Pregnancy, Pilgrimage, Penance

written mid December 2021, but I didn’t have enough stamina to polish until recently.

This December closes an era, and graduation from my nurse practitioner program will allow me to be able to focus more fully on settling into home ownership, married life and getting ready for baby on the way.

The purple robes bring a nostalgic feeling as I remember assisting at births, each time during a penitential season. I witnessed a birth for the first time on Good Friday, in a very hands-off role as a RN student. Last year I waited all fall to see a birth, and then finally helped with three in a day and a half the first Sunday of Advent. As a practitioner I had a much more hands on role. I remember the smells and my aching muscles as I physically supported the women’s chosen birthing position.

I first ventured to Kansas City just before the beginning of Lent, 2019. I returned in 2020 to work at a birth center with a midwife I’d met during my first stint as a travel nurse. (Another peds RN turned midwife? I kept her contact info!) My last weekend there, I was missing Derek on our first married Sunday of Advent with Derek as I attended Mass in the morning. I remember the homily preached by the priest, who had been my favorite to listen to when I was there for the previous three months. “Your vocation is your number one marching order for this Advent” He had been in the Navy before the priesthood.

Kansas city is hardly a popular pilgrimage destination, but relocating and longing for home has a way of snapping spiritual funks and reminding me what is precious about your normal routines. I feel almost like it’s easier to relate to my pilgrim status on earth. My travels to KC have always had a rhythm of a tremendous amount of effort followed immediately by a need to be present for others. This started the weekend I arrived as a travel nurse and attended a silent retreat my first day there before a Monday start at the Children’s Hospital. This trip, I would be up all night assisting with back to back births in the Topeka Kansas Immanuel birth center.

It’s not hard to connect the ideas of Advent and pregnancy, though I usually picture it more as a calm carrying. This year it’s been very penitential for me. Not quite as bad as the Ash Wednesday I got my oral appliance on, but almost, and it’s lasted a lot longer. The nausea never relents. Some of the food aversions are improving, but still every meal or snack requires incredible effort. Clearly there’s a lot of opportunity for resignation and grace through this process, but it’s caught me so off guard it’s been hard to feel that way.

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