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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

How Being Pregnant in a Scary World Helped Me Believe in Humanity Again

I admit, I was hesitant to bring a child into this world. With the news constantly barraging me with presidential debacles and natural disasters, it’s hard to sleep most nights let alone bring an unknowing soul onto the planet.

Welcome, baby. The world will likely flood, flame, or explode. You may run out of potable water. Our leaders may not protect you. The headlines will scare you. Nevertheless, welcome. Then I became pregnant and strangely, the world felt safe again. The flip was so sudden, I wasn’t sure how to take it. It’s not that all countries suddenly formed a peace pact or miraculously the weather systems stopped raging. No one chanted “Kumbaya” in my ear. Nothing had changed except my belly size, which weirdly prompted the universal kindness of strangers. And it went a little something like this…

Pregnancy inspires radical kindness.

Being pregnant, I caught people smiling at me. Not just smiling, but staring and smiling. Cyclists sped by my waddling self, pausing to cheer out, “Congratulations!” I got VIP skip-the-line treatment at public bathrooms, no questions asked, no squeeze-my-legs potty dance. Flight attendants upgraded me automatically and waiters gifted me free food just to “take care of the little one.” Women (who have long snubbed me) suddenly showed genuine interest at happy hours, as though my grapefruit mocktail inducted me into their private club. Children drew me hand-drawn cards and coworkers knit me wooly hats. Doors were opened for me by hurried strangers, compliments got flung at me by homeless men, and mere acquaintances showered me with hundreds of dollars worth of onesies.

Wait, I thought the world was cruel?

This treatment was not unique to my hometown of California. While hiking this summer on our baby-moon, I consistently had European women rub my abdomen, telling me how brave I was. Later that week at a pub in Annecy, the host brought me the entire bag of after-dinner mints, saying the baby was “just too sweet.” The parking attendant man in Barcelona valeted our car so I wouldn’t have to walk. And the list goes on and on.

On the homefront, daily chores became simpler. I didn’t carry groceries to my car for months, as the cashier brought them out for me. Pumping gas was no different; I got offers to press the gas lever left and right. Even take-out got dreamy. On a particularly frumpy evening seven-months prego, a woman sprinted across the parking lot to my car, just to tell me how beautiful “my glow” was. I stood there next to my car, take-out pad thai in my hands and hair I hadn’t brushed in days. She smiled, I said, “thanks,” and my evening got a little lighter.

Just because my belly had a baby.

I am not special. I am no queen. I am a woman who gained 30 pounds with my daughter. In real life, no one ever offered me free chocolates or compliments in parking lots. And no one definitely ever adored me for my weight gain. Can you imagine?

Here you are, gorgeous round girl, eat another mint chip delight. Your fat is what makes you free.

If these random acts of kindness happened in moments of blatant struggle (such as getting my large belly off a low-rise couch), then I’d understand the small generosities. An outstretched hand here. A leg-up there. But all of these kind acts happened out of the blue on unexpected weekdays.

And in these accidental hours, my opinion of humans changed. What shifted? Physically, I got rather round. Internally, I grew a tiny baby. Spiritually, my unborn human invited grown-up humans into the fullness of their humanity.

The human heart still believes in innocence, and babies hold the cultural corner of that purity. Despite the heartbreak of the evening news, babies allow our souls to pause. They are the final frontier where we dismiss our fears and give selflessly. Our guards drop. No one worries if an infant will harm them. No one cares if a baby is Republican or Democrat.

Nothing matters except caring for the innocent.

Because giving to the innocent lets us all feel innocent again.

And innocence, not fear, is what the world desperately needs.

We all started in ovarian innocence and from that place, our mothers were offered seats on buses and smiles that made her strong. The world was soft. People went out of their way to protect us. During pregnancy, the world swaddled us into safety. The first few months after delivery, everyone doted on us. Yet by the time we were having temper tantrums in aisle nine, strangers began giving us (and Mom) the stink eye.

It’s a rough switch.

And then, adulthood hits and we all start pointing the finger at each other. All those innocent babies grow into opinionated adults and swiftly, it becomes hard to see anyone as blameless.

Yet what if we could?

If we could see other as the tiny creatures we once were, tiny-little-baby people, would we protect our fellow (wo)man more? Would we banter less on Facebook, honk less in traffic, and let ourselves be nice again? Would we be less afraid? Would we trust more outsiders? Would we welcome more guests?

The world changes through small gestures and small humans give us a clue into true transformation. As we search for ways to make life a little more magical, consider this: Let someone have your spot for the loo. Give a sincere compliment to a frumpy stranger getting take-out. Hold the door open for others, especially when you are in a hurry. Your kindness will change lives. The world will become gentle again. Their souls (and yours) will get restored.

This season, give the gift of unsolicited kindness. It can change everything. It has changed me and I promise it can change you. The world becomes way less scary when everyone is ready to embrace you.

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