Love Me

Monday, March 5, 2018

I walked into a dark ultrasound room and laid on the exam table, the familiar weight of pregnancy heavy on my back.

"Well, are you excited to find out what you're having today?" the technician asked in a chirpy voice as she squirted warm jelly on my growing stomach. 
I struggled for a truthful but acceptable answer. I finally settled on "My husband is very excited. We both are pretty sure we are having a boy."

That was true. The day I knew I was pregnant, my intuition told me I was going to have a son. It is strange to admit. I didn't know my daughter was a girl until her 20 week ultrasound, so to have such a sure, quiet knowing was foreign to me. 
The technician moved the ultrasound around a little more and asked, "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?" 
I gave the only answer that I feel like moms can give. "I don't care either way."
It was a lie, but I was too ashamed to admit the truth to anyone but myself. I was hoping for a girl, but more than I wanted a girl, I did not want a boy. Who can I say that to? Certainly not this cheerful ultrasound lady.
Before I had too much time to myself and my thoughts, the tech said, "That's great because you are definitely having a boy!"
"My husband will be so happy." I managed to say as my chest tightened a little. 

 I spent the rest of the day deeply disturbed I had to buy a blue balloon to make the big announcement to family and friends. 

I crawled into bed that night and nested into to my giant pregnancy pillow. I thought back on my life. I remembered being hurt, unloved, and broken by the boys and men in my life. The shame and fear washed over me like a hot shower. I remembered dark rooms full of uncertainty. I remembered hands where they were not invited. I remembered unwanted-ness. How could I bring more of that into this world? Unfamiliar movement stirred below my ribs; my son's first kicks were stabs to my heart.
My proud husband hung the pictures from the ultrasound on the fridge. One image bothered me every time I walked by: a grainy picture of my baby staring straight at me from his safe little space inside my body. I saw no humanity in that face - just a skeletal frame with holes for eyes, a nose, and mouth. It creeped me out. 
"Love me", his skeletal eyes plead. I always looked away.


Months went by. My belly waxed into fullness. In the final weeks of pregnancy, I struggled with the weight of what was to come. I think my midwife could sense some resistance in me. "Are you ready?" she asked at one of my final appointments. My answer surprised me. It had taken 38 weeks for me to shape the word "yes" with my heart.

Every night for two weeks, my husband walked with me. He held my hand as we wandered the neighborhood and sat with me on the curb when I ran out of breath. Early one Monday night, he patiently guided me up the steps of the birth center with excitement in his eyes. He helped my midwife fill the birth tub with warm water, gently helped me into the water, and rubbed my back as my contractions became stronger.  I remember his rough, calloused hands softly smoothing my sweat-drenched hair as I began to push.

When I brought my son into the world, the sun was peeking over the east mountains and only the birds were awake. They announced his arrival with cheerful songs. Once he was swaddled and fed and we were comfortably snuggled together, everyone fell asleep. My baby and I were alone. I held him in my tired arms and looked at his face for the very first time.

"Love me", his blue eyes plead. "I am joy. I am your missing peace."
In my bravest moment, I held him close and whispered, 

"Even if you weren't, there is room for you here."


The joyful early years of my son's life have allowed me to see the innocence of men. I understand now in a way I could not before that boys do not come to this world unfeeling. 

I see it in the way my son relaxes into my body as we watch cartoons together every morning. I feel it in the way my husband lifts me in and out of bed when I am sore from childbirth. I hear it as my brother-in-laws speak gently to me. "I love you, Channing," they say as they leave for school and work and missions. Those boys and men - the same ages as those who hurt me so deeply - utter words that heal my fears and aches. 

I smell it in the oatmeal raisin cookies my father-in-law bakes just for me when I visit, even though almost no one else in the family likes them. I read it as male friends and leaders from high school and college reach out to me on social media to encourage me. I sense it in the quiet kindness of the men in my church.

Men are not my enemy. They are my friends, my brothers and lovers, my uncles and cousins and sons and fathers. We need each other.

"Love me," they say, softly softly.
I hear their voices now
like the deep hum of a men's choir
in the halls of a church full of the women and children they cherish.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.