The cliché is a picture says a thousand words. This seemingly innocent picture, however, has much more to say, and (dare I say) I hope I can explain its importance in less than 1000 words. If you do not know, this picture is of my wife and the executive director of Biking for Babies. For me, these roles are distinct, but also so much more blended than people could ever imagine. I am the photographer of this picture (waiting on my call from National Geographic any time now…) and my wife had no idea I took it. It may be obvious, but she is on her phone in the hospital. When this picture was taken, she was having strong contractions every 10 minutes. In between each contraction, she picked up her phone. Before this picture was taken, I asked her what she could possibly be doing on her phone. She told me she was moving events in her calendar and sending “a few” Biking for Babies e-mails to make sure that her giving birth to our child didn’t derail too much of the current operation of Biking for Babies as the national ride was starting the next day. When she told me that, I had to take this picture, and this is where my story about this picture begins.
First, you must understand when I took this picture, I had a mix of emotions – and that is precisely why I took it. Here is a mini glimpse into our marriage…I am working on responding slower to situations and moments of stress in our house. If anyone knows me, I am a very passionate person which is a blessing and a curse. When I took this picture, I must be honest and say one of the more dominant feelings I was having was a bit of anger…okay, maybe a lot of anger with my wife when she nonchalantly stated she was WORKING during labor. Therefore, in my attempt to work on slowing my reactions I took this picture and let the moment pass. I looked at that picture a few times the nights after our daughter was born on July 11th and the beauty of that picture would continue to unravel before my eyes.
My wife had her first C-section delivery which was unexpected. For all you moms out there who have had an unexpected C-section, know that I said an extra prayer for you after our daughter was born. It was an emotional and physical (for my wife) challenge. My wife’s recovery was painful to watch, but she took each moment in strides. The day after she gave birth, I saw her on her phone again. And again, she was slowly making her way through Biking for Babies e-mails. This went on for the next couple of days, even when we got home from the hospital. I looked at this picture again one of the days we were home and I finally said something, “Nikki, you don’t have to work right now. The ride is going to be okay without you.” I said this thinking she may fear that if she wasn’t involved that somehow the ride would just stop. She looked at me, and with tired eyes she shrugged and said, “if I can even do a little something to support the ride and our missionaries, shouldn’t I?”
I want to take a second and be very honest with you all to get the full point of this message. First, so everyone is clear, my wife has and could have taken a maternity leave. Biking for Babies 100% supports and wants her to do that. Second, to be very vulnerable, I do think part of the impulse to check her Biking for Babies e-mails was that she didn’t want to feel out of touch with her job. I imagine that is a very real and difficult emotional challenge for all working mothers. And though I hope we come to a place in society where our jobs can take a backseat to our families, I want to now explain this very profound line my wife gave me. You see, it may have been this impulse to continue working that caused Nikki to start looking at her e-mails, but it was NOT the psychosocial pressure that maintained her habit of working even when it was very difficult for her to work. It was because, in my wife’s heart, she knows that Biking for Babies proposes and challenges all of us to give just a little bit more to our community and to the lives around us. We discussed her response to my question weeks after our daughter was born and I was in tears because as her husband, I wanted so badly to rip her phone away from her. I wanted to say, “it is just a job!” to my wife. But that is the thing, Biking for Babies is more than just a job for our family.
Yes, it keeps the lights on and puts food on the table, but at the end of the day, we pray, hope, and have faith that this “job” will ultimately bring us closer to Christ and allow us to live more authentically pro-every-life each and every day. And this picture that I keep on my phone still reminds me that after all these years, Biking for Babies is allowing our family to become better versions of ourselves. It is giving us opportunities to sacrifice and love those in this organization and outside this organization. My wife didn’t have much to give Biking for Babies after our daughter was born, but what time and energy she was able to give, she gave. Nikki had every right to take a maternity leave, and no one would have known any different. However, I use that word “right” very intentionally. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that he has rights for the work he has done in Corinth, but he refuses those rights to freely give of himself in the manner that Christ freely gave of himself for all of us (1 Corinthians 9:1-27). This is the uncomfortable truth about creating a culture of life. A culture of life does not force or demand that we give begrudgingly or haphazardly. Rather, a culture of life proposes an idea that we may need to give more freely of those things in which we feel we are entitled to have. It proposes that maybe by letting go of some of our comforts, no matter how small or how big, we may in fact save a life. This is what the national ride proposes to our missionaries. They all have a right to work and earn money the week of the national ride. They all have the right to go on family vacation. They all have rights that they freely give in hopes that their lives and countless other lives may change for the better. And if you are counting, you will know that this picture is in fact worth more than 1000 words.
Would you like to learn more about being a Biking for Babies missionary? If you feel called to give of yourself in new ways in the pro-life movement, head to this link: Missionary Formation – Biking for Babies. Our applications for 2022 missionaries are open!