“Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?” – Wendell Berry
There is a holiness to pregnancy that is overwhelming. At this moment, a child so young he or she has yet to be born is living within me. This child has committed no wrongs, has not disappointed in any way, and has known no wrongs or disappointments either.
And as a mother, I already feel this immense urge to protect them from everything. When I hear news about global warming or terrorism in a Kenyan mall, it feels more personal, more tragic. It is the world into which this baby will be born, and I can’t help but mourn its imperfections.
But there is a great difference between a keen awareness of life’s sorrows and cynicism about its future.
I hate cynicism. I always have, but now I hate it more than ever. Cynicism has ever struck me as a grand waste of time, a fruitless pursuit. It accomplishes so little.
Not to mention, it is terribly unoriginal. We live in such cynical times. Cynicism often comes as a pithy and self-gratifying bitterness caustically hurled about. People try to out-do one another with how pessimistic a spin they can put on an event, how dark a prediction they can make, how grim an outlook they can forecast.
But cynicism has no place in pregnancy. Pregnancy is about hope, and faith. It is about trusting that with love and good will someone loving and good can be born and raised. And that the world will be a little better as a result of the endeavor. Perhaps too, cynicism is a paradigm that you can’t afford when you think of all the years you have left on this earth, and how many more years afterwards your child will live here still.
So it is not for want of intelligence that I choose optimism. I won’t turn a blind eye to the realities of this world, or nod along apathetically where action or justified ire are appropriate. But I’m convinced there’s nothing more important than believing in the possibility of a better future, believing that the goodness of humanity outweighs its wickedness, that the virtues of this world are worth fighting for and can be preserved.
I’ll close my little pregnancy optimism rant or rave with a quote from Conan O’Brien, of all people:
“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”