Doing Hard Things
I'm about to deliver a baby.
Childbirth has always been a massive fear of mine, ever since I can remember. When people would ask about one's "biggest phobias", and when everyone else responded with normal things like spiders and closed spaces, I always responded, "childbirth." The thought of going through such a physically tumultuous, hellish event terrified me, and I've read just about every birth horror story I could get my hands on.
But the thing is, is that as the day draws nearer and nearer, I've found that I don't have that fear anymore. Not at all.
I don't think it's just because I'm "prepared". Yes, I have my bags packed, we took a childbirth class, I perused Pinterest tips over my morning coffee, and solicited the advice of every mom I knew. I know what the process of birth looks like. I know what to expect, and I also know to plan for the unexpected at the same time.
I think that the reality of facing the challenge of bringing new life into the world came when I decided to change my mindset about it. I don't recall this being a conscious choice that I remember making, but I know that it's been a gradual shift that I have mentally been choosing for years now.
As a teenager, I usually shied away from doing hard things. Although I excelled in schoolwork, I never really threw myself into challenges with real grit. I tended to take the easy way out and just kind of sift along, kind of comfortable but not really, because I usually squashed the inner voice in me that pushed me along to go and do and try and push.
I remember a year in college when I decided that I had to change this, and that I was called to something immeasurably greater than how I was coasting along in life. I was surrounded by loads of inspiring people who spoke deep truths to me and showed me the beauty of living in a way that was elevated, harder, grittier, and more fulfilling. I started setting bigger goals, dreaming bigger dreams, and planning them out in real time.
I never thought that the girl who used to never practice dance more than the required amount would dance at the World Championships twice, or that the student who used to never write in her planner would graduate with the department award. But I started to realize, I can do hard things. And I can do them well.
I never thought that the person who used to shrink away from taking risks and speaking in front of people would have liked to have become a lead teacher overnight and take on all of the challenges of teaching fourth graders, or that that the person who planned out her future husband to the minutest details would have married someone that looked so radically different from her own plans. I never thought that I would study abroad or move across the country by myself. I never thought that I work out every day during a nine month pregnancy. But I did. And I did those hard and challenging things well.
I did them well because I welcomed them well, and I embraced the tough and uncomfortable parts of them with grit.
One of the most life changing experiences for me was on July twenty-first of this summer. I had found out that my dad had died the night before in another state and that my family had just been plunged into unimaginable pain and despair. I stood in my pink bridesmaid dress, outside of a church, waiting to be in my best friend's wedding with a big smile and a joyful attitude that revealed none of the grief that was raging through my body, because I wanted nothing to take away from the most important day of my friend's life. I remember sitting beside my husband, waiting for the wedding party to arrive, and making phone calls announcing the horrific news as we waited.
As we waited, I looked into the statue in front of me, which was the Blessed Mother. Her head was adorned with fresh flowers, but I remember thinking that her eyes looked sad and deep, and I thought of all of the terrorizing moments which she had faced. Learning that she was to be the parent of God Incarnate, feeling from a king murdering children, or watching her own innocent child be slaughtered. She too, I thought, has done really hard things. I took a picture of her there because I knew I needed to remember that moment and what it revealed to me.
And I knew that the hard things that I always feared were my cross in that current moment of pain, but that through all of this suffering and anguish and hardship is real triumph, and that every moment of gut wrenching pain is beautifully redeemed if we let it. And I learned to let go of my fear of doing something that, for the first time, was truly and actually hard.
So, yes, the thought of pushing out a human person into the world is daunting. The thought of being in physical pain is overwhelming, or at least it used to be. But I have learned that I am stronger than I think, because "as the struggle increases, so does the grace." And I know that I was meant to carry this little life around, at this very specific time in my life, so I will be given the grace and grit that I need to become a mother, even if it is hard, because I am good at doing hard things.
There is a certain saint that I've always admired, because she grew up her whole life with a deep fear of fire, and yet she had the grit to be burned alive at the stake on her own words. So, in the words of Joan of Arc, I repeat to myself:
"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."