Limitations and leaning {reflections on pregnancy}

We are presently awaiting the arrival of our third child, a blessing indeed. We have much to be thankful for – not least that my pregnancy has now entered its 33rd week, surpassing our second child’s preterm birth at 30 weeks and now only a few days shy of the 33 weeks + 5 days that I gave birth to our first. Our visions of an even earlier birth have not materialised. We thank God. And we thank Him for this new child joining our family.

This has been a year of growth and blessing and gifts.

And yet, it has been a hard, hard year.

For me, pregnancy is not a time of blooming or blossoming or glowing. This summer, I had extreme pregnancy sickness which rendered me almost entirely bedridden for three months, leaving my husband to deal with the responsibility of children, home, and work.ย The emotional toll this took on us – as individuals, as a couple – could easily be understated. We were simply overwhelmed, and miserable.

Many times I asked myself why this was happening to us again. Why couldn’t my body get it right just this once? Why couldn’t I harness mind over matter, and overcome the sickness? Why had I wanted another child, knowing that it would in all likelihood confine our family to months of gruelling struggle? Why couldn’t God just take it away?

I felt guilty for bringing this on my husband and my children. I felt ashamed that I was unable to do life as normal. I felt heartbroken that I was missing out on so much that my children were doing.

(I should note here that we were not alone in our struggles. My parents in particular were a fortress of support, taking us in to their home, caring for our children when Nick was unavailable due to work, and serving us sacrificially in so many ways, all while dealing with other difficult issues which cropped up in our wider family at the same time.)

Even at this late stage, I still experience daily nausea, as well as fatigue, insomnia, and pelvic pain. Suffice to say, my body does not react kindly to growing babies.

Through my whole life, I have almost always felt capable. I was top of the class at school. I pushed myself and practised hard to become an accomplished musician. I attended an elite university and succeeded in my studies.

It is so difficult for me to accept that I am not perfect.

Being pregnant for the third time has placed limitations on me. I have had to change my behaviour, adjust my expectations, and slow right down. I have had to accept that I cannot do it all, that our homeschool cannot be everything that I envision, that all the lovely things that I want to do with and for my children and others will have to wait, that my house cannot be entirely clean and picked up all the time.

I have had to ask for help from others.

What a humbling experience for this proud, self-sufficient, capable mama.

In our home, we currently have a four-year-old child who is learning, in baby steps, to ask for help instead of whining when things are tricky or upsetting to him. This is a little picture of how I think God uses our limitations to cause us to lean into Him. When we encounter barriers in our lives, we can either whine, or we can say ‘Lord, this is so hard; I need your help.’

God has profoundly used this time to create in me a heart that realises I am limited, and He is unlimited. He is the one on whom I can depend, all the time, in everything.

May I never forget that He offers rest to those who come to Him. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’

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Picture book round up | February and beyond

Things have been quiet here of late.

My last post was about my dear Nan’s death back in February. I haven’t really felt like writing since then.

I think, though, that it might be time to try to ease myself back into it.

There will be other posts, but for now: here are some picture books we’ve read and enjoyed in the past few months.

Books about bereavement:

Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley
A gentle exploration of death and memory

Goodbye Grandma, by Melanie Walsh

The Building Boy, by Ross Montgomery

Other books:

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman

Oi Frog!, by Kes Gray and Jim Field
Very clever rhymes!

Mole’s Sunrise, by Jeanne Willis

Caterpillar Butterfly, by Vivian French
From a brilliant series called ‘Nature Storybooks’

White Owl, Barn Owl, by Nicola Davies
Also from the ‘Nature Storybooks’ series

Turtle Watch, by Saviour Pirotta
Learn about tolerance, kindness, patience, and how turtles lay their eggs!

The Hare and the Tortoise, by Brian Wildsmith

Ella Bella Ballerina books, by James Mayhew

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke

 

When grief and trust collide

At 7.15am on Saturday, I was thinking about making some pancakes for breakfast.

One phone call, 50 miles, and four hours later, I was standing with six other members of my family at the hospital bedside of my darling Nan, my one and only, amazing, bonkers, beautiful Nana.

The cancer that had invaded her lymphatic system over the past five years had grown so big that she was undone.

She had died.

I never thought she would leave us this way.

I looked into the face of my Grandad, widowed after 60 years, and all of us were asking How? and Why? She was well, she was well, she was well, and then suddenly she wasn’t, and it all came crashing down in less than 72 hours. None of us were expecting it. None of us were with her when she died.

How do you move on from such agonising grief? From knowing that someone you loved so much has gone, that they’re not coming back? And never even having said goodbye.

Regret bubbles up and crushes the heart and I wonder why I didn’t visit her more often, why I didn’t pick up the phone, why I didn’t send her a photo of her smiling great-grandchildren even though I knew it would bring her joy.

And so much was unsaid. Did I say ‘I love you’ enough to last a lifetime?

For there will be no more meetings, no more phone calls, no more letters, no more stories, no more chicken pies, no more jellies, no more walks in the garden, no more listening to the sound of her voice, no more loving.

IMG_4306Someone leaves you and all you’re left with is a pile of letters in a flowing, neat hand and your toddler self’s favourite bunny that you cuddled so much it became threadbare so she went and bought another one which you loved almost as much.

How can we live with this brokenness? Every love we ever have ends in loss, one way or another, so that sometimes it seems as if we are better off not loving at all.

Yet I couldn’t help but love her. She was indescribably amazing. And she loved me, loved us. She gave us this beautiful gift of herself and if I could say one thing to her now, it would be this: Thank you.

Thank you for loving us. For always listening. For never, ever making us feel small, or worthless, or belittled. For saving your empty packets so we could play shops in your chalet. For teaching us how to love nature. For taking us on so many train rides. For being so very brave so we could enjoy more time with you. For all your ‘there we ares’. For being bold, and frank, and speaking your mind. For all the stories. For the letters. For the cards and for never forgetting our birthdays. For every moment that you loved us, for all our years.

How can we accept that someone who has been part of life from the very beginning is no longer present? That we can never talk to them again, or hear their voice, or touch their hand? That the last touch was cold, that every moment I looked at her and thought she would move, breathe, she didn’t? That the papery skin and the white, soft hair were just an empty shell?

We are not built for goodbyes.

It’s not that I think I can do a better job of running this broken and busted world than God. I know I never could. It’s not that I doubt that there is a plan and a purpose, or that I am bothered by not knowing whether she will be there in the eternal kingdom. That is his business. I haven’t lost trust.

But when grief and trust collide, the question is how to live with the brokenness and allow God to work through it.

And if love always ends in loss, then it proves that the reward of loving is in the loving itself. For love is an action, not an end. I see this with my children, when I wish I could hold them once more in their baby form, and know I never will. I couldn’t hold on to that love, but love I did. And I would again, even though it would end. Love was not the end but the journey.

And if the reward of loving is in the loving itself, then she was rich indeed. For she loved us without counting the cost, and she taught us what friendship is, and she taught me what kind of grandmother to be. Brilliant, brave, bold, and beautiful, and so very, very kind.

Nothing will ever be the same. I will miss her all my days. My heart is broken but it will keep beating, and I know Jesus opens his arms and bears his heart to us and says ‘Come, I have comfort even for this’, and underneath everything are his everlasting arms and one day everything will be fair forever and for now I weep and I trust and I put on one more load of laundry, because there is only so much time to love.

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