Ups and Downs
It’s fall. I have always loved fall. It is crisp and fresh and primed with the potential of new beginnings. This fall I find the end of summer heat and fun swirl into the beginning of a season of slower, methodic, cooler rhythms which I anticipate will break way to the onslaught of a winter storm. I am full of many different emotions. The days are inconsistent. I have “good” days and “bad” days. The bad ones are a struggle to keep pressing through. Today is a good day: my mind is refreshed and my body feels able. I have space between thoughts, my breath feels deep and nurturing, and I feel like I can focus on what really matters.
Indeed, this pregnancy is best summed up as a marathon. I love running and the sense of accomplishment it gives. I love pushing my body and how alive breathing deep makes me feel. But, my mind and soul must also be present when running a race, just as much as my body is. It has been a struggle to keep my mind and soul in this marathon. I am used to being naturally determined, disciplined, and full of resolve; it has shaken me to have to give myself regular “pep-talks”. However, I have discovered that many times that is just exactly what I need: to talk back to myself when my self-talk is not positive, determined and disciplined. Furthermore, once I realized that I am not entitled to an easy life, as so much of my generation feels, I have become better equipped to lean in and press on.
I have struggled with many aspects along these months. Let me share some of my first thoughts on this pregnancy which I wrote back in May.
Twins. I am pregnant with twins. That means I'm going to be having 2 babies. All day after finding out the shocking news it calmly reeled through my head: "I have never wanted to have three children." (In fact, while I really wanted to have a second child I was beginning to brace myself to have a one child family; it was taking awhile to get pregnant and we were only a few months away from throwing in the fertility towel.)
It took a week before the disbelief and shock started giving way to a small slow-growing excitement. My energy began to amp up and prepare for the battle ahead. I had an excellent run in this week where I found myself feeling truly triumphant and the thanksgiving overflowed in my heart. Thanksgiving for my wonderful husband, for my beautiful daughter, for my career, for my mother's healing that she will be alive to meet these babies!, for my mother in-law's great health and willingness to support us and help us. Even if I was thankful to be pregnant, I still struggled to be thankful for twins; but, there was indeed much to be thankful for. And the thankfulness and joy for these babies is sweetly growing.
I know this is going to be a crazy challenge, one that no one is ever properly equipped or prepared to handle. Just a couple weeks ago at our friends' baby shower my one friend asked a mother of 2-year old twins how it was in the beginning. Her reply was starkly truthful: "horrible." I chuckle now, knowing indeed that will be the truth; there will be times of horror. I suggested to my sister that she and my brother-in-law were partially to blame for our double pregnancy with their wishes all along for twins for us and our certainty they petitioned God for such a surprise. She just laughed and said, "No, I don't think that has to do with it; but, I do think God has a sense of humor." Indeed, doesn't a sense of humor do us all well in many different circumstances? (My husband has always purported that there's nothing in life you can't laugh during or about.) So, I was reading the familiar verses in Jeremiah 29 "For I know the plans I have for You," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." I thank God for spelling it out plainly for me and in almost a comical manner for our situation: these twins are not meant to bring disaster to our household, they are meant to bring a rich goodness. I think too of John 10:10 which tells us that Christ has come to give us "more and better life than we could have ever dreamt of." I never dreamed of having 3 children! I trust that the rich blessings of these lives will carry Ryan and I through the chaotic, sleepless times.
It is in these upcoming days that I know I need to fortify my spiritual health, my marriage, and my prayer life. In church the other week as my energy level was beginning to return I heard God say "it's time, Cheryl." As in its time to lean in. It's time to buff up. It's like carb loading before a race - I need to fuel myself well in these next months, so when I have no time think, no time to sleep, no time to myself I will have some sustenance left. It is time to pray, so in those days when don't remember to pray I will be covered. It is time to create habits and to embed patterns into my day and to begin certain healthy thinking processes, so when chaos hits, I can stay my usual calm self. Not everyone is given such advance warning for trying days approaching in their lives and thus, I feel a particular need to use this time well.
Be a Willing Student
I feel like already I am beginning to learn. This is the concept: to be open to learning, so in the changes I can adapt and cope well. I anticipate being a very tired mother of 1 + twins and so I found myself reading Matthew 11:28-30: " Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly and the burden I give you is light." (emphasis mine) Let me teach you. These are the words that popped out as I read this passage. Jesus is my teacher. If I listen to him and trust in him I will be able to find rest amidst the chaos. I am a creature of habit and so learning new things is not always enjoyable for me; however, I am well aware that due to changing circumstances I will have to do things differently and so learning from the greatest teacher how to do them is a reassurance.
Now, with less than 2 months until these babies arrive, I recall a conversation I had with my sister when we first found out we were having twins. I said something to the effect that I will have to give up my identity for a couple of years. She said to me that rather than giving up my identity, I will be gaining a new one. Today, I don’t find myself lamenting giving up my identity (perhaps because so much of it has given way already as I can’t even go for a walk and I am so happy to be done working so I can rest); but I remember clearly a church service shortly following that conversation where it was stated that Jesus must be my treasure. And I realized that my primary identity is a daughter of God. Nothing, absolutely nothing can ever strip that identity.
Don’t Give Up
Many days I have struggled to have the confidence that “I can do this”. As in, that I could get through the time until I was off work, that I can make the most of my “bad” (being mentally and physically tired and worn out) days, that I can succeed at the feat of labour and delivery and finally that I can be the calm momma these babies will need to nurture their little, precious bodies. It was on one of these bad days that I was having trouble talking back to myself that this verse came to me: “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up.” (2 Corinthians 4:8 ERV) Press on, Cheryl, press on. It is more work than usual; but, don’t give up!
Claim God’s Power and be Thankful EVERY day
Furthermore, I have been reminded of my God’s power. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Only 1 year ago my mom was in the very middle of battling cancer and I see what power and strength He gave her in those days. I know there is no comparison between cancer and pregnancy; however, I find myself understanding much more of my mother’s fatigue and frustration at a mandated slowed pace. I understand more the time needed to become accustomed to a “new normal”. And I admire the grace my Mom had in all those moments. Grace through the power of an Almighty God. I am also reminded of the verse I recently blogged about, “For this is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Daily, I am trying to make this my mantra. This includes the bad days. This includes the crazy exhausted days sure to come. In these days, how will I respond? Indeed I will have to be intentional if I want joy and gladness to be my response. And indeed I want thankfulness to flow out of my heart. Just a couple of days ago as we were clearing yet some more space out to make room for the twins, I came across some papers and things I had written about Mrs. Peters. Mrs. Peters was one of the most influential people in my teenage years. In particular I had written about how in her blindness and discomfort she never complained. And if she spoke anything negative it was sure to be followed by a bouquet of positive. I have always admired this woman and particularly her generosity. But in this moment I realized that Mrs. Peters is still teaching me. She has years ago passed away; yet, I see her smile, I sense her thankful heart in everything and I can’t help but feel moments of this lovely woman rejoicing with me in anticipation of my twins’ impending arrival. Thank you, God, for placing Mrs. Peters in my life all those years ago to continue teaching me about thankfulness in these present days.
Anticipation of Joy
It is important for me to take care of myself so I can be the wife and mother I desire to be. I feel like I can finally do this now that I have moments to rest when Rayna goes to daycare and I am no longer working. It was a struggle to get through the first trimester of fatigue and nausea, the very brief month or two when that subsided before my belly started getting BIG, and then pressing through to the 27 week mark when I went off work and even still pressing through the tired days when my mind or body or both don’t work like I want them to. That said, I feel I need to close by saying that I’m starting to feel like I’m going to love these babies dearly when they arrive. I say this tongue in cheek, but those of you that know me well know that I am not a “baby-person”. Indeed, even the thought of “getting through” one more baby stage didn’t thrill me. But, what joy to watch my eldest daughter laugh and learn and to share in shaping and teaching her. What joy to anticipate how our growing numbers will stretch and grow and strengthen this Rostek family. Precious babies I await your arrival and thank you for all your little lives have taught me already. I am running this marathon for you little ones! I love you!