I was never really a baby person: I did not do much babysitting as an adolescent; except for my little brother, there were not a lot of babies around me growing up; and I was just never all that jazzed about babies. They seemed delicate, loud, messy, and mysterious. I never had maternal urges in early adulthood, and my friends found constant amusement in any scenario where the question arose about who should take care of a baby in a pinch – obviously, the baby should not come my way. But the time my husband and I were engaged, we were not even sure we wanted to have children.
Then in my early thirties, a switch flipped and I realized, in fact, I did want children. I still was not sure about other babies, but I was excited about my own. But then a funny thing happened. I was ordained a deacon when I was about seven months pregnant. What I did not realize was once you are ordained, you handle babies a lot – in baptisms, in walking moms through pregnancies and births, and even in the receiving line at church. Once I went through babyhood with my own daughter, and she was no longer at that lovely, innocent stage, I realized my vocation included mothering a lot of other babies. It has become one of my favorite parts of ministry because it is a glimpse into the wonder and mystery of creation and the grandeur of our God.
So, you can imagine, when this pandemic hit, among the myriad reasons my heart hurt was not being able to interact with babies. Our church had babies born during the pandemic and it killed me to not be able to welcome the baby at the hospital and give the baby and family their first blessing. My heart ached to see baby photos on social media and know the babies were growing up without the church surrounding them in love. But mostly, my arms palpably felt the absence of holding babies, swaying to keep them calm, and smelling their unique baby scent.
As we slowly come out of this pandemic, I am keenly aware of the privilege of holding babies again. At a recent wedding I tentatively asked a guest, who I did not know, if they would like me to hold their baby to give them a break. When they quickly passed me the baby, my face lit up. Last Sunday, when I finally got to hold the baby we had prayed for all during her time in the womb, I was elated. And as we approach two more baptisms this weekend, I could not be more excited to make those special connections – even though they are not really babies anymore! One of the blessings of the rise in vaccinations is enjoying the sacred honor of touch, of experiencing vulnerability and innocence, and of redefining the boundaries of family. This week I give thanks for the abundance of love and joy. May you all find your own encounters with the holy this week!