You’re going to want to tune in for this beautiful, raw, inspired truth from my friend Nikki today…
I have always had dreams of pregnancy. I would lay in the bath imagining what it would be like to see a little ripple across my belly, or put on a fabulous outfit, and turn sideways thinking of how much more awesome it would be with a #babybump. I would pick up speed on my afternoon runs dreaming about how great it would be to do this plus one. I would say to myself, “I’m going to be one of those fit moms who bounces back after pregnancy and fits into her high-waisted skinny jeans 6 weeks post-baby.” I wanted an all-natural home birth with a hippy-like vibe that had no resemblance whatsoever of a hospital room. That me was so determined for things to go her way as a first time mom.
After 3 years of struggle – surgeries, recoveries, more doctors and specialists than I can count, and more tears than this girl knew she had in her, finally came this glorious prize: pregnancy.
One by one I began to lay down each of my dreams. Because after multiple scares, another surgery, planning for a preemie, hospital bedrest, then home bedrest for 103 days, I didn’t have much left – but God – to hold onto. There were no daily adorable outfits, no running (or walking or standing for longer than a bathroom break), no hippie birth, no high waisted skinny jeans, and yes, even no baths. I sat day after day feeling like my body wasted away so my precious girl could live. And she did! She was born full term, against all the odds, and thanks to the power of God and the prayers of many (this is a story for another time, though). Worth it? Obviously.
I don’t share this to brag about how hard I had it, or even to demonstrate how faithful God was through that difficult time – though He was. I share this because you would think after going through all of this I would have entered motherhood with a more level head. That I would have better understood the reality that “man plans the course, but the Lord directs His steps.” Well, then you underestimate the human condition that forgets so easily and needs to be turned, again and again, back to God.
In C.S Lewis’ Screwtape Letters (a fabulous read if you haven’t come across it yet), the author depicts two minions of Satan writing letters to one another about the life of a man who they have been set out to tempt for his soul. One conversation struck me right to the heart. One says to the other, “Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming…when a person transitions from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.”
Dreaming aspiration to Laborious doing. Hmm. I’m listening.
I have this secret pinterest board. Before I was even pregnant I would pin images of “motherhood” to psyche me up for my future. I’m horribly embarrassed by it now, but here are some of those photos below.
Please. Don’t. Judge. Me. But this is what I had my eye on: Dreaming aspiration. And every once in a while I’d come across a funny meme of a new mom and laugh, pretending I had any clue about the hard times, thinking I would have a great sense of humor about them. Believe me. When my little girl arrived, I was not laughing.
I know they say no one can ever prepare you for motherhood. No one can explain what sleep deprivation will feel like or what a newborn sucking the life out of you will feel like, etc. I get that. But maybe if someone had said something other than,
“It’s really hard in the first couple of months, but it’s totally worth it, especially when you see a smile for the first time!” and said something more specific like,
“It’s the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s totally normal to want to run as far away from that baby as possible while also never wanting to leave her side. And if you’re having a C-Section your body will want to have more sleep to be able to heal from major surgery, but since you will have zero sleep, you may have hallucinations and wake up shaking and believe you are dying. This, believe it or not, will pass. Breastfeeding might be a nightmare and you might cry every time the baby cries because you just wish she could feed herself and leave your poor, throbbing breasts alone. And you will feel guilt. And hormones. You might not bond with your baby for a few days. weeks. months. And just when you think you can’t make it another day, that baby will smile and you will thank GOD, because just in the knick of time it reminded you that you do, in fact, love that baby not just in your biological instincts, even if the all-consuming nature of the past (how many days has it been? What time is it? Who am I?) has made your tired heart forget. And though you might feel like you will never do anything other than feed, sleep, cry, change a diaper, repeat, you will. Maybe not today, but one day.” And all of that is apparently “normal.” (insert shock face).
Maybe then I could have felt more like a warrior princess instead of a casualty of civil war. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so guilty 3 days in feeling that disappointment and anticlimax Lewis was talking about. For me it is having a newborn baby. For you it might be a marriage, a small business dream, your relationship with your kids, your finances, your ministry, a life you imagined you’d have (fill in the blank).
The problem is our culture doesn’t like “watering down” the good stuff with that icky difficult stuff. People get squeamish when they ask me how being a new mom is and I answer, “it’s so incredible and I’m so thankful every day,” and “there’s a lot that I’m struggling with, it’s not what I imagined,” in one breath. But the Christian faith is very comfortable with the marriage of joy and hardship. In fact, it’s a necessary part of refining our faith, and getting to a deeper knowledge and love of God. You can’t get one without the other. They are not separate, but different parts of the whole.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:1-2)
“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it. So strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” (Hebrews 12:11-12)
Those two minions from Lewis’ story didn’t want the mind to be focused on dreaming aspiration because it is better than laborious doing, but because they know it’s an empty pursuit. They know that the painful road runs parallel with the everlasting one of joy. And Christ loves us so much that He would never rob us of that glorious work no matter what our culture or human nature says. God showed His love for us afterall – and the picture of it was certainly not puppies and rainbows. We need to stop feeling like we have to fix people’s laborious doing when that is exactly the thing that will outshine their dreaming aspiration and produce a good harvest in them. It might even produce some moments and seasons that are better than any neat, pretty idea. I’m only 2 months in with this miraculous, precious human being, and already I see it happening.
And then that pinterest board of fantasy ideas will seem so small, so silly, so empty, that you wonder why on earth you ever thought that was the thing you wanted. And then on the hard days, you might wish you could have it back – because it would be easier. Afterall, that mom doesn’t have a baby spitting up all over her as she’s typing this right now.
But as for me, I will call on my God to strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees, because there is a harvest in me, in my children, and in my family awaiting. And no amount of dreaming will get us there.
I have some laborious doing to do today.
*[The beautiful pictures of Nikki and her family were taken by the talented Vicky Starz Photography.]