There’s a point in pregnancy when you suddenly think: “Something’s wrong with me!” Of course, the something wrong is actually the reality that a five pound human has invaded your entire body and you can’t get away from him. He shows up in how you walk (here comes Ms. Puddleduck), in how you react to the world around you (emotional crazy-lady!), in how you appear (I promise my nose is not this big in regular life), and in your inability to keep from shouting “ouch!” at the check out counter when baby human’s foot is trying to burst your appendix with his toenail. Being pregnant at 8 months is not for the faint of heart.
It’s good for me to remind myself of that, especially on a day like today, when I don’t feel normal. In fact, I feel like I can barely make it out of my house. My kitchen is a wreck. Crumbs from dinner are still on the dining room table, and after four days of intense potty training, I’m the failure-mom who’s happy to put her kid back in a diaper and let him choose his own life path. Who needs the toilet anyway? Surely there are other ways for him to be contributing member of society.
I come from a family that works hard. Have you ever heard my brother talk about his writing schedule on his blog? Dude works a full day of graphic design, spends quality family time with his kids, watches TV with his wife, then writes books from 10 to 12 every night. He’s at the gym by 6 training for triathlons and home to eat breakfast with his kids. My mom’s the same way. She is such a committed person of prayer that her early morning prayer time seems to move further and further back into the middle of night as she adds more and more in-depth Bible studies, journaling, and prayers for specific people groups in Sudan into her daily routine. She’s up for three hours before leaving the house at 7:30.
I say that to explain that I’m from a family that doesn’t require (or at least succumb to) much sleep. Napping is not for the responsible adult. And neither is sleeping-in. There are just too many important things to do. And when you know my family, you understand that such hard work has gotten them pretty far. Maybe not in terms of secular success, but at least in terms of contribution and kindness. My parents and brothers are regular folks who care for others, give their time away, and will spend all Saturday helping you fix your garage door/make your kid’s school play costume/ cover your grocery costs if you call for help.
That beauty is probably why I’m constantly battling my feelings of failure. I want to be superhuman. I want to give my life away. I want to write prolifically, despite my status as a mom. And I want to be a woman of depth and generosity and time for others. Nothing reminds me of my failures more than pregnancy.
I am weak. Every morning August watches me inhale my different asthma and allergy medications. He constantly asks me if I’m going to throw up if I lie down on the couch. Are his memories of childhood going to be of a weak, sickly mother, like those memoirs of children who grew up in damp, Irish households with one mattress? One of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in my adulthood is that I’m one of those people who needs sleep. The second thing I’ve had to learn is that God loves me despite my needing sleep. I’d love to be super-human. And I’d love for my son to not need to ask me if I’m going to throw up again. But the truth is, I might. For no other reason than the fact that I’m that kind of pregnant lady: the kind who throws up at 8 months.
I don’t have an answer. I’m about to close my computer and sleep through the rest of August’s naptime. I’m not going to wipe the crumbs off the table, or move the load in the washer into the dryer. And after I nap, I’m not even going to walk with August to the library to return our movies that are due today.
But what I’m going to do (and what I’ve needed to do all day) is pray for the grace to accept myself as I am. On days like today, there are a million thoughts of what I should have accomplished by now with my life, thoughts of who I could have cared for if I hadn’t been so concerned with myself, thoughts of the beautiful thing I could have been had I only gotten out of bed earlier and prayed like I meant it.
Esther de Waal says that when a novice enters the Benedictine monastic community and presents his or her vows on the altar, he or she always prays, “Accept me, O Lord” (Living With Contradiction, 28). That’s my prayer today: “Accept me, Lord, exactly as I am. Tired and pregnant and full of self-pity. Accept me as a weakling who needs sleep, a short tempered mama, a failure of a housewife. Accept me a friend who longs to keep in touch but continually misses her opportunity. Accept my body in all its frailties and all its beauty. And let me be yours, despite the incompleteness of my soul.”
Somewhere in the midst of recognizing my own weakness, I may discover that there’s a balance to live into. I’ll go search for it, right after this nap…