Being pregnant involves very important interior labor, too!
In the fatigue of pregnancy, I find myself doing constant recaps of my day, trying to justify why my limbs feel like spaghetti. My husband was out raking the yard; if I tried that for even a quarter of the time, I’d need an hour-long nap to make up for it. So I make mental lists, trying to justify what I did to use up my whole day’s quota of energy by the early afternoon.
This is silly, of course, and it’s not helping me feel better about all the naps I take, but I’ve been thinking: Work is work, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional energy we’re spending. And pregnancy is such a unique time of life. There’s so much (no, literally!) going on beneath the surface that’s hard to explain, or even understand.
Some of that is physical work, my body sending untold resources the way of my squirmy, avocado-sized son. But it’s nice to acknowledge the mental and emotional work that comes with this pregnancy, too, even though it’s just as hidden as my baby is right now.
When I remind myself that these things take effort too, I’m less surprised and less ashamed of my own exhaustion, and I have one more reason to be gentle with myself. But more than that, it helps me focus my attention on this hidden labor, so I can do it with more love, and more intention.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? So, the interior labor of pregnancy includes:
Praying for the baby, for a quick recovery, for the family to adjust to the new routines with grace, praying for a good labor, and a good life. There’s so much to pray for when you’re the mother of a child who’s still so unknown.
Worrying isn’t any fun, and when it takes over your life, it’s not a sign that you’re doing anything “right,” but to some extent, worrying is real work that a pregnant mother does, whether she can help it or not. We worry in order to protect ourselves and our children. We worry in order to prepare for what’s to come. If nobody worried, who would make sure everybody’s needs could be met? Moms worry, and it’s hard work.
It’s not work that changes anything. We don’t always get what we hope for, of course. But pregnant mothers do spend energy hoping for the good, as God asks us to do. And just the effort it takes, some days, to remember that God is good, and we can trust him? That’s real effort.
Everybody needs to have a sense of some control over their own life, but in pregnancy, the illusion of control that comforts us tends to fade away. Mothers in particular are especially called to put the future in God’s hands, and it’s incredibly difficult to reconcile that authentic surrender with our loving instincts to control, plan, and make absolutely sure everything turns out okay. Our call to surrender may be invisible, but it’s absolutely real, and all the more difficult because of the responsibility we have to our families.
Patience is another one of those things that doesn’t change anything — but it changes us. I can’t speed up my due date by going out of my mind waiting, but I can make my life and my family’s life much easier and happier by learning to wait for this baby with peace and patience.
People think that resting is the opposite of work, but taking it slow doesn’t come naturally to all of us. In fact, if you’re anxious or an overachiever, it takes a lot of effort and intentionality to give your body and mind what the rest it needs. The world may see you going to bed early, but you and God are the only ones who know how hard you worked to teach yourself that it’s okay to take the rest your body needs.
There you have it. If you’re exhausted, it’s because you’ve been working harder than anyone knows. But truly, even if the outside world can’t understand what it means to be doing the unique and demanding mental work that pregnant women are especially called to do, at least you can remember, and rest in the knowledge that God sees your efforts too.