Guest Blog, make or break, written by my oldest daughter, Karen.
I am human and imperfect. I have down days. Self image issues at times. Feelings of inadequacy. I worry about parenthood. Am I good enough? Strong enough? Life is a juggling act. The responsibilities, endless. I fear that I may drop one ball or another at any moment. Someone or something will suffer. Because I am incapable.
I have never felt this more than in motherhood. I have been blessed with two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. But for reasons beyond my control, I could not naturally deliver either. My uterus is uniquely shaped, making it impossible for my babies to turn and instead stay in breech positions resulting in cesarean births. I have struggled with this fact and at times felt “less than woman”. How could I possibly be as physically strong or mentally tough as the women who deliver their babies naturally? And some with no epidural?! They talk about the exhilarating feeling of joy and relief that ensues after near unbearable hours of pain and exhaustion. I envy their accomplishments. I will never share their experiences. I am unable to ever one up my husband with the child birth card. No. My birth story is something quite different.
It’s called major surgery. I don’t feel a thing. Just lay on the operating table quietly listening to the doctors work. And then a mere fifteen minutes later, I hear the most precious sound coming from behind the curtain. My baby’s first cries and gasps of air in the new world. It brings tears to my eyes. And I continue to lay there quietly as the doctors now have the harder job of putting me back together. The nurses are busy caring for my baby. Cleaning her up. Testing her Apgar scores. My husband is able to hold her and bond. I am alone. Nearly an hour passes by before I am sewn up and moved from the operating room. I finally get to hold my baby. And this is just the beginning of the road to recovery I’ll be on for the next 6-8 weeks.
“Don’t lift anything heavier than your newborn baby.” Tell that to your two year old who is feeling displaced by the small intruder. “Take pain medication every two to four hours.” Forget and you’ll wish you hadn’t. “Limit stairs.” In a two story house. “Whatever you think you can do, take it down a notch.” These are not brag worthy feats. There’s nothing heroic about this version of childbirth.
Now I question everything. My body. My emotions. Will I ever be myself again? Baby blues set in. Fortunately, this is something that only lasts a month or so for me, but it takes it’s toll on my psyche. I feel beaten down.
I ran through each pregnancy. With my second, I completed five 5k’s. My coworkers and friends thought I was crazy. Told me to slow down. “Is that good for you?” “What does your doctor say?” It was perfectly safe and kept me sane, so I continued as long as I could, even into the third trimester.
So when my second child was 8 weeks old, I decided it was time to start running again. I was amazed at my renewed energy and ability to push through the pain. I went from two miles to three in a week’s time. I decided to do a four mile race shortly after.
This race changed me.
My goal was to finish the race without walking. Seems simple. Except that I hadn’t run more than three miles at any one time post baby. And I had only been running for three weeks. By mile 2, I wanted to walk. And then it occurred to me. For all those times I questioned my motherhood because I had “only” undergone surgery, I was determined to run the whole race. Prove to myself that I am strong. I am capable. I am mother. I can totally do this. I started running harder.
Each moment that passed, my body struggled more. I told myself to just keep moving. I spoke life to my body. Literally. As I ran, I thought about all of the things I CAN do. The woman I AM. And I spoke the words to myself. “Mind over body. Spirit over soul. Heart over lungs.” Each a symbol of the obstacles I was overcoming as I persevered. My legs and abdomen cramping. Breathing heavy. Mouth parched. Will I ever make it?
My husband was also running the race. He was much too far ahead in the four mile course to see. But historically, he finishes the race and comes back to push me on the last leg. So as I passed mile three, I expected his return to get me to the finish. I ran a little further with the hope that I would see him any minute. I needed him. He’s always there for me. Supporting me. But not this time. This was my race. My battle. No one else could do it for me.
With a quarter mile to go, I had a steep hill ahead of me. It’s now or never. Am I going to quit? Walk? Is the road too tough? The way too narrow? The weight too much to bear? I pressed on. I am woman. I am God’s creation. He has given me talents and abilities. I WILL do this.
As I crested the top of the hill, I saw the final inspiration I needed. My husband and two year old son were running to me in the distance, not far from the finish line. “Mommy! Mommy!” I could hear him yelling. Huge smile on his face. God had met me in my darkest hour. But it was at a point in the race much farther than I thought I could go alone. And it was then that I KNEW.
It’s not about childbirth at all. It’s about make or break experiences. Tackling challenges head on. Not being confined to the limits in my mind. Giving it my all. It’s not my circumstances that define me, but what I do with them. My worth is not in titles or how well I stack up to the competition. I am a stronger, better person than I have ever been because I have experienced more life than ever before.
I am God’s creation. And by His grace and mercy, I am CAPABLE. To be all that I am required to be, to the fullest. Woman. Wife. Friend. And Mom.
I’m the author of: Created to be Creative
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