A Sacrament of Water and Lavender
For six weeks, I carried our son Carter in my belly, knowing that his days were numbered. While the day we’d say goodbye loomed ahead of us, ominous and unknown, I could not ignore that I still had a very alive, squirming baby boy inside me. He would not be able to sustain life outside the womb—but he was not gone yet.
Nothing became sweeter during this time than my nightly bubble bath. In a great act of kindness and compassion, my next-door neighbor brought me a gift of aromatherapy bath supplies and lotions. The labels promised to promote stress relief and sleep. The Lord knew I needed them both.
That night I ran a warm bath—the smell of lavender, vanilla, and chamomile filling the room. I climbed in, sunk down into the bubbles, and breathed deeply. The water washed over my body, and I closed my eyes, begging God for relief from the heaviness of the day.
I had filled the tub as full as possible, but no amount of water could cover my 35-week pregnant belly. So I lay there, my belly button staring back at me. As I watched my stomach rise and fall with each breath, it began to move involuntarily.
One result of Carter’s condition was that my uterus had very little amniotic fluid. For most women, this fluid (in addition to other functions) serves as a cushion between the baby, the mother’s organs, and the outside world. But without it, I felt Carter’s every move. I imagine he experienced more than most womb-bound babies, too.
I sat there in the lavender bubbles and watched Carter wiggle and squirm. He was positioned breech so I could see his little head rise up above my belly button, hands and elbows quickly poking out to the right and the left. I’d gently poke him back.
I began to talk to him out loud. As much as I could tell, he seemed to like it. He had never moved quite that much, so I kept talking. I told him how much his Daddy and I loved him. I talked about his big brother Cohen and stories from the day. All the while, my belly rising and falling, bulging in exaggerated jabs and shifting from side to side. The movements didn’t always bring me physical comfort, but they were cool water to my dry and thirsty soul.
The following night after our oldest son Cohen was sleeping soundly in his crib, I again filled the tub with warm water and bath oils. Carter wiggled, and I watched. I’d talk to him and sing him songs—songs that I would have sung while rocking him to sleep or soothing his cries. Songs that I would not otherwise get to sing. Sometimes, I’d just soak silently and rest the palms of my hands on my belly, waiting to feel his every move.
Bath time became our time.
God took warm water and essential oils and turned them into something sacred. The world around us, with all my pain and questions, faded into the background. Joy and peace were ours in abundance. I’d climb in to the waters jaded and emerge an hour later wrinkly but content.
While it’s been seven years since Carter wiggled inside me, I still take a bath at least once a week. I return to this sacred space not only to wash away the stressors of the day, but also to remember God’s goodness and to hand over my burdens. I fill the tub with warm water and bubbles, my body looking for rest and my heart seeking His salvation. I breathe deeply the scents of lavender and vanilla, and without words or fanfare, He meets me there.
Happy birthday to our Carter Benjamin, who was born and went to be with Jesus on February 2, 2011.