Wednesday, July 5, 2017

On waddling and receiving

I am pregnant. Like, so so pregnant.

My giant baby has dropped this week. If you don't know what that means, imagine you are walking with a watermelon partially in your body crushing all of your internal organs, but also partially dangling out of your body, you also still can't breathe, and you feel like your hips are about to explode from the internal pressure.

(If  you are one of these magical women that this doesn't happen to, then please feel free to continue doing your deep squats and speed walking until the day you give birth in lieu of commenting. I'll be over here trying to retain my dignity while asking people to please help me put my shoes on so I can conspicuously waddle to my next location.)

Pregnancy and postpartum is wonderful for some. The growing new life part and the anticipation of another sweet little milky baby in the house is indeed wonderful for me.

However, compartmentalization is a learned and not natural task for me personally, and this challenge unfortunately still applies to all of the complicated feelings and sensations that come with growing and birthing a baby while still trying to be a competent, semi-pleasant human being.

Physical discomfort, prolonged "morning" sickness (surely named by someone hilarious), HORMONES, and pregnancy hypoglycemia have all made it a Herculean effort to control my mood and sometimes to simply function. I have long wrestled with guilt over this aspect of my being. I have a keener empathy for my toddlers and preschoolers who are hangry or tired and simply aren't entirely responsibly for their behavior because their brains are flooded with all the things.

I saw this on a marriage facebook page several different times this week

 and keep reading it as "Ask God to give your spouse a heart for enduring a marriage with you." Which seems more accurate as I'm not the easiest person to live with, especially recently.

As I mentioned in my last post, the idea of service and being a brother's keeper have been weighing on my heart. In actuality, this concept has been plaguing me with guilt this pregnancy. My lack of control over my physical world since December (and even my faculties at many times) have made it difficult to help others when I see a need. I want to offer to drop off homemade meals or run errands for friends who could also use relief, or to be able to give counsel or a listening ear at will like I used to when I was a non-pregnant, functioning human being.

In reality, this would only be possible by neglecting my own self and my family, who are lucky if they get scrambled eggs on a paper plate for dinner and calm words (sans tears) from me. Contrary to belief, we cannot do it all and something always has to give. To do those things now would be a serious breech of priorities in many cases.

This weekend when my family and I went to Costco, I could barely walk. I threw my hip out of place and badly concealed how miserable I was and how difficult it was to shuffle one swollen foot in front of the other. I was almost crying at the front entrance after the painful waddle from the car.

We joked about how wonderful an adult stroller would be...when suddenly there one was! My husband insisted he push me around the store. Flooded with guilt and embarrassment, I tried to protest, but ended up in the wheelchair/cart thing anyway.

A few minutes later all of the resistance at receiving this sort of help and service faded away. My husband happily pushed me through the store, periodically leaning over to kiss my forehead. His joyful, no strings attached service started to transform me. I stopped annoyingly apologizing every six seconds and realized that by taking some of my burden, he was freeing me. I was free to not be so preoccupied with my own discomfort that I could more cheerfully convey our list to the rest of the family instead of muttering pained responses of "cheese" and "toilet paper". We were all smiling.

I have pridefully turned away much needed help or only received it guiltily the last several months because I forgot that serving only works when there is a receiver. I am always trying to impress upon others that there is no shame in receiving when they are in time of need, but I have been finding this difficult to apply to myself. There can be a pride and even an identity tied to being a helper that it can be disorienting to suddenly be a receiver. It has been for me, especially when it has been months and months of being in this position.

In reality, authentic service is just as much about knowing how to receive these things graciously as it is to give them. If I am only giving and serving and helping but not receiving, is my love of serving just really another platform for me to show that I have it all together, or one more thing for me to falsely wrap my identity in? Yikes.

Have you ever tried to dress a young toddler? They can't dress themselves completely, so it's a necessary service. It's extremely difficult to dress them when they insist on putting their own little stubby arms in the holes of the shirt unassisted. After watching them scream and flail and kick you in the shins while they try to figure out how to put their arm in the hole when the sleeve is tucked in is time consuming. After I finally convince the child to let me help (or wrestle them in the sleeve if we are running late), we both fall into a sweaty, red faced, grumpy mess after the whole ordeal, which likely took 10 minutes instead of the required 10 seconds.

If you've never dressed a toddler or done anything similar, like try to give a wild animal a pedicure, I'm sure you can conjure up a time it was annoying to do something for someone because of their resistance to the vulnerability of receiving either no strings attached assistance or even hospitality. It's a joy sucker.

Reluctant receiving, involving unnecessary apologies and extreme awkwardness, blocks gratitude and joyful reciprocity between people. Let's skip the resistance and the looming subtext of guilt and foolish pride. It's more gratifying for both the giver and the receiver.

Sometimes I will be the one to help someone find the armhole of their shirt.
When I'm old and senile, I will be the one receiving help finding the armhole of my shirt.
See? I'm already anticipating being a gracious receiver.