I was really good at being pregnant and giving birth. In fact, if I were to find myself pregnant tomorrow (well, it would actually be in about two weeks, if you want to get technical), you know what I would immediately do? I would take vitamins every morning. I would eat better. I would exercise every day. And I would know that I was really “doing” something with myself… even if that self felt so exhausted she had to nap twice a day for the first trimester.
I think somewhere along the way I pinned down why I loved being pregnant. And it was that thing about “doing something.” Every part of my body somehow seemed to have meaning and purpose when I was pregnant because it wasn’t just for me anymore.
I struggled for a lot of years to know that the things I did “just for me” (and eventually “just for my family”) had purpose or were important because they were just for me. I don’t think that anymore. I’ve gotten a little better at self care and a lot better at figuring out what is really meaningful in life. But I really did love being pregnant. And in a round about way (teehee… pun!… “round about”…), pregnancy taught me that it’s okay to do things just for me.
Still, you don’t see me taking my vitamins every day, do you? Well, you wouldn’t anyway. But I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t. But I’m getting better at it.
Lesson two is a bit more difficult. With each of my births there were four little words that I promised to never say. And I never said them. “I can’t do it.” Four words with a contraction, technically. (I did it again! Another pun! *Contraction*) Before the births I always thought, “I’m GOING to do this, so there’s no point in saying I can’t do it because I will have no choice. I am going to do it.” So, thinking “I can’t do it” and saying “I can’t do it” were never an option for me. Even during transition. Even during the 2.5 hours it took to push Madeline out. I was going to do it, so why say “I can’t?”
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’ve also been afraid a lot lately. I was sick, stressed, and tired for most of December. And I can remember two major breakdowns on Marc’s shoulder before bed in that month. The moments were increasing when everything seemed hopeless, when everything seemed pointless, and I really felt like I just couldn’t do it — any of it. There’s so much uncertainty in every part of life. And I really thought I wasn’t up to handling it.
And do you know what happened right at the height of all of that fear and uncertainty?
The school shooting in Connecticut. You would think that would be the last thing that someone slipping into depression would want to hear. But you know what? Somehow it gave me resolve. It made me want to push through all of the darkness and the fear and the not-knowing. I suddenly knew that love and light and goodness are always there, even when all I see is the scariness.
Madeline and I just happened to watch through all of the Lord of the Rings series when she was home sick the week before. (And she’s never home sick.) And the image that kept coming into my mind as I thought of Connecticut was (spoiler alert) of Sam and Frodo climbing up Mount Doom with nothing but darkness and destruction around them. Frodo can’t remember the Shire, all he sees is the darkness and the evil Eye watching him every moment. But they don’t give up. Sam, finally, is determined to be rid of it once and for all.
And how do you rid yourself of evil and darkness? Well, in Return of the King and in another story you’ll be quite familiar with, you must go right into the heart of darkness and face it and conquer it. You don’t run away from it. The only way to get rid of it is to face it — with a good measure of courage and resolve that there is still something to hope for.
And it wasn’t like that turned everything around for me, but that image of climbing up Mount Doom with the lava erupting everywhere and no light to be found was part of it. And those labour words helped too.
I’ve never been a fan of saying something positive just because it may help yield a better result. I want to say something positive because it’s true. And those words that I wouldn’t let myself say in labour but was letting myself say in everyday life — those “I can’t” words — those are the lies.
Because I can do it. I’m going to do it. I am doing it.