My best friend is due with her first child (a girl!) just six weeks before my first child (a girl!) is due. I remember calling her shortly after finding out I am pregnant to tell her the news. “Oh, Mal,” she exclaimed, “This is the dream!”
And it was. We’d been talking for months about potentially entering motherhood. We were both very aware that after all the conversations we’d had with our spouse and emotional energy we exerted to make a decision as huge as this one, there was still the chance one or both of us would have trouble conceiving. So when all of this unfolded for each of us within weeks, it felt very “dream-like.”
Then, reality hit. We were in the throes of our first trimester—I was tired and she was sick, leaving us both struggling to keep up with our cross-country correspondence. Suddenly, it didn’t feel so dreamy. In fact, very little about pregnancy was feeling appealing.
About halfway through my first trimester, I began wondering if something was wrong with me. I had heard of how “magical” pregnancy is but I was feeling no magic. Unless, of course, you’re in the camp who considers “magic” to be a perfect storm of nausea, exhaustion, back pain, fear, isolation, and uncertainty. Sure, there was gratitude and bursts of joy and excitement, which was the kind of magic I had expected. In my longing for a child, however, I hadn’t expected to be met with the sort of pre-partum depression I was experiencing. It was hard to feel so much depletion without the satisfaction of feeling my baby move or even seeing a baby bump to evidence her growing body. I had the symptoms of pregnancy without the accompanying joy of tummy flutters or ultrasound photos.
It’s hard to talk about these things when the culturally appropriate reaction for me to receive and express is excitement about the pregnancy. So I kept to myself all of the feelings I had that didn’t shout MAGIC! I withdrew in relationships, often blaming my first trimester exhaustion on my absence or lack of engagement, which was the truth but not the whole truth, so help me, God.
Then, that Friday came. Every Friday, my best friend and I, separated by over 2,000 miles, talk on the phone. Our conversations had been inconsistent due to our first trimester woes, but when we connected on this particular Friday, I knew it was time to ditch the magic and be real.
Pushing through my already thriving Mom Guilt, I told my best friend how I was struggling more often than I was feeling the magic of this time. I told her how hard it was to feel connected to my own baby who, at this point, was the size of a grape and stealing all of my energy. I shared how isolated I felt, which only deepened when someone else asked just how excited I was to be pregnant. I poured it all out and then waited for her response, fully expecting her to be kind but immersed in her own pregnancy magic.
“Mal,” she said confidently, “I feel the SAME way. I know it’s is supposed to be a magical time but I don’t feel it either. This is hard.”
That conversation changed me. We stayed on the phone for over an hour, opening up about the tough parts we were experiencing in this season. We had both been so excited and so overwhelmingly grateful to be pregnant; that didn’t necessarily change, but we hadn’t expected the isolating and disconnected parts of pregnancy to accompany the joy. Those deserved to be felt and heard, too. Excitement is more fun, but feelings that rise out of our pain and struggle are just as important.
Pregnancy is incredible. It is truly amazing what our bodies can do to house and birth tiny human beings. I yearned and prayed and ached for this child and yes—I’m so grateful! She has life and I’m now just 3 months out from seeing her sweet face. Sometimes, however, that which blesses us may also challenge us. The answer to our prayer may one day double as the focus of our stress or pain. This doesn’t nullify the validity of the blessing or the challenge. But, and I really want you to hear this: We have to let someone in, even if we’re inviting them into the messiness of the challenge.
We cannot do this stuff (parenting, marriage, careers, ALL OF LIFE) alone, and just because we’re experiencing the difficulty of the challenge (when we think we should be deep in the joy of the blessing) doesn’t mean we have to protect our loved ones from joining us in the tough parts. Even if it’s just one person who we invite in, the volume of the challenge may be turned down a bit by their presence. And, who knows, maybe they, too, have been or are facing the same challenges.
Life’s good stuff may always be speckled with hard stuff, but it can all be even better and a little less hard when we let someone in. Even the biggest blessings might not be a total dream, but having someone with you in the bitter and the sweet just might be the dream we’re all actually needing to experience.