually get to hold this child in my arms. I’ve wanted this so much that I don’t like to mention how hard it is too – how my skin is suddenly so dry it’s flaking, how my boobs have grown at least two sizes from their already-substantial start, making me feel bulky and matronly, how the ache of everything stretching can be so intense some afternoons it makes me want to curl up and weep.
But then a wild kick to the side of my belly and my heart bursts into a million happy pieces as I watch the movements vibrate across my front.
There’s no getting lost on this journey. No steps are wasted, no turns in the path are unexpected to the one who steps out ahead of me, showing me the way. What has been cannot be undone. And what will come, will come. The important thing is to learn to dwell here in the moment, in this step. And to discover in the centre of it all, unexpectedly, that I am safe.