- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
A couple of weeks ago, I gave birth to our fourth child. It was a harder labor than I expected, partially because I had managed to convince myself that my childbirth experiences really were supposed to get easier with each child (lies! all lies!), and partially because, well, childbirth.
Still, in retrospect, it really wasn’t all that dreadful. Nine hours total, only about half of that being truly, all-encompassingly difficult, and even during those five-ish really hard hours, contractions came . . . and they went. In between most contractions, there was a period (short though it may have been) of physical calm, of reprieve. And in the end, of course, out came my gorgeous, adorable, handsome little baby, giving meaning to the process and the pain and the exhaustion and the fear.
In the midst of the experience, though, there were so many times when I thought, “Why am I doing this?!” and “I can’t do this anymore!” and “I am so tired; I just need a break,” and, of course, “I am never letting my husband touch me again.”* The process was overwhelming, stretching me (ha! literally!) beyond what I think of as my capacity. And yet, here I am, still alive, still kicking (gently, because I’m still a little sore). So clearly it was within my capacity. Clearly I was measuring my capacity wrong.
Adjusting to having this new baby in our family has been (and will continue to be) a challenge, the same way that all major life changes tend to be a challenge, even when the change is wonderful. He takes up so much of my time and energy, and there are so many other needs to be met along with his. I occasionally find myself wondering how we’re all going to get through the coming weeks and months.
And yet, I know we will. We have the capacity, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
One strategy that helped in dealing with the difficulty of labor was to take things one contraction at a time. When I thought about how much I might have left, how much labor was still before me, I was overwhelmed and terrified. When I just worked on getting through just the next contraction, it was still hard—it was hard, but it was more bearable. I was reminded that I didn’t have to do it all at once.
And so, on a particularly challenging day or in a terrible, exhausting minute, I hope to try to remember this: Contractions come, but they also go. I don’t need to worry about the struggles to come down the road. I only have to get through this next contraction, this next hardest moment. Even when it seems like there is only hard stuff, I can look at and recognize those calm spaces in between. And, most of all, I can know that God has granted me the capacity to move through life’s contractions, to reach the prizes along the way. Our capacity to stretch and grow and create is far greater than we recognize. The contractions are how we make room in our lives for wonderful blessings. They prepare us to give birth to great things.
* Okay, so I really just tossed that one in because it’s standard, right?