Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Different Kind of Hard

Last summer, when I pushed myself to my limit and kept on training for a marathon despite dealing with exhaustion and morning sickness, I often told myself, "If I can run a marathon while pregnant with my ninth child, I can do anything." I felt myself stretching and growing from the experience of pushing against so much resistance. It was hard, but it was a thrilling hard, as I explored what I was capable of and found my body and spirit strengthened in the process.

But I've changed my mind about the "if I can do this, I can do anything" issue. Because I'm having a hard time with this pregnancy.

I really hoped and believed that pregnancy would be easier on me this time -- with the greater fitness, surely the last months would not be so torturous! And in some ways, it has been. My morning sickness, though awful, brought me low only in the afternoons and evenings instead of all day. And I'm sure the weight loss has helped in ways I don't appreciate (after all, I weigh less now, with four weeks left, than I did a year ago!).

But as my belly has grown larger, my energy and patience have grown smaller. I've had a cough for over a month and between that and the regular sleep problems I experience with pregnancy, I have not slept well in ages. I wake up in the morning more tired than when I went to sleep the night before. With the lack of sleep and the requirements of growing this baby, I think my body has decided to forget about working its immune system for now. Two weeks ago, six weeks felt so near -- surely I can handle just six weeks! But this last week, with my health feeling so precarious, I've reached the point several times where I say to myself, "I have nothing left." In those moments, four weeks feels like four years!

And I find myself questioning why I'm such a wimp -- I can run a marathon but I can't handle the last month of pregnancy? But as I've thought and prayed about it, I've realized that challenges come in many different forms and seasons of our lives require different strengths. The work of last summer required determination, strength, effort, and faith. The work I'm facing now, with four weeks left of pregnancy, requires a different set of attributes: patience, endurance, and a different kind of strength.

This is a season of rest and of conserving what energy I have. It would not be wise to push myself physically right now, and so I wait, allowing many of my talents to lie dormant. In many ways, it was easier to run the marathon. I knew what I was going for. I had the milestones and training goals along the way to cross off the list. I had the satisfaction of achieving. There was so much to celebrate.

But now, there is very little to show for my efforts. I keep my home clean, my household running fairly smoothly. I give my kids love and attention and try not to lose my patience with them despite my exhaustion. But I'm too tired to do any more than that. And that's a different kind of hard. I'm hibernating, trying to conserve the little strength I have to give to the basics and reminding myself that spring will come. This baby will arrive and the sacrifice of pregnancy will be largely forgotten in the joy of those moments. My body will heal and renew itself and I'll get to move into a season of celebrations rather than a season of waiting.

My season of winter, of dormancy and limitation, is actually fairly short. There are many who endure years and years of this kind of challenge, whether because of age or health problems. I visit teach a woman who has endured much in her life. She's had two lung transplants. The medication she takes daily keeps her body from rejecting the foreign lungs but also leaves her immune system compromised. She has to be careful whenever she is in public places so as not to catch the slightest illness. She is limited in strength and energy and deals with diminished capacity on a daily basis. Training for a marathon will never be in her future. But she's making the best of her life, raising and loving her children and adjusting her life accordingly.

I wonder sometimes if the tough, tough days at the end of pregnancy don't give us sympathy and understanding for those whose stage in life is otherwise so utterly foreign to us. Five years ago, when health and age made a move to an assisted living facility necessary for my husband's nearly-ninety-year-old grandmother, I took over a large share of her care and visited her every day. The disruption in her life was extremely difficult for her to adjust to and she often expressed her frustration -- hadn't she lived long enough? Couldn't she just go home to her Heavenly Father? What more did she have to endure? I could understand her feelings in large part because of how I feel at the end of a pregnancy -- Won't this baby ever come? How many more days of fatigue and exhaustion can I endure? Will this really end?

So while I'm eyeing the calendar and counting down (4 weeks is 28 days -- surely I can hang on that long?), I'm also grateful for the lessons I can learn from this challenge, even if it is a different kind of hard.

What are some hard things you've experienced in your life? What have you learned from them?

18 comments:

3in3mom said...

My prayers are with you as you find joy in these final weeks. <3

Cheryl said...

Christina, I could have written this post! Except for the marathon part. Or the "trying not to lose my frustration with my kids" part, because I'm failing miserably there...but still!

I hear you. Oh, how I hear you! This has been, by far, the toughest pregnancy for me physically. Luckily, it's been the best pregnancy for me mentally (long story).

But it's true! It will end! You will have your baby.

I think the hardest trials we've had to face have to do with finances. We have such feasts/famines when it comes to our finances, and even though we try to make good choices, we usually find ourselves on the famine side way too often. This has been a real strength of faith for us because when will it end? Never? When we die? Not having the knowledge of when our trials will end is usually 90% of the frustration. Maybe 95%. :)

Hang on! She'll be here before you know it. :)

Cheryl said...

Ahem: Real TEST of faith, not strength of faith...

Dina said...

Just as you said about people dealing with issues on a long term basis, I tried to focus on the fact that there is an ending to a pregnancy. As you remember, I was on bed rest for 17 weeks after my water broke with my twins at 17W5D. It was grueling in many many ways so I can relate to your fatigue. But I kept telling myself that people deal with life long health issues and I will be up and about shortly. You can do hard things--you've proven that again and again. It's ok to hibernate. Just get through each day as best as you can. XXOO

Rachel said...

I so understand where you are coming from!:) While my pregnancies have never felt too challenging for me, other things have for sure. We're in a spot right now that is very hard, which I need to just give you a call and chat sometime:) But I do think it's a good idea to slow down sometimes and just focus on what you can. Good luck!

Natalie said...

Beautiful Christina. Does it offer some solace to know that your talent for writing is far from dormant? I love how well you are able to express what you go through. I'm just impressed that your house is still clean! Just a few short weeks...but I know how tiring every day can be. I'm so sorry you aren't getting good sleep. That can darken anyone's outlook. Good luck. You're doing great things!

Angie said...

what you are doing is alot and all while growing another human. Conserving energy at this end stage of the pregnancy is a huge part of not running faster than you have strength. End of pregnancy exhaustion (especially with older children) is nothing like a marathon (having done both). A marathon is short-term by comparison.

My VT comp and one of the women we teach both have RA. Their pain levels are intense and unending and likely only to get worse. Perhaps the biggest thing I have learned from them is that some times it is time to slow down, when to take a personal timeout in order to have something to give at all the next day. I think it's definitely okay to learn that same lesson where you are in the homestretch of this baby's growing journey. There is no shame in resting!

Maryanne said...

I think it's pretty amazing to keep up with your house and give patient attention to your kids-- that's a lot. I remember vividly how awful I felt my last month with Isaac. I hope it flies by.

Diane said...

I just got to reading this now. Earlier today, I had a sense that you were struggling. I am going to bring you dinner on Friday. I will probably drop it off around lunch time.

Amber said...

You will make it!! You have no other choice!!! Isn't that just life? We endure because we have to. Life!!! Hang in there-- I'm impressed that your house is clean-- that is awesome!!! I want to be like you when I grow up!!

Amber said...

Also, pregnancy is much harder than competing in any physical event. You should be very proud of your accomplishment and nine times at that!!! Good job!!

Handsfullmom said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

Dina, I hadn't realized you were on bedrest THAT long -- wow, that puts things in perspective.

Rachel, I'd love to hear from you. Call me!

lesa said...

Hang in there! You can do hard things and you will make it one day at a time. Your picture is cute and you look great!

Sarah said...

Oh, I think pregnancy is harder both physically and mentally than any old marathon!!! Especially those last back breaking (literally sometimes!) weeks! :)

ashley said...

When I was pregnant with my third baby I had a really bad chest cold the last month of pregnancy. I was coughing (and changing my underwear...) constantly. It was a tender mercy from God that she was my only baby to be born before my due date; and since she was a full week early she was small and the labor was a cinch compared to my previous 10 pounder son.

So I wish for you an early fast labor and delivery. I'm counting down the days with you...I'm due Feb. 18 with our 6th- a girl, too!

Kelly said...

Thinking about you in the next few weeks. Even though it is soooo difficult I hope you can enjoy these last couple weeks as the only weeks you'll have you're baby all to yourself. You're clearly doing a great job with your family. Allow yourself to relax on some things and try to rest as much as possible. You're an amazing and motivating woman!

Joy For Your Journey said...

This is so beautifully written!! I am sorry you are struggling with the last few weeks of your pregnancy, but I hardly think being 8 months pregnant with your ninth child is whimpy!! You are awesome!! But in times of trials, one of my favorite stories is about Alma and his people when they were in bondage. They prayed for delivery but instead (at least initially) the Lord just blessed them so they wouldn't feel the burden. But the burden remained. There have been a few times in my life when I have had to pray for that same blessing since I knew the burden was staying.

Best wishes!!

Corine said...

I'm thinking the same thing Maryann said; you are still amazing! I do hope you are blessed with a wonderful second wind soon...

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