A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. -John 16
My missional community has been studying Ecclesiastes the past few months. Last night we discussed the inevitability of pain as illustrated in Ecclesiastes 12 (and all over the Bible, really).
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come & the years draw near of which you will say ‘I have no pleasure in them.'”
Ecclesiastes has been difficult for me, but this verse and what we discussed really served me. One of the leaders asked a heart-probing question: how can we build a foundation for hope now in whatever season we’re in to prepare for the inevitability of suffering? In other words, how can we condition our hearts to trust God when darkness comes–because it will?
This conversation, of course, drew a lot of parallels for me as I think through childbirth (which is hopefully coming relatively soon?!) People have been asking me if I’m nervous to have the baby. Honestly, and I’m as surprised at this as you are, I’m not. Maybe I’m romanticizing my ability to withstand the pains and pressures of labor, but I think a lot of it has to do with mental state. I fear getting in an accident. I fear cuts and bruises and broken bones. I fear major surgery. But my mind and maybe my hormones tell me this is different– my body is cut out for this. Every person who exists was birthed by someone else, who likely survived the process. Birth is not a condition to treat or a wound to heal but a victory to be celebrated. I’m not saying I’ll enjoy it by default, but I am saying I’ll take it as it comes and find ways to deal with it, believing that each contraction brings me one step closer to holding that baby I’ve been growing inside of me for almost a year. A big part of it is preparation. I know how my labor and delivery go are not ultimately dictated by me, but there are some things I can do to get my mind & body in shape for it (yoga poses in the bathroom on my lunch break, reading birth stories, squats, talking it through with Tim, partnering with a doula, etc. etc.)
Similarly, the pain of any emotional anguish we will all eventually experience can be celebrated, but it takes preparing and guarding my heart in the mundane to do that. We are called as followers of Jesus to be joyful in trials — trusting and even delighting in God’s wise purposes as He uses our circumstances to beautify us into the image of His son. So how can we set a foundation of hope now? I call it “sowing good seeds in my heart,” or acting out of an understanding that there is no neutral when it comes to our hearts; we’re either watering them or we’re not. Not saying I am faithful in every season to make space for God. I rarely do. But I want God to continue to renew my mind about pain, and I know I must partner with Him in that. I don’t want to live my life hiding from it. There must be a way to embrace it, to surrender to it. Resisting it, I think, only makes it harder. I want to be attentive to whatever season He has me in, painful or not, and thoughtfully discern that “okay, even though this hurts like crazy, I am being transformed from glory to glory. I am being stretched. This is good. Maybe not my definition of good, but His ways are higher than mine. God, I trust you.” When it comes to the body, there is good pain and bad pain. But maybe it doesn’t work that way with God. He can redeem the darkest darkness and make it light, and I want to hope in that.
And I want to encourage you all, friends, in whatever pain you may be preparing for or walking through:
The times when we only see darkness are often when God is behind the scenes ready to pull the curtain up on light like we’ve never seen it before.
Side note on my birth plan, incase you’re wondering: By God’s grace, I’m holding it loosely, desiring a healthy mom and baby a million times more than checking ultimately arbitrary items off my birth plan so I can blog about how orgasmic it was later. I do not want to be a hero. Seriously. Frank breech baby and c-section? Maybe it would be a favor for me. Love to get things on the calendar, and this would be a big one! Planning an all-natural childbirth and then crossing Chicago Ave. for an epidural ? Sounds like classic Ashley, who will do almost anything for a funny story to tell. I’m not choosing a natural birth because I think any other way is lesser or wrong. I have no idea what to expect or what I’ll want. It’s mostly because hospitals make me really anxious. I chose my birth center for a more peaceful environment, and they happen not to offer pain medication, so I went with it. And in the process I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of unmedicated childbirth, which I am excited about, if it works for me that way.
How far along? 32 weeks
Baby is the size of a: Winter squash, approaching honey dew. He weighs 4 lbs now!
Total weight gain: 24 lbs. Recommended gain was 35 lbs for me. I have 7ish more weeks left. 2 lbs a week? I think I can swing that. Starting with the pizza I’m having in 2 hours.
Maternity clothes? Yes. I’ll speak no more on the matter.
Sleep: Big improvement somehow. Going to bed later (busier schedule?) has been helping me fall asleep more quickly & stay asleep. Hard time waking up, but nothing a single cup of coffee per day can’t fix.
Best moment this week: Really enjoyed seeing the Spirit move hearts at Missional Community this week. It’s a joy to encourage others to persevere in truth. Also, I’ve shuddered every time I walk by our near-finished nursery. That crib won’t be empty much longer, and it’s a really funny feeling! Realizing how big Ollie is has also been a strange thing for me. I mean, he’s not just “growing into a baby.” He is an actual baby. I googled “33 week baby” and was shocked at what I saw! He’s not a honeydew, he’s an actual infant that looks like me and has preferences and personality. I mean, duh, but it’s a weird thing to process since I’ve never seen or met the kid! The puzzling feeling is similar to when you say a word too many times and it begins to sound weird…or maybe the inverse of that.
Movement: Space is getting tighter in there, but he’s still a punching maniac. I can’t tell if he’s upside-down or not; we should be able to make a call on that at my next appointment (early April). Fun fact: beginning the first week in April, I get to go see my midwife every week until the guy is born!
Food cravings: CHERRY TOMATOES ARE BACK IN BUSINESS, and I am loving it. I bought 3 packages of the yellow cherubs last night. Also, grapefruit juice, bacon, and probably anything full of grease & processed carbohydrates.
Miss Anything? Not needing to rest when I walk up the stairs. Being able to slouch or bend over without feeling like I’m crushing someone.
Symptoms: I have been really lucky. I don’t have really any soreness except for the hip pain and intermittent charlie horses in the middle of the night. Back has felt great, which I attribute to regular chiropractic care and lots of water, stretching/yoga poses, and fish oil. The start of this trimester was a little rough (noticing the transition weeks are the most symptomatic for me), but I feel pretty normal now. All that could change soon, so I am trying to enjoy each day as it comes.
Mood? Tired, even though I got ample sleep. Must be time for my cup of coff.
Looking forward to: Honestly? Kind of looking forward to this pregnancy being over, just to avert this odd feeling of “who is this baby living in me?” and get a normal rhythm of life established instead of always preparing, though that’s exciting. I can’t complain. It’s gone by AMAZINGLY fast (sorry to anyone who feels like theirs is going on forever). But like I said, the guy is big. He’s fully developed, just growing and preparing for life outside the womb. I certainly want him to stay in as long as he needs, but I wouldn’t mind a little action at 37 weeks. You do what you need to do, buddy. Just know that Mom (SO WEIRD) is ready to squeeze you.