My wife and I affectionately call the baby in my womb “Little Tar Heel.”
I’m a UNC-Chapel Hill alum, who as a little, very tomboy-ish, kid wore Tar Heel tattoos on my face to school on big game days and pretended to be one of the players from the men’s basketball team when I played by myself in the driveway.
One day I was Mike Pepper, and the next James Worthy. I had everything from underwear that said “I’m behind the Tar Heels all the way,” to the big foam Carolina blue foot I wore on my hand whenever we were lucky enough to get basketball tickets.
Because my wife and I aren’t finding out the sex of our baby before birth, the natural process of needing to call the wee one something just eventually turned into Little Tar Heel. Apparently, we’d rather project basketball and college allegiances than gender expectations onto our unborn child. This kid’s greatest act of rebellion could easily be to become a Duke fan.
Both my wife and I have wanted to have a baby for a long time, and getting to this point, where I am healthily in my third trimester, has not been easy.
The day I first felt Little Tar Heel move, and realized it wasn’t gas, was truly a moment of bizarre wonder. At this stage in the pregnancy, I’ve learned the patterns of the baby’s movements and am getting to know a little bit about the soul forming into flesh and blood inside me.
For example, Little Tar Heel seriously loves bluegrass and roots music – especially songs with a gospel bent. Specifically, the baby dances a jig when my church’s band, The River Rock Band, plays for The Well, our Sunday evening service.
If bouncy movement is a measure of joy, then the baby also loves a little bit of chocolate, the sound of my wife’s voice, and the gentle pressure of our golden retriever puppy snuggling up to my belly.
Often when I feel the baby leap, I think of Elizabeth and Mary and the scene from Luke that we know as the Annunciation. I think of baby John The Bather leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb as Mary confides her news in her cousin.
Being closer to delivery, Elizabeth knew the movements and patterns of her unborn son and his leaping only affirmed what she sensed about her young cousin standing before her. She had seen the glow, or perhaps the hue of first trimester sickness, that women sometimes can’t help but notice about newly pregnant women long before their bellies give them away.
Elizabeth also knew what Mary needed. She called her cousin, who would be the literal bearer of the good news, “blessed,” not crazy, for her story of angels and God’s call on her life.
She celebrated something that was likely not received as good news by many around her, and she gave her a place to rest and be for three months.
In some ways that is exactly what Advent is meant to be for those of us still taken by this tiny child all these years later.
This time of waiting that is, year after year, a time of tuning in and listening to what is being birthed inside of us—the newness that God is asking us to make room for.
Literally pregnant or not, even if you don’t have a uterus, pause this season and ask: what is leaping in your womb; your deepest self, sending gentle warnings that it will get itself birthed, one way or another? In this time, we too need places we can rest and give voice to what is emerging from unknown depths that will no doubt rearrange everything we knew as our life.
The baby we celebrate this season shattered all expectations and projections (of which there were many!) about the kind of deliverer he would and would not be. Part of following in the Way he taught means that our own expectations about God and our lives also are regularly turned upside down. Advent is doing our part of preparing the way for this year after year. So, dear ones, what’s a-leaping in your womb?
Rev. Barbara Lea Callaghan is the Second Minister at Hancock United Church of Christ in Lexington, Ma. and a licensed psychotherapist. Barbara is passionate about building communities of depth and love that are engaged in liberative social transformation through the power and grace of God. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker, writer and general lover of life. When Barbara is not working she can be found outside exploring near and far with her wife Kate and their dogs Bela and Cuzco.