Whelp. My due date came and went. A week ago.
I can't even drive anymore. My belly protrudes so far outward that it touches the steering wheel unless I scoot back my seat...but then my feet can’t safely reach the pedals!
When strangers look at me, they say "Wow, you must be close to having this baby," and I respond, "Yeah, I was due last week." Then they nervously back up a little, as if my water is going to break right that instant and get all over them! Even my brother didn't want to go on a walk with me for fear of that very thing happening to him. That's fine. Fear me, people.
I'll sit in a squat to help my kids put their shoes on, then lose my balance and literally topple over, not unlike a tipped cow. My kids are pretty tired of my big belly, even though they haven't seemed to figure out that my lap doesn't have room for all of them right now. Every day they yell to the baby, "Come out!" and "Get born so you can play with me!", innocently forgetting that newborns can't really do anything and that they won't be able to carry her around on their bikes like they keep saying they will.
My "hobbies" seem to currently consist of drinking water and going to the bathroom. All. Day. Long. My poor bladder has, like, 2 oz capacity right now since my organs have such little room.
My hand-eye coordination has never been good, but nowadays I seem to drop something every day, and it feels like nothing in my cabinets even matches anymore because I've broken so many things.
The other day I found myself on Cheesecake Factory's website, opening up their digital menu, and looking at pictures of cake. Just sitting there at my computer, looking at dessert. I even printed out and laminated a card that contains pictures of Krispy Kreme's donut-making operation to help distract me from the pain while I'm in labor. "Trust the process," it says.
I've had insomnia for 1-4 hours nearly every single night for so many months that I don't even know what it's like to sleep through the night or function at full capacity anymore. Will I ever get my kids' names right on the first try? Has my mind always felt like a paper shredder? (And, of course, the reality of sleepless newborn life will not answer these questions for me anytime soon.)
I've eaten so many boxes of plain Cheerios to stave off nausea that I find them in my clothes when I'm going to bed.
I'm not one to obsess over my appearance or body image, but I'm at the point where I'm alarmed about the sheer quantity of skin I have right now...we're talking a square footage that I can't even comprehend. I've even dreamt about oceans and oceans of skin, my skin, nightmarishly piling on top of each other, limitless. Right now it seems that no amount of fabric can cover all of this stomach anymore, and I've gotten used to my belly peeking out of the bottom of my shirts every day. (I just can't bring myself to be that homeschool mom who always wears a dress.) Also, leggings count as pants right now. Sorry. They have to. I keep promising myself that after this pregnancy, I'm going to go vegan or something and work out for two hours a day. Maybe after I do that, my stretch marks will fade and my mid-section won't still look like I've been clawed by a bear?
I've already given my husband some fiery feminist rants about how it's not fair that he gets to go mountain biking whenever he wants, and that if I was freed up twelve hours a week to exercise after I have the baby, I would look like a body-builder supermodel too. I've told him that I am not going to go through another pregnancy during the summer in Florida, and next time he can join me if he wants but I am not staying here. I burst into tears and started sobbing about how he thinks everything is my fault when he merely told me he couldn't find his favorite jacket. Once, he started to eat an Oreo truffle I had been hiding in the fridge, and I attacked him with such a not-playful ferociousness that he offered to give it back. I saw genuine fear in his eyes in that moment. Later he asked my permission to eat another one, and I---this time in a much kinder frame of mind---welcomed him to do so, but he couldn't bring himself to eat it. I think he was still a little scared. He is one of the strongest and most assertive people I know (and I love that about him), but he has answered my craziness with patience consistently since he's learned a lot about his wife when she's like this.
And, going through this process four times in five years, I've learned a lot too.
I've learned that seasons exist. God built me with limitations, and He designed the season of pregnancy and newborn life to be a particularly limiting one. But this forced slowness of pace is one of the best things that could happen to me, and no amount of productivity could manufacture the beautiful ways He causes me to grow when I feel so constrained or useless. Let me explain.
As I wait for this baby, I have had to keep a very clear schedule. I look at the week on my planner and, aside from our weekly church gatherings and my midwife appointments, I have no plans. Right now I only have one more item on my to-do list...how often does any woman only have one thing left on her to-do list?
So I've had time to do things I don't normally do. I walked around a state park for a few hours and spent prolonged time sitting on a bench and looking at a river. Last weekend, the kids and I finished reading an amazing 1,477-page fantasy series, and we only started it two months ago. I watched a movie with my husband without trying to multi-task during it. I wrote letters to loved ones. In those middle-of-the-night bouts of insomnia, I've had time to sit with my Bible and journal, and pray and read and soak without feeling rushed. Though my mind currently feels a little sub-par when it comes to processing speed, I actually feel like I've had time to focus.
Being in a season of forced slowness has permitted me to see that so many things that I think are a waste of time are merely a submissive acknowledgement that I am a human being, dependent on God and full of all kinds of humbling limits. I think some of my favorite heroes from church history might've set a bad example in this way. It's quite possible that they spent themselves too much, to the detriment of their respective ministries. Even George Muller, Hudson Taylor, and Amy Carmichael---all of whom I so deeply respect---may have had gaps in their theology that led them to believe that God needed them to expend themselves more than they needed to take care of the bodies that He gave them. God, of course, has never needed anyone. I just read in the book of Numbers about a guy who was put to death because he picked up sticks on the Sabbath. The rules have changed since then, of course, but the underlying truth remains that God wants our lives to have a serious awareness of our frailty and need for times of rest.
I'm encouraged to look to the example of Jesus, who found it necessary to spend 30 years doing nothing particularly remarkable. He took the time to retreat from the crowds and pray even when they were demanding Him. He took a nap on a boat when the disciples wished He didn't. He cooked food and He ate. He didn't choose to invest all His time in the lives of crowds but primarily in twelve people, most closely only three. I certainly shouldn't deny my limitations any more than Christ did.
There's no doubt that the hour is urgent. I don't want to waste even one moment of my life. But I'm beginning to suspect that oftentimes, the very thing that causes our growth to be accelerated is when we slow down. It's that familiar backwardness of God's economy! A prime example was when Jesus highlighted that Martha's zipping around the house in service was so less pleasing to Him than her sister Mary's posture of sitting in lingering worship.
Yesterday morning I woke suddenly with a scripture replaying over and over in my head: "Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!" I think God brought Psalm 128:1 to mind because I had gone to bed feeling restless, and I needed to wake up knowing that it's good to walk in His ways. Not zoom, not fly, but walk, slowly yet consistently, like His disciples literally walked with Him from town to town. There will be a time when my days are full of neighbors and soup kitchens and hospitality and going to bed exhausted from good and hard work. But right now it appears that God has brought me into a season full of naps and rest and quietness and a little bit more scarcity. Embracing those seasons can be more difficult than participating in the busier ones. But as I aim to "walk in His ways," I need to be aware of my weak humanity and the need to function at the kind of pace that God sets for me. The two great commandments---love God, love neighbor---don't have quantifiable expectations or time limits, at least not that I know of. The Bible seems to communicate that it's better to walk slowly with Christ than to run in circles for Christ.
So, as I continue to wait on my body and not-yet-born baby to put me into labor---and both parties are frustratingly silent about their plans---I can take comfort knowing that ultimately, of course, it is God who has decided to slow my pace, and His timing is exactly what He intends for it to be. Yes, I'll drink the prune juice and eat the raw pineapple and get labor-inducing interventions as needed, but I can also embrace each day of not really having an agenda, trusting that the growth that comes from the inactivity is enough to prepare me for times when I'm able to do much more. As Jesus reminds us in John 15, I must abide in Him, because apart from Him I can do nothing. Hopefully this can encourage you as well!
And, yeah, please pray the baby is born ASAP. Feel free to ask that my stretch marks go away too 😉
I absolutely love going on walks, and at this point in pregnancy (39 weeks) it’s kind of the only exercise my majorly-protruding body can do. Since we moved to this house three years ago, I had to say farewell to my beloved strolls, as the nearest sidewalk is dangerously close to a busy road, and my walking buddies are three little people who are still learning to obey. I hate feeling limited like that. Earlier this week, I drove 20 minutes to my Mom’s house just so I could briskly walk around her subdivision. I loved seeing her, but the inefficiency of driving so I could walk was painful.
Then one evening, we were all playing in the yard and I was pouting about my lack of exercise, so my husband advised me to “walk around the house.” So I did many, many laps around the house. The next morning, with my husband gone and the kids needing supervision, I directed them to play near the (unlit) fire pit in our backyard, and I decided to walk around them. And I did. A lot. (I recorded it on strava and my tiny, tiny route looks hilarious. The kids and even the cat looked at me like I was a crazy person.)
And it felt great.
Why did it take me so long to figure out that I wasn’t helpless in my desires for exercise just because the typical options (gym/workout video/sidewalk) weren’t available to me right now?
It’s because I, like most people, am a glutton for needlessly placing limits on myself.
Feeling trapped is easier than finding solutions.
Just because I haven’t seen it done means I think it can’t be done.
And that’s a sad place to be.
My husband talks a lot about the difference between settlers and pioneers. (He has an crush on the 1800's.) Being a pioneer was terrifying and hard because, well, the trail wasn’t paved yet. There weren’t books available on what to expect. Parents and grandparents, in all their wisdom and value, couldn’t speak into the particular experience of making their homes in the mysterious western frontier. Instead, the pioneers had to be befriend and rely on people who didn't trust them or speak their language. (And, regrettably, our government and many of the pioneers dealt with the native Americans in terrible and inexcusable ways.)
There were so many unknowns, so many obstacles for which the pioneers could not prepare themselves, so much inevitable failure and pain. The settlers who came in after them were valuable to society too—they were society!—but were it not for the curiosity, boldness, and grit of the pioneers, it’s safe to say the East Coast would be a lot more crowded, and some of the planet’s most breathtaking natural wonders (and most useful natural resources) would remain unknown to the rest of the world.
My husband is of the pioneering sort. I remember feeling so limited when we considered his skills and applied for a ton of jobs, but we couldn’t find anything that fit him. However, with God’s gracious leading, he eventually took a big risk and started a business. He went door to door looking for customers. He sought counsel from other pressure washers and business owners, but there were a lot of solutions he had to figure out on his own...and now he’s the guy that other people are going to for advice. He's thriving in this role. Even a couple weeks ago, he showed me a chemical sprayer apparatus and told me that he completely improvised it. This contraption he made—that works brilliantly—is the only one out there...for now. He’s a pioneer.
I don’t know anyone my age with this many kids and I don’t hear any of my friends talking about how they walk in circles in their backyard to get exercise. But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong, or that everybody else is wrong. Every person on the planet regular encounters issues of varying significance that no one has taught us how to deal with. This is the first time being a human for all of us. The curtain went up, we were pushed onstage, the show has started, and our lives are being lived, whether we've ever felt ready for it or not. We can choose to despair at our cluelessness or lack of ideal environment. Or we can choose to be excited that we've been thrown onto a Conestoga wagon that’s headed west, and we will need to figure out how to do things that we haven’t seen done before.
If you read this and feel inspired to "find your inner strength" and take on a Me Versus The World mentality, that's not what I'm trying to advocate here. I'm not saying all conventional ideas are bad. I'm not saying the world has nothing to show us. Instead, I'm saying that in humility we can look at our situations and think "I can't handle this on my own. I do not yet know how I am equipped to deal with this. But, for my own sake and those who come after me, I will try." We can acknowledge how stupid it is to not seek God for wisdom (given that, well, He knows and controls all things) and we can find the Sacagaweas in our lives who can show us the way.
You don't need to become a conspiracy theorist to question cultural norms on a big or small scale. Whether you're choosing an alternative method of education, inviting homeless people to your wedding, or eating a cupcake more efficiently, you're looking at your current situation and saying "Status quo won't work here. I need to find the better way." Remember, limitations can be the very tools that help us discover and create beauty.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's a new day, and I need to walk some more miles around my fire pit.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today