How We Tell Our Story

my story

Today marks my 33rd week as a pregnant woman. For as much as that title has been on my heart and mind the past seven months, I haven’t written about this new stage of life very frequently. Other than a few mentions and our gender reveal, I’ve only written four posts* about pregnancy. Pretty minimal for someone (this girl, at least) who processes through writing.

Despite my commitment to authenticity, writing about my pregnancy put me in a tough spot. For one, I often felt too raw and unrefined in my journey to be writing anything constructive. Just thinking about the changes happening in my body and our little family were overwhelming enough, let alone trying to communicate those feelings. I could barely wrap my heart and mind around what the next nine months (and the rest of our lives) would hold.

Secondly, I didn’t want to proliferate the feelings of comparison that I was struggling, and still sometimes struggle, with. [pullquote]Pregnancy is a minefield of places to compare yourself to others.[/pullquote] There’s weight gain and maternity wardrobes, OBGYNs and delivery methods, energy levels and nausea on top of your overall mental state about being pregnant and having a baby. And where there is comparison there is also judgement. I would read/hear about other people’s experiences and compare my own. I would judge them and I would judge myself. I didn’t want any of my thoughts on pregnancy to promote comparison or judgement for others, so I just didn’t write much about my own experiences.

Then I got the most life-giving and encouraging pregnancy wisdom from a mom who also happens to be pregnant herself. After sharing some stories about labor and delivery, she went on to say that everyone has a different story. Each story is unique and that’s what makes them all beautiful. So simple and so freeing. [pullquote position=”right”]There is no right or wrong way to be pregnant, give birth, or be a mom.[/pullquote] I can embrace the story that God has written for me, and at the same time, I can appreciate the story that God has written for someone else.

I want to be a pregnant woman and a mom who finds joy in her own journey, and all of the uniquenesses therein. I also want to be a pregnant woman and a mom who encourages other women to find beauty in their own unique journey. That’s the motivation behind sharing any life experience, whether baby related or not. When our stories are similar, that’s great and I hope there is encouragement and support in the similarities. But when they differ, I hope you are still encouraged by a God who shows up in all sorts of stories.

*My 4 posts about pregnancy:

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How Grief Gives Me Joy

She said you carry them inside you, collecting them along the way, more and more and more selves inside you with each passing year, like those Russian dolls, stacking one inside the other, nesting themselves, waiting to be discovered, one and then another.

Shauna Niequist | Bread and Wine | 182 

My Gramma had a set of Matryoshka (Russian) dolls. I remember carefully unlocking and lining up each new, smaller figure. The thin wood gave off such a distinct smell; I could almost smell the craftsmanship required to create that very set. Each doll had similar coloring and patterns but didn’t look identical to the one before or the one she held inside. Now, years later, I cannot think of a better picture of this process called life. Though the core of who God created us to be remains intact, we develop different layers as we mature. Each layer, like those stacking dolls, is still inside, making up our history, filling out the person who we have and will become. Our season in life and our circumstances help form the current shell, but we can unpack those former selves with some simple pressure on the seams that hold us together.

Unpacking

Sometimes I can’t wait to jump into a newer and bigger self. I’m all too eager to cover up my previous model and start filing out the roomy interior of my new circumstances. Although there were nerve-racking elements to the transition between high school and college, that was one time I was ready to move on. I wanted to explore a new place, stretch my intellectual, spiritual, and social muscles in a different arena. Distance and youthful energy helped me snap the college Emily shut over her high school counterpart.

Then there are the times I have a hard time clipping the newest doll over the old one. I’m not ready for the changes that come with a new season. I fear the old doll, my old self, will be lost, that everything embodied in part of me will be gone forever. The years following college were a bit like that. The seams of a new season were already pressed shut around me but I so desperately wanted to go back to what I knew best. I missed the structure and scholarly stimulation of higher education. I missed the freedom, with limits, that college afforded. My new responsibilities and the endless possibilities made me uncomfortable.

I’ve added a couple more dolls since then. I established a wonderful community of friends in California. I dated, then married, Tim. We moved to Idaho. We became homeowners. We began chipping away at developing a new community. Each of those new layer was added with mixed feelings, some more mixed than others. And now what seems like the biggest change of all, parenthood, is forcing another changing of the guards with my Russian dolls.

The adventurous, newlywed, Emily is having a hard time being shut into darkness. She keeps reminding me of the great things about herself – freedom, energy, possibilities – and the other dolls nested inside her. With such a drastic life change approaching, it’s difficult not to look back instead of forward, to see the things I am giving up instead of things I am gaining. I want to celebrate the things ahead, but am having a hard time letting go of the things behind. And that makes me feel guilty, especially because what lies ahead is truly a joyous thing.

But as I look back on those nestled dolls with sadness at what I can’t get back, I realize that too is part of the process. I cried over the loss of my intimate circle of friends when we moved. I cried about acclimating to a new church culture. Even marriage, something I had longed and prayed for, came with it’s own set of things to cry about as Tim and I adjusted to one another. I’ve shed tears about being pregnant, too.

Grief without GuiltI’m learning that grief is good. And because grief is good, I can let go of the guilt. Grief, without the guilt, is what makes us able to move forward with joy.

A vital aspect to living in the present is learning how to grieve and how to grieve well…When your life is going to change, there needs to be an acknowledgement of what is changing.

Kristin Ritzau | A Beautiful Mess | 144-145

My pregnancy wasn’t planned, but I expected my emotions to react like having a baby was all part of the blueprint I had drafted in my head. The quicker I tried to shove myself into this new season, the bigger and more unruly I became. Had I allowed myself to fully mourn the loss of my life plan, it may not have taken me so long to begin accepting God’s plan.

Twenty-six weeks in and my dolls are finally settling into their new home. I still have to process my new identity as a mom on a regular basis, but now when my former selves get angsty, I allow myself space and time to grieve with them. I acknowledge the changes ahead, open my hands for God to take what I’ve been holding onto, and accept whatever He gives to replace it (which is always better than I could ask or imagine!).

photo credit: backpackphotography & Rdoke via photopin cc

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my times are in Your hands

It doesn’t get easier. Weeks have turned into months and I still worry. These monthly OB appointments sneak up on me and yet I’m always wishing one would come sooner so I can get the professional A-Ok. I worry about preterm labor, gaining too much weight, getting my blood drawn for that dang gestational diabetes test, and James’ overall health.

I often wish I could skip ahead 16 weeks, skip ahead to the part where the dreaded labor and delivery are behind us, where James is home, and Tim and I are jumping into life with a newborn.  But then I begin worrying about colic and breast feeding and the mountain of things I don’t know about babies. It doesn’t get easier. I’m beginning to realize that parenting is one of those roles where causes for anxiety never stop. I look long term at James’ life and see endless opportunities for me to worry about his wellbeing, inside and out. All this worry and it doesn’t produce anything but more worry and unrest.

As a follower of Christ, I am familiar with biblical truths about worry. I know that tomorrow will worry about itself (Matthew 6:34), that if God cares about the little things like lilies and sparrows, we should not worry about food or clothes because He will take care of us (Luke 12:22), that prayer and thanksgiving should replace worry (Philippians 4:6).

But when I’m in the midst of worrying, I need something to pull me out of, not warn me against, anxiety. After studying Psalm 31 on a recent retreat, I have found that something. David utters a simple truth that has become and almost daily mantra in the face of my worry – “my times are in your hands.”

Psalm 3114-15aMy times, James’ times, my family’s times are all in God’s almighty hands. I can release my firm grip on every circumstance that causes me anxiety, even if it’s one finger at a time, because I trust in the Lord. He IS my God.

You better bet I will be repeating this to myself at my OB appointment today…

 

When The Scales Tip

Next Tuesday I’m scheduled for my second ultrasound. Tim and I will get to see our little one again and find out if BG is a boy or a girl. We’ve been counting down the days to this doctor’s appointment. It was incredible to see the small nugget of a person being formed at 8 weeks, so seeing his/her progress at 20 weeks is thrilling.

I’m beyond excited. And beyond terrified.

scales

I shouldn’t be; there’s no reason for me to be alarmed. My pregnancy has been pretty smooth thus far. I was nauseous during the first three months but have yet to throw up, which for this barf-phobic gal is truly praiseworthy. All of my check-ups have gone splendidly – BG’s heart rate, my weight gain and blood pressure are all on track. I’ve been able to travel without complications. Tim is a sweet father-to-be and an exceedingly patient husband during this season.

But, I’m still terrified. The precious life Tim and I created is fragile, just like ours. There is no guarantee of health and safety. A multitude of things could go wrong in the next 20 weeks I carry our babe, some of which could be revealed next week at the ultrasound. The what-ifs are endless: mental handicaps, genetic diseases, physical deformities, a dangerous labor and delivery.

In my anxiety I tend to view God as a lawyer with His scales, apportioning blessings and catastrophes to each person, making sure that all is in balance. Despite the fact that I know this image of God doesn’t hold any weight scripturally, it feeds my worry. Subconsciously I think since I’ve had a good pregnancy thus far, I’m due for something to go wrong…

But God doesn’t use scales. We aren’t in a system of checks and balances. The truth is that bad things do happen. The doctors could find something wrong during my ultrasound. Labor could be horrific. I could develop some sort of third trimester barf reflex.

God doesn’t promise smooth sailing. He promises grace and love and strength and peace and healing. Grace that can cover our messy. Love that can stitch up our wounds. Strength that can get us through the unthinkable. Peace that can calm our irrational fears. Healing that brings new life.

In my excitement and terror, that’s where I want to camp out. I want to pitch my tent in green pastures, by still waters. God doesn’t dish out the good and the bad. He is Immanuel, God with us, in the good and the bad.

photo credit: procsilas via photopin cc