Learning to Listen

listen

I know I had recently promised weekly updates, but I have good reasons for my absence! (And incidentally, these reasons make for a very good entry right now.)

It all started 2 weeks ago. I had taken the 9th of November off for family affairs, including a beautiful baby shower care of my mother, her sisters, and other close family and friends. It was a wonderful day (a story I am saving for a later post), but I had felt fatigued all day. I wondered at the time if perhaps I might be coming down with something, but brushed it off as another symptom of my progressing pregnancy and the energy required to love, carry, and grow this baby. So imagine my frustration when I woke up the next morning with a nose running all over my pillow, clogged ears, and watery eyes. Suffice to say I was in no state to do much of anything.

For the next few days I took all my meals in bed, had copious amounts of water and fresh ginger tea, and slept as much as possible – of course, while continuing to work here and there, attending meetings, and doing my Dutch language exercises from home. On Friday, feeling better, I tried to stretch myself a bit further (leaving home, running errands, working more) until I realized I had begun exhibiting symptoms of infection (TMI: aka, my snot was no longer clear). Thus, on Saturday, my husband and I went to see a Pulmonologist referred by my OB-GYN. He did the usual checks, deduced I had a minor infection (but nothing to worry about in my lungs – praise God!), and put me on a short course of medicines that wouldn’t affect the baby. It wasn’t my ideal means to fight the infection, but Jay and I agreed it was better than letting it progress further. So we took it, along with additional reminders to continue taking it relatively easy.

Of course, I have discovered (and perhaps you have too by now), that I am not very good at “taking it easy.” By Monday, I was feeling alright again, so I took it upon myself to try to get back into my routine. I stubbornly insisted I was fine any time I was reminded to rest, assuring everyone that though I still sounded like death, I was no longer exhibiting infection symptoms (clear snot! Hurrah!). Really, I felt perfectly chipper.

Then came Tuesday. Reaffirmed when I woke up still feeling okay, I was determined to make up for lost time from the week before. However, by 5pm, I started feeling strong dysmenorrhea-like cramps in my lower belly. Now, I am used to cramps and Braxton Hicks. They come with pregnancy, and usually it just takes a few glasses of water, a change in position, a light meal, or some stretching, to alleviate them. This, however, was different. This was a steady ache, occasionally spiking with strong pelvic pressure, or an urge to use the toilet. By 7pm, it hadn’t gone away. I sent my doctor a note letting her know how I was feeling. I was still mobile, and wasn’t even in the slightest bit worried, but I figured I had some symptoms I shouldn’t ignore.

She responded immediately and said if by 9pm the symptoms hadn’t disappeared, I should go to the hospital to rule out preterm labor.

This was not great news. My husband was not in town, and I had just come out of that “flu”. I was raring to get back in action. Still, my parents took me to the hospital, and there began my first experience in a Delivery Room (my own birth aside, that is – hah). Much like they would when you come in during Early or Active Stages of labor, they did the usual checks (weight, blood pressure, urine), and had me lie down. They strapped two monitors around my belly, and handed me two handheld sticks with buttons at the ends that I could press: one was for monitoring fetal movements (I was to click it whenever I felt him move), and the other was for calling a nurse. Mom sat across me on a chair, and the nurse interviewed me over medical and pregnancy history. 45 minutes later, they were able to determine that the baby was fine with a healthy heartbeat, and plenty of movement, and that I was not having anything more than Braxton Hicks. However, due to the nature of my symptoms, they requested a couple of further tests, and – with my mother piping up in the background in agreement, reminded me (again) to please take it easy. I was instructed not to engage in vigorous physical activity, and to start listening to my body, and not just my brain.

I suppose you can call all this a mini awakening. Throughout my pregnancy, I have been blessed with relatively high energy levels, and the ability to continue much like I usually do: exercising, spending long days out and about, traveling, and working regularly. Now, as we approach the big day, my body is reminding me to slow down, to take time to listen to what the baby and I need, and to allow myself peace and quiet.

The wonderful thing about the experience was that, somehow, I felt completely safe and confirmed throughout it. Though I did feel certain slightly alarming physical symptoms, I knew in my heart: 1) nothing bad would happen, and 2) if anything came up (or ever does come up) God is always on our side. In a moment when I had every opportunity to be my occasionally neurotic, hypochondriac self, I was instead blessed with a quiet heart – as though I felt God was right there with me, using the moment to remind me: “You’re okay. But see, you need to slow down and listen.” Not only is it important to do that for my body and my baby, but for my spirit too.

Anyone can easily get caught up in the hype and excitement of the moment: the high energy of the Christmas season, the opportunity to spend time with family and friends you haven’t seen in a long time, the desire to be physically active and play that “Superwoman” role flawlessly. When we allow ourselves to get so busy and caught up, we don’t allow for our bodies, minds, and spirits to rest. As a result, we can not only cause our physical selves fatigue (and trigger things like the flu, or cramps, or a pre-term labor scare), but we can also burn ourselves out and neglect the things that enrich our spirit (like spending more time in prayer, or in the Word – two things I admit I didn’t do much of in the weeks I was sick and frustrated). And what could be more important for me than humbling myself, and being completely in tune with, and filled with the Holy Spirit? Jay and I are now well along in this journey toward becoming new parents, and we will certainly need the grace of God to strengthen us in this our latest adventure.

The flu, cramps, etc, these minor physical discomforts – though drawn out, will be nothing compared to the physically demanding work of labor, birth, and child-rearing. To make it through, and to have a strong foundation when all else fails, Jay and I will both need to find peace, quiet, and the will and discipline to listen (to our bodies, to our minds, to our hearts, and most of all, to God).

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 

I am grateful. Though the last couple of weeks have been challenging, and have tested my patience, they were small nuisances in the grand scheme of things, and I feel blessed that neither situation was dire. Without causing further distress, they each served as much needed reminders of the limitations of the flesh, the needs of the spirit, and the grace of God.

We will continue to pray for a smooth pregnancy as we enter our final few weeks of pregnancy, and ask that you join us too if you can. Looking forward to the adventure ahead, and we hope that all of you out there experiencing anything similar are able to relate with these learnings as well. Remember, if you are going through something challenging (big or small) or feel God using a moment in your life to reach out and teach you something, perhaps take a step back, get a good eye on the situation, take a deep breath, and simply turn to Christ. After all, those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).

isaiah

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