So, our summer break from school (20 July to 4 September) started out wonderfully...
I spent some money on an inspiring Spanish DVD to give us a focus each money, chose a family chore for the day, a trip out every week.....we had piano lessons and swimming lessons to go to, we had a weekend away with friends and yes we even managed a day at the beach and an outing to the local stately home which only ended with one of the children in the hospital. We began the second Harry Potter for our after-lunch quiet time, hoping to watch the film at the end of the holidays. For over six weeks without 'going' anywhere due to my husband's work commitments (I did contemplate flying the 3Sisters to Spain, but the local airline insisted on another adult to help me out), the first week or so we were on a roll.
For anyone particularly eagle-eyed, yes my last post about suffering in pregnancy didn't refer to my previous pregnancies. It referred to the new one, the one we confirmed after we buried my grandmother, the one that explained why I was exhausted our end-of-term weekend (and thus came home a night early). It referred to the pregnancy which has managed to surpass all previous pregnancies in the sheer volume of NAUSEA I am experiencing and of course also includes some accompanying vomiting and nose bleeding (sometimes into the same bucket, at the same time......sigh.) Oh, and with this pregnancy I also developed ptyalism....I never knew drooling could be so annoying!
(This is not the time, by the way, for anyone to recommend Seabands, Vitamin B, raw ginger, crackers, fizzy drinks, eating, not eating, medication, pot or any other 'amazing' cure for morning sickness, thanks. There is nothing I can take that can shift my sickness and nausea during pregnancy, and usually, I can focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. And the light of God.)
As much as it doesn't sound like it, I'm trying not to moan. I'm trying to offer up my suffering and get through this positively. But it's easier said than done, particularly when faced with a ton of hormones that induce crying, guilt, desperation and worry. Yes, I'm managing to keep down enough food and, in particular, liquid, so I don't require hospitalisation. Yes, we have enough food in the house and money to pay for extra food to satisfy the whims of what I do or don't want to eat. I'm not in a Third World country or a warzone. I have an accommodating husband and three girls who can entertain themselves some of the time. And yet....
And yet, I'm finding it difficult to let go and trust God on this one. I find myself wondering all the 'what-ifs' - we're only 8 weeks in. What if? what if we lose this one, what about the risks of 'problems' with the baby, with the birth. If I don't feel I can cope now, what will the newborn weeks be like? How can I combat these hormones that induce rage and impatience? Granted, the unwelcome concern of my parents the strain of pregnancy and labour on me are partly responsible for my worries - but why I am letting them inside my head? A friend experienced psychotic episodes and a mental breakdown after the birth of her fourth - what if that is me?
And that's nothing to the feelings of regret I'm going through at this new pregnancy. It's part of me, part of my principles, my ideals as well as my heart that we would have a bigger family. Yesterday I was thinking that even three children was too much, when usually I want to share how wonderful it can be. I was wondering why the heck we had tried to get pregnant this time round when pregnancy is so difficult. And worse. I'm still wondering why God makes pregnancy so difficult. This puts our family under strain. My husband is a true godsend, but his paid work is enough juggling for any person without me delegating dinners and bedtimes to him every night while I avoid the kitchen and later try to keep food down. And I know this is likely a short-term thing, this too shall pass....
So where is my faith? My constancy? My obedience? My patience? My trust? Why in the face of dehabilitating sickness am I still turned inward? I keep getting moments that I know Jesus is giving me. The 3Sisters have never bonded so well. There is so much love in our family. We learn new things about each other every day. This new pregnancy is such a gift, whatever happens. But still I feel, several times a day, that I can't go on. And it's not always the tear-inducing pregnancy hormones that are responsible.
I will continue to offer this up in prayer. I've had a quick scout around the internet and found headlines such as 'morning sickness so bad I want to die' (which make me feel like a real whingepants in comparison), but it really seems there is no practical solution to my dilemma. I will continue to rely on a spiritual one, knowing I am supported my by husband and girls and the few close friends who I have shared the news with (a Facebook message from ThirdSister's godmother was such a welcome pick-me-up.) I can't be the only person out there going through this.
Sometimes you just need another person to share something with - and possibly have some insight and understanding - to get you through the day. Or another person's prayers. That's what I'm going to aim for. I had to blog this, even if it just ricochets around the web, to get some perspective. That's already helped. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
New life, new life
New life, new life
I'm not sure that those Depeche Mode lyrics refer to pregnancy at all, but they are bouncing around my head this morning. I just read a post by Brianna Heldt about the struggles and joys involved in being open to life (well, that's how I saw it!) and things have triggered in my brain.
Obviously, we can't be expected to be as holy as Mary and say "yes God, I will bear this baby and accept the inconvenience to my life without complaint", can we? (Can we?!!!) Is it sacrilegious to ponder whether she moaned and griped just a little bit? Other saints have certainly gone through life struggling with their sufferings, not always relying on God's support. What is acceptable for the rest of us?
I personally tend to find that pregnancy exposes my humanness, and can interfere with my spiritual radar. I don't like who I become, and at a time when it challenges me to rely on God the most, and be thankful for the newness of life, it tempts me to hide under the duvet and not listen to anybody!
There are certain things associated with motherhood that I'm fine with - changing nappies, cleaning up vomit, researching better ways to parent, even getting messier than I'd like with glitter and paint! But first trimester pregnancy is so utterly transformative - hormones affect mood, create nausea, induce complete fatigue and in general make me feel less like God's vessel than a slightly unhinged selfish person. Why do they get to enjoy food and enjoy staying up reading/watching television in the evening? Why can't anyone grasp merely by osmosis that I am feeling rough, don't want to chat and need a lie down? Why can't I carry this life within me without feeling resentful and cross, even though it is much-longed for?
I know hormonal changes have a lot to answer for here - and I have to admit I go through something similar with my time of the month. I remember answering someone's question about what I would like to ask God about after my time on this earth, by saying I wanted to know why women's reproductive systems were so difficult to live with! But I already have my own answer to this, don't I - they are complicated, because they are what brings new life into the world. Why should they be easy? the more I try and understand DNA and the whole process, it astounds me.
This doesn't necessarily help with the suffering and complaining though, does it? It's one thing to be able to contemplate and appreciate the mystery of God's wonders in the abstract, and another to deal with them head on with your head in a bucket, trying to parent 3Sisters when you want to be prone on the sofa. Brianna put it into context for me by focusing on the existence of the new baby's SOUL - I really don't want to be Grumpy Mama for my family, OR the tiny one growing within. But it's still troublesome to overcome my attitude when I feel physically dreadful, emotionally fraught and mentally drained.
It hardly compares to time hanging on a cross, I know, but I'm the kind to take my suffering seriously. So much so, it took my 7 year old to point out that my selfishness was on show. How can I expect little girls to empathise with what's going on inside of me, when they literally have no clue? It's an opportunity to show them that childrearing is wonderful, joyful and doesn't stop you from loving all the others like there's no tomorrow, so that they can take this memory into their futures. This isn't necessarily easy, but it's something to aim for. I don't want to pretend that pregnancy is a picnic, but I can shape the way I react to it - with God's grace (bring on the grace, God!)
I've also been thinking this week not just about Jesus on the cross, or Mary's sacrifices for God, but of God giving His son, Jesus, to us for the sake of humanity, and seeing him suffer and die. What we go through is little compared to that. I suppose it must just be holiness versus humanity. Pregnancy and labour reveal us in our humanness - this can be ugly, shameful and desperate. But it is us, and it is how we feel. I don't want to repress my feelings on the subject, but a blog is perhaps a better place for it than the dinner table (or whingeing from the sofa that I don't want to come to the dinner table.)
New life (and obviously my children in particular) brings an unspeakable joy to me. I find it unfathomable at times that I grew (well, God grew) my girls from a bunch of cells into what they are now. It's a mind-blowing process whose effects I think we are right to question - for instance, newly pregnant couples can struggle to find togetherness at the very time they need it most. Yes, it can bring out the best in us. But it can also bring out the very worst. It asks us to remember that God is in control, and simply trust. We have to remember to petition him frequently for assistance, and to help the others in our families who are also dealing with first trimester fallout. We have to take the bad with the good, and focus on the visceral reality of our lives.
I feel taken away from the things I love spending time with the most - my husband, my children, reading, singing, cooking. But they will still be there when the energy has been put into growing the baby. The physical, warts-and-all realness of pregnancy. The thing that has always been there, before the development of culture and aesthetics and 'me'-time. It's OK to feel like this, and talk about this, the difficulty of this. We aren't expected to do it alone, nor do we have to shut up and get on with it. It's just getting used to a new normal, as they say. It won't last for ever - it's a phase, this too shall pass, and although the clichés won't help me, something will (like Brianna did) because that's also the way life happens, thank God!
Apologies for the disjointed, unfocused nature of this random post. I blame my hormones ;-)