Friday, July 8, 2011

Learning Curve

I had a hard first few weeks after Keilana was born. She was induced a little over a week past her due date, and it was slow: about 36 hours or so. I wasn't in painful labor that whole time, but I was having contractions and all that, so by the time I got to the hard part I was already worn out. And the hard part was really hard--the induction was done almost entirely with pitocin, lots and lots of pitocin, and the contractions were excruciating and intense. In my memories, the pain I'd already been in for an hour when I asked for an epidural was as awful as my last half hour of labor when I had Keira. Then I tore badly delivering her and lost a lot of blood. Between exhaustion and blood loss, my body was totally wiped out. And Keilana was as busy right from the start as she is now--she never slept for more than 15 or 20 minutes, and even then usually only if I held her the whole time. Add to that that she had trouble latching on to nurse, and so she was screaming a lot of the time because she was hungry, which just made trying to nurse her harder. I was in Hawaii, and since Keilana was late, my mom had to go home the day we got home from the hospital, so I had no help, really. Doug was in the middle of finals and his senior project, and I was trying to get our apartment packed up and cleaned because we were moving off island. It was a long few weeks and I was so, so tired. More tired than I have ever been in my life, before or since.

In the middle of all that, I was talking to my mom on the phone one day, telling her about my screaming baby and how I was losing weight pretty quickly because I'd think I'd eaten lunch, only to find a practically untouched sandwich on the counter a few hours later, etc. and she laughed (lovingly, not derisively) and said, "Oh Becky, it gets so much worse." That may not sound like the most comforting thing a mother could say at that moment, but it made me laugh and it made me remember just how temporary the problems I was dealing with were: one way or another, my baby would get fed; sooner or later I would get some sleep; and, even if it took a bit longer because of the lack of rest, my body would eventually heal. In the mean time, I now had a beautiful baby to call my own, and suddenly I was able to focus on that, and prepare myself for the much bigger challenges that would lay ahead because of that fact.

After that, my mom told me about a similar conversation she had had many years earlier with her own mother. Frustrated and tired and crying shortly after the birth of her first baby, she turned to her mom for help and advice, and her mom said, "This isn't the last time this baby will make you cry." When Mom told me that story she added, "And that's not a bad thing."

Parenting is hard. Its popularity in modern culture is decreasing because of selfishness. Feminism effectively sold the lie of motherhood being a soul-destroying trap, because they mixed it with the truth that it requires a great deal of sacrifice, time, and putting other peoples' needs or desires before your own. It requires learning "on the job". Its almost guaranteed that you will make hundreds if not thousands of mistakes, big and small, and that no matter how hard you try, your kid will probably end up hurting the both of you occasionally while making mistakes of his own. And even in the times you "take breaks", you're never free of it. Yet I don't personally know a single parent who, in knowing all that, would trade it for anything in the world, or rewind to a point in life where they didn't have kids. Because even though there's nothing harder, there is really nothing that gives more joy than parenting, something that only parents can truly grasp. It gets harder. And that's OK. Its worth every minute. Focus on the joy.

I've been trying to remind myself that lately about other challenges. There are many other things that are expected of us that, like parenting, are difficult, scary, uncertain. The Lord does prepare a way for us to accomplish good things; we still have to walk that path with our own two feet, however. Sometimes I think we make the mistake of believing that if we're doing what we should, that path will be smooth and easy, and when its not we want to quit. When I start getting to that point, I think of my kids. There is little about parenting that is easy, but I trust that the rewards are greater than the challenges, and that in the eternal realm, things will work out. If I focus on the demands, the challenges, the setbacks, I feel discouraged and exhausted. When I focus on the little moments of joy and the promises of even greater joys to come, I feel patient and happy and invigorated.

As these thoughts were rolling around in my head, I came across this paragraph in a talk by President Uchtdorf:

"Too often we fail to experience the bliss that comes from daily, practical service. At times assignments can feel like burdens. Brethren (and Sisters) let us not pass through life immersed in the three W's: Wearied, worrying, and whining. We live beneath our privileges when we allow worldly anchors to keep us away from the abundant joy that comes from faithful and dedicated service, especially within the walls of our own homes. We live beneath our privileges when we fail to partake of the feast of happiness, peace, and joy that God grants so bountifully to faithful servants."

The last few weeks, I keep occasionally reaching this point where I almost freak out. I have no idea what the next step is and realize it could possibly mean huge, major changes for us and I just don't feel I have any sense of what's going to happen. I think about all the things that have happened the last year, and everything I should be doing and I get overwhelmed and am tempted to just quit. Then I remember the way I parent--a lot of the things I do in parenting have no immediate effects and no absolute promise of a long-term payoff, but I do them because of my faith in what the Lord can do through me if I'm consistent in them, and I'm a more joyful parent in the mean time. Being diligent in all my other duties right now and living by faith does not guarantee that we'll find a wonderfully lucrative job or get to live where we think we want to or that all the challenges in our road will magically melt away. The promise is that we will have joy. Despite all the stress, that promise has been fulfilled so often in our home lately that I find is rather embarrassing that I keep momentarily losing sight of it.

Be of good cheer. Men are that they might have joy. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.


Fei said...

Thank you for sharing those thoughts, Rebecca. My husband and I are in a similar situation, with a lot of uncertainty about where the Lord will have us be - and when - and how we will make it in the meantime, but milder by many, many degrees because we don't have children yet.

We've had to learn (and are still having to learn) not to wait for things to get better. There's a big part of us that wants to believe that because we try so hard to live righteously that we will be abundantly blessed and things will just get smoother and easier on all fronts.

It sounds pessimistic, but honestly, I've found that part of really experiencing joy is to accept that life doesn't get magically easier. The challenges will change and evolve with time, but there will always be things that will try our faith, that put us outside our comfort zone and nudge us to grow.

The key is finding joy in the moments we have now and recognizing *all* the blessing we receive, even the ones that don't seem to solve the problem that is worrying us.

It's this acceptance that life isn't about getting what we want as much as it is about learning and growing that truly helps me enjoy the journey. And what an incredible journey it is.

Christa said...

been there, done that (doing?) and can soo empathize. i'm glad you're keeping perspective because it's hard and i've definitely hit that "freaking out" stage once or twice, but relatively few times in the last 2+ years. i'm praying for you and wishing beyond wishing that you guys get answers WAY faster than we have.

Sam and Kurtis said...

Hey can i use some of this in a talk. I don't have one anytime soon but i think its perfect for one that i might have some time or whenever it comes along.