It seems my pregnant body is being very text book about things. Whereas I felt pretty rubbish inside and out almost the entire time I carried Talitha (from morning sickness to pelvic pain to anxiety) this time around I experienced an incredible lift almost as soon as I’d entered the second trimester. I had more energy and felt stronger than even before I’d conceived. There’s been little discomfort and virtually no pain, which I thank osteopathy for. I felt limitless, joyful, productive, incredibly alive. Much of the time, I kept forgetting that I was pregnant. My skin and hair hadn’t cottoned on that they should be glowing (both have got a bit ratty in this pregnancy) but I finally understood why people call this trimester the best portion of the pregnancy.
Moving into the third trimester, though, feels like I’m being dropped from a great height. It’s as if the same hormones that fuelled feelings of power and elation have turned on me. The exhaustion of the first trimester has returned, except my two-and-half-year-old no longer naps. I suddenly feel fragile. Carrying her up and down the stairs winds me. I’m having to insist that she walk more. I am suddenly conscious of where my belly is. If something startles me in the street, I instinctively grab both Talitha’s hand and my bump. Bending down for things is already getting annoying. But these are all just little things.
Without warning, I have become quick to despair. A simple driving error leaves me crying over the wheel in a parking lot, having taken the irrational leap from “I made a mistake and no one got hurt” to “I can’t do anything. Maybe you would all be better off without me.” All my senses are heightened. All the colours in my world are bright, deep, bold, almost unbearable. When the house is messy, I see failure. I’m not organised enough. She’s growing up in chaos. When my child is bored, I see failure. A better mother would have plans, would create a richer environment. When I look at our bank accounts, I see failure. I should be contributing more. If one of my friends told me that this is what she saw when she looked at herself, failure, I would be quick to tell her what I see, what I’m sure her family sees. I’m even capable of viewing myself with this objectivity. Yet, too often, I feel paralysed by this self-doubt. It all depends on which colour is burning most brightly at the given moment.
It doesn’t fix things to be told that you’re doing OK (though I do need to hear it) when you just can’t believe it right now. I’ve wondered what would help. An unexpected answer came to me this morning: “You are a failure. That’s OK.” I’ve been busy making plans over the Christmas season. The gift list is set, the cards bought, the calendar is being booked, our Advent plans are in place. Without meaning to – in fact, in spite of insisting that I wouldn’t – I’ve let a sanitised, gutted version of the Christmas message prevail in my imagination. It’s one where angels are cute, baby-like creatures whom no one would fear and where the season’s focus is to have as nice a time as possible, sprinkled with nice words that have been repeated so many times we’ve forgotten what they really mean. Words like “peace”, “hope” and “love”. I know you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this so please bear with me.
It suddenly hit me this morning that the event we’re preparing to celebrate is far removed from all of this. That God is not in the habit of choosing perfect people and ideal situations. That Jesus was conceived under embarrassing circumstances and born into an environment of poverty, violence and scandal. That if God could choose Mary, He could choose me. That I don’t need to be perfect, to tick every box in my to-do list, to even be sorted in order to be enough.
That doesn’t mean I won’t despair some time tomorrow. But, hopefully, it gives me yet another reminder that I don’t need to stay there.