I wasn’t supposed to feel like this.
Halfway through this pregnancy, I’m supposed to be feeling good. The morning sickness should have subsided, the second trimester energies should have kicked in. Right now is supposed to be the glowing part of pregnancy.
Instead I find myself every week, more mornings than I care to admit, draped over that lovely porcelain bowl.
There’s no pretty way to describe what it feels like to have had the flu since Christmas. I fully recognize that it could be a lot worse (I haven’t had to be hospitalized; I’m still gaining weight and baby appears to be healthy), but I also unfortunately know that it could be a lot better.
My first pregnancy wasn’t like this. My mother’s and my sister’s pregnancies weren’t like this. My friends who are gestating along with me aren’t feeling like this.
I find it very hard these days not to be envious. Or bitter. Or simply wallow in my own misery and wish the next few months away. I want to be excited about this baby. I want to have the energy to take care of the one I already have. I want to not be overwhelmed by the thought (ok, dread) of future pregnancies. I want to enjoy my life again.
I know, even as I write this, that there are literally millions of women who would give anything to be in my situation. I have been there. I know what it feels like to want a baby so badly it aches and to know you would go through anything to hold your child in your arms. But right now, the misery of feeling so sick all the time clouds everything about my perception and perspective.
Partly it’s all about expectations. It’s not supposed to be like this. Every pregnancy book tells me so (minus the asterisk caveat that “a very small percentage of women report experiencing morning sickness throughout their entire pregnancy”). Every prenatal visit with my doctor when she raises her eyebrows at my report that yes, I’m still throwing up, tells me so. Every well-meaning piece of advice from friend and family alike tells me so.
And I expected it wouldn’t be so – literally set my calendar for March and April with the expectation that I would feel much better by now.
Perhaps parenting is always about readjusting our expectations. I seem to relearn this lesson quite regularly, yet I struggle to let it guide me in future planning and projecting. We embark on this journey with a head full of hopes and expectations for our child and ourselves: what we will be, how we will act, what we will learn and when. Then we get frustrated and disappointed and even angry when our expectations fall short or fail us.
Lately I’ve been trying to let go of any lingering expectations that I will feel good again before I birth this child. Lowering my expectations helped, but I can’t seem to shake them completely.
Yesterday morning when I woke up, I felt good for ten solid minutes. Often the moments just after waking are the best part of my day, before the wave of nausea crashes down on me (sometimes before I can even get a piece of toast to ward it off). But ten whole minutes? My excitement mounted as the moments ticked past: maybe today would be The Day. The Day it all subsides and I start to feel like myself again. Giddy with hope and expectation, I rushed downstairs and scarfed a bowl of cereal – even an orange to celebrate! why not! – and then (you see exactly where this is headed) I ended up spending most of the morning sick as a dog, trying to amuse my toddler from a prone position on the floor.
So once again, the expectations let me down. I had to work through the whole cycle of anger and sadness and frustration once again to get to a place of peace. A place of acceptance where I could say that it’s ok if I don’t ever feel good during this pregnancy. That this, too, shall pass. (A long family walk and bright fresh flowers helped a lot, too.)
This morning, as I greet a new dawn, I wonder what it would feel like to free myself completely from expectations. Is it realistic, or even possible? Perhaps if I could lean into God and trust – really trust – that I am being led into something beyond my present reality, then I could let the expectations go. But my small faith struggles with this as much as anyone else’s. I want to be in control, I want to know how it will all turn out, and I want it to turn out my way.
In the same light, I struggle to let go of my expectations around my toddler. He’s supposed to be using that spoon and fork by now, right? I am sick and tired of scrubbing oatmeal off the highchair; why can’t he just learn to do it right? The mountain of parenting books and experts and advice-givers near and far can crush me under the weight of expectations that he – and I – are supposed to live up to.
What if I just let go for both of us, stopped worrying, started trusting, and simply lived in the only moments we are given: right here and now? Maybe there’s something greater to be found in the lack of expectations than a life consumed with them.
My prayer today is for an open, unexpecting heart. One that can ride the waves up and down but not feel battled by them. One that can let go of my plans and expectations. One that can find peace in God’s presence around me.
It was easy to love God in all that was beautiful.
The lessons of deeper knowledge, though, instructed me
to embrace God in all things.
– St. Francis of Assisi (trans. Daniel Ladinsky, “Love Poems from God”)