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?