My baby is now 2 ½ months old. She is a delightful baby, completely charming, very friendly, healthy, lovely, and undemanding.
The pregnancy, however, was horrible. Granted, I only have eight other pregnancies to compare it with, but this one was really outstandingly wretched. Nothing went wrong—but nothing went right, either. People were actually in awe of how miserable I looked, and that was when I was trying to hide how miserable I felt! Phew, it was just awful.
Still, looking back, I see that it was an extremely fruitful time. Not only was I growing a truly wonderful baby, but I figured out a thing or two about life in general. Maybe other people don’t have to be pregnant to figure these things out, but I did! Here’s what I learned:
1. If someone offers to help, it may actually be selfish to say no. Very few people offer to help if they don’t mean it or don’t really want to. Most people go around feeling guilty for not doing more for each other; so saying “yes” is actually doing them a favor—letting them check off their good deeds list with something concrete. Don’t let your vanity or sense of privacy deny someone the chance to do a mitzvah.
2. You’re eating for two. A pregnant woman’s body is linked directly to her unborn child’s body: for better or worse, almost everything she takes in goes right to the little one. Guess what? There are no private acts of selfishness for anyone who is a member of the Body of Christ. Every poison we allow ourselves to ingest—pornography, gossip, habits of nastiness and mediocrity—they all hurt the most vulnerable members. Likewise, every wholesome and nourishing thing—acts of love, patient words, works of charity—these build up the weaker members and make the whole body stronger.
3. Taking good care of yourself doesn’t mean spoiling yourself. In my first few pregnancies, I “took care of myself” by treating myself like a sultan’s wife—and ended up feeling like a manatee with chronic fatigue syndrome. In truth, taking care of yourself means treating yourself like a foolish child: you have to put yourself to bed even if you wanna stay up and watch TV; you have to eat your spinach even if that Twinkie looks more inviting. You have to be good to yourself by going to confession even if its weird and uncomfortable; you have to take care of yourself by turning off Facebook if it’s making you bitter or upset. No matter what your state in life, spoiling yourself isn’t the same as being good to yourself. Be smart: you know how to do this.
4. On the other hand: Not everything that’s pleasant is bad for you. I finally learned to stop apologizing for taking a nap when I’m pregnant. Sometimes, in our eagerness to pursue self-improvement, we automatically lump together pleasure and sin, and self-righteously reject anything pleasurable—or else we wreck it by feeling guilty. It’s good to be disciplined, but don’t insult the God from whom all goodness flows by rejecting or being a snob about that goodness. It’s there for you—take some!
5. Don’t skip your daily vitamins. You may not realize how much that little red pill is doing to make you strong, but will find out pretty quickly if you skip taking it for a couple of days. Do the little things that keep your strength up: daily prayer, for one.
6. Listen carefully to your cravings. One pregnancy, every evening would find me hunched over the counter, gobbling dry lemonade mix by the spoonful. If I had thought more carefully about this insane craving, I would have realized that I was probably deficient in Vitamin C, and my body was hounding me to look for citrus fruits, not sugar crystals and Yellow 5 Lake. Likewise, our desires can be very telling IF we’re smart about what they say. Many self-destructive behaviors are really just inches away from something good, something we really do need, and really should want. WHY do you want what you want? Listen closely, and don’t be deceived.
7. Being able to work is a blessing. One of the hardest parts about being heavily pregnant is working and wishing you didn’t have to. The other hardest part is not being able to work when you want to. As Peter’s mother-in-law undoubtedly knew, there are few greater pleasures than feeling useful again, so it’s good to remember to feel grateful for the ability to work.
8. Remember that it’s all FOR something. A good midwife will help a laboring woman remember what is remarkably easy to forget when the pain gets bad: that we’re going to get a baby out of this. Whether your suffering is from being actually in labor, or if it’s the pressure and work that no mortal man or woman can escape: “Your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) The fruit of any suffering in this world is a new life to come. Don’t forget!