This is kind of a big week. Annually I find this week one of serious reflection, a little melancholy and emotion. I haven't been the same since this week passed seven years ago. This was the week when our first baby was born. And it was a heck of a week. I look back on it with anxiety, fear and gratitude- that we all survived. These aren't really the types of emotions one usually has when they reflect on their baby's birth- are they? And yet, I don't think that "usual" is really a thing when it comes to birth- not any more at least. Every birth story is unique, different and intense. That intensity can come in different ways. It can be intense activity, pain, joy, excitement or love. And really, it can be all of these and then some.
When I was about 6 to 7 months pregnant I started to show signs that pregnancy was taking a toll on me. I was swollen. My wrists were swollen, my hands were swollen and my ankles were swollen. Looking back on it, I really don't think there was a part of me that wasn't affected. And yet, I wasn't due for a few more months. It's not that I didn't try to address these issues. I brought it up at check ups and had my blood pressure checked regularly. I had my pee tests done with every check up too (pregnancy is so glamorous). I wore hand braces when I had carpal tunnel. I cut back on sodium to minimize swelling. I did what I could to handle the daily inconveniences. But nothing was a typical red flag. I did once have elevated blood pressure- the week of Christmas! So it was an easy flag to shrug off when it went back to normal the following week.
And yet. There was something that wasn't on point. We didn't, however, find out until this week seven years ago. It was a busy week as we traveled the PA turnpike to see family for the baby shower. On the way back west our truck broke down. We had to get it flat bed towed the rest of the way home (and my hubby got to take one for the team and ride in it like that with the dog- shhh don't tell anyone since I don't think that's legal!). Then we had to unload all the baby gifts from it and get home. I remember that I had a head cold that weekend too- 7.5 months pregnant and sick is memorable!
About 30 hours later in the EARLY morning I woke up feeling paranoid and not quite right. The first 6 months of this pregnancy were, aside from my swelling, pretty normal. I felt the baby at the typical times. I had energy and lack there of at typical times. But that night did not feel typical. I couldn't "wake" the baby. I didn't feel him react to me. It was concerning enough to cause me to call my midwives at the hospital and wake my hubby and head over there. Luckily I trusted my instinct and wasn't trying to "Power through."
It was an insanely windy morning and the roads were empty as we drove down town at 5 am. We even joked that it was a trial run for the real deal (a trial run in which I didn't bring a suitcase - mainly because I didn't think I'd need it and I hadn't packed one yet!)
This pregnancy didn't have the rush to the hospital in labor "typical" scene (it would take three more years to experience that!). No, we went in, explained our concerns and I got strapped up to monitors. For good.
Four hospital days later involving many doctor exams, ultrasounds, 24 hour urine analysis, blood work, heart monitors and blood pressure cuffs, this was my Facebook update:
Prayer request update
I annually reflect on that assurance that God put on my heart that week- That our coming and going from this world is meant to be out of our control.
It's the daily surrender that trips me up. It was almost easier to give this medical challenge to God (and the medical professionals) than to remember he is also present each day. Being a mom has definitely shown me that I have not mastered this. I also still think about this experience seven years ago with "what should I have done differently" mentality. After writing this status at noon, my organs started to fail and by that evening while visiting with my friend and husband I started feel sharp pains in my side. My liver was shutting down and upon further tests it was evident that my blood platelets were getting extremely low. I had developed not only pre-eclempsia but I was officially in the diagnostic category that everyone kept saying they didn't want to see: HELLP syndrome. The "treatment" was that baby needed to be delivered. That night we started induction. The 15th. He was born on the 17th. It was not quick or easy. And it took me a while to give in to getting an epidural. I am stubborn when it comes to the whole "I'll do it myself" mentality. I ended up asking for the epidural because I wanted to give my coaches- my mom and husband- a break! It was a much needed break.
Here is what did happen two days and lots of medical intervention later:
He was a blessing. He is a blessing. I work to remember that even when he is a pain- it happens, let's be real here- we can all be a pain sometimes.
I think one of the reasons that I reflect back on this whole experience with emotion is not only because it was intense and emotional (and the birth was only the beginning- the roller coaster ride that is getting your baby out of the NICU is harder) but also because it's so easy to accept that I am not in control and that God is. It's so easy to take for granted all that you have and to try to control it all again.
Today I was working through a study on the Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer and one of the pieces that we are told to put on is the "Breastplate of Righteousness." Heh. Good luck with that. I'm a mom. I am not righteous. Luckily I read more closely because that is exactly what God knows and assures us of- there is no one righteous. Phew. Well, okay. I can do <not> righteous. As explained in the study- trying to chase perfectionism prevents us from chasing God. Yes. This. I need to repeat that as a mantra: Trying to be perfect prevents you from chasing God. Another phrase that I recently heard was EGO stands for Edging God Out. *Punch to the gut*
When we focus on self, there isn't room for focus on God.
I look back at my pregnancy and my labor with our little one and wish it had been perfect. I feel envy for those who had perfect deliveries and I feel fearful of not being able to be perfect. Well I need to let that go. We mom's can all let that kind of stuff go. I am not going to be perfect. I am not going to be a righteous mom. It just isn't going to happen. In this world I am going to be the "Oops, I messed up again, please forgive me" mom... well that's what I am aiming for because asking forgiveness is a no joke challenge for the ego too.
God can be righteous and his Son can be perfect. I am working on accepting that this is the gift given to me. And I can remind myself that giving up control is the closest I will get to righteous. If you have a burden as a mom that you are carrying around- whether it's trying to compare yourself to other moms who are doing it all or compare your kids to other kids who are doing it all, or striving for perfection based on the world's standards- feel free to drop that weight off here. There is no one perfect. The Perfect One has come and gone ahead to prepare a place for us.
While it's emotional and a little draining, I am grateful that I can use our son's birthday to remember that this is a life long lesson. And so begins day one of continuing to work on that lesson.
When the kids aren't acting the way I would like. I need to let go of control. When my house is getting destructed while I am cleaning, I need to let go of control. When I am tired and T.V. watching is about all I can organize, I need to let go of control. When my kids channel their inner cats and dogs and the din makes me want to hide like a bunny, I need to let go of control. When dinner is blah and not at all the Cooking channel inspiration it was supposed to be, I need to let go of control. It doesn't mean it's all going to go to chaos. But it does mean I don't need to get upset, angry or envious when it is chaotic.
This is still real life. It's the life where God wants us to be faithful and loving and kind and truthful and NOT perfect. We need him for that gift of righteousness.
God knew I was going to need to keep learning.
And so I lay down my regrets and feelings of shortcoming and acknowledge that God is in control and I am just a mess that needs to be cleaned up. I can handle that and so can He. *deep sigh of relief*
So be human, be kind and loving and keep trying even when you're not!
You are loved regardless.
"Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory." -Betty Smith - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
It's easy to look back on life with "wishes" or maybe even regrets- to recognize how good you had it or to long for something different. And yet, it's more productive to learn from how life was or is and then use that as a spring board for the future. "What worked?" "What nourishes you?" "Where can you grow?" "What are you moving toward?"
In an effort to push back from "Midlife Malaise" (a term I recently read about in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Reuben) and with a determination to seek my OOLA, I am starting this endeavor: A Place to Commune in Creativity.
There is something about the word "endeavor" that calls to me: The yearning inherent in it; The strong awareness that work will be involved; The hope and positive connotation that can overcome drudgery and monotony. We endeavor in a direction we want or need to go regardless of the challenges. It's that kind of passion that I want to apply to all the areas of my life. If you sit back and think about what you're endeavors are, you might think of a job, making money, building a family, finding happiness, spiritual growth. All valuable and important life directions. And isn't that something that we are all trying to find and keep: direction?
A primary direction that I am often pulled in is toward creativity. I strive to exercise my creativity in art making(though time does not always a lot for it), but also in less obvious and more day to day ways: In parenting (yes, every minute requires thinking outside of the box), in being healthy, in worshiping my Creator, in being married, in learning new things, in managing our house... in all that makes up life.
In a recent series at church, we were challenged to examine our calling- our vocation. It hit home with me, as I don't have a "vocation" by the world's standards right now. I have a role- a lot of them actually! And I love that I can find fulfillment in them- most of the time. But lately, I have felt called to live life creatively for our Creator. Some vocation that it, huh? It's very easy to get caught in the monotony of daily tasks, to struggle through the drugery of laundry, cooking, cleaning, following everyone's sleep schedules (just making that list makes me a little twitchy). With the past week "off" from that monotony and blessed with the time to spend adventuring and relaxing with my loving husband, I was inspired to create this space. He encouraged me to do something that I have daydreamed about for a while and have let doubt, fear and insecurity stop me more than once (I signed up for this space a few months ago and have been "mentally blogging" for years ever since my sis and I tried our hands at it for two months 4 years ago! I can't believe that was 4 years and two more kids ago! How silly I was to think that one little toddler was a handful.) As this last year has gone by, I have often wished to catalog my creative finds, ideas and actual creations in one spot. These may include, but not be limited to (hey, creativity invites new and unusual options) cooking, making art, teaching art, finding health, using essential oils, tackling DIY projects, parenting, crafting. You know- the fun stuff in life!
And so this forum is intended to serve as an inspiration station for me and hopefully for you! May we keep on finding creativity in life- don't you dare try to tell this art therapist that you aren't creative! May we make the ordinary a whole lot of fun!
What is one thing toward which you have be endeavoring lately? What is your favorite way to be creative?
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - Your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life - and place it before God as an offering"
I am an eat, play, work at home Mom- a part time new-mom's support facilitator- full time dreamer of clay- an all the time thinker- a trained art therapist- and a home biz empower-er who never has enough minutes in the day, clay in my hands or ideas in my brain to create all the things!
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