The past two days have held sacred moments with 2 different mothers-to-be, one just starting out her pregnancy journey & one coming to the end. These hours I have spent with them were filled with laughter & tears, prayers & conversation about the realities of motherhood here. Each woman is walking a different path, but both shared the complicated emotions that are created when one is pregnant here. Both shared the gripping emotion of fear. Fear from the knowledge that 1 out of 6 women in Africa will lose their newborn. Fear created from seeing & hearing other women in their families, friends, communities who don't come home after giving birth.
From the moment she knows she is pregnant, she has to deal with this fear. Throughout her 9 months of carrying her baby, she battles it. And as her time nears to give the gift of life, she fears her's or her baby's will be taken away. You might not recognize what's lying underneath the beautiful smile or the gracious greetings, but it's there. I see it. I feel it. I know it. She knows it when we talk, but we may never actually say the words.
There are coping mechanisms we all use when we are scared. In pregnancy, and especially in the face of losing one, an easy thing to do is to disconnect from our unborn child. One may say that seems ineffective because we, as women, long for our children. We long to hold the baby growing inside of us, we long to become a mother to our child. But, when the risk of loss is so great, our souls tend to disconnect without even being aware of it. I have had many things in my life that I have used this defense with. It's not easy to break through it either. Even though, your heart wants nothing else. It's scary, vulnerable & exposing to make the decision to connect with something in which the thought of losing it is so tragic.
But these past two days have shown me that my sisters here have tremendous capacity for connection in the midst of the fear of loss. Women have deep wells of love that continue to be unearthed in every trial we face. Every threat of loss, where fear wants to steal our joy, God can grant the grace & love needed to move forward. To put one foot in front of the other & choose love. Choose engagement.
Not that it's easy. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I could face some of the hardships women face here & come out as strong as they do. Maybe I underestimate God's power in me, or my own ability to love, but when I hear the hearts of my Tanzanian sisters & understand the fear that exists in the unknown outcomes of giving birth, I am continually in awe of their courage.
We try to stand with them wherever their standing in the moments we spend with them and God always shows up. And for that, we are thankful. After the education, conversations, tears & laughter, embraces, & words of encouragement, we know that the deep need for release from fear can only be done by God's Love and presence. So we pray. And we let God have the stage. The truth is that we are the hands and feet of Jesus, but the territory of the heart belongs to God. When ministering in a place where heartbreak is epidemic, the joy of God's presence, the lightness of His burdens, the deepness of His love, & the strength of His hope is the only answer for our soul's weariness. It's the only remedy for our suffering souls. Only His love can truly cast out fear.
I sit with wonder & thankfulness as I reflect upon my times with each mother this week. I am in wonder because I have the privilege of supporting these mothers, of ushering in the work of God's love and watching women's spirits lighten because they've experienced it. I am grateful for the skills & tools I have learned to help ease fears, to give mother's education where they want it, to create a safe space for women to talk & experience the loving presence of the Father. I am thankful for those mothers.
I am in awe that I am not doing this alone. That I am here with my dear friend, Lyndi, with whom I share the deep love of the Father for His women and children. Together, we are endevoring to follow God's heart in ministering his love here. Together, we truly believe mother's and thier babies' are worth fighting for. That fear will not win in the end & that all we have to do is show up. God will do the rest.