I’ve been trying to write this post for an entire week and a half. Even now, I’m not quite sure I have the words to express something important that I really must say.
This entire pregnancy, I’ve been really really struggling with my thoughts. These thoughts are centered around fear, guilt and resentment.
I know now that when I’m pregnant, my main struggle is irritability. I have HUGE personal space issues, and having a baby kicking me nonstop greatly aggravates this tendency in me. Half the time, I want to scream and go sit in a dark corner and just be left alone. Irrational, but it’s really truly how I feel. I also know that pregnancy makes every.little.thing. seem like such a huge.deal. I have to work hard on an hour to hour basis, reminding myself to take things, even small things like another driver acting stupid, with one huge
grain BLOCK of salt.
But what I was experiencing this time around was definitely different. More caustic. More pervasive. These thoughts definitely had me in their grip and would NOT let go. I have thought about them on an HOURLY BASIS (this is not a joke, I’m dead serious) for the past SIX MONTHS. Yikes.
What were these thoughts? I actually wrote them all out last week, in an effort to analyze and perhaps purge myself of them. I knew that I was going to confession on Saturday, so I wanted to get some of it out in the open.
These thoughts were all about my fears about becoming a mother of two. I love Gregory SO STINKIN much that ever since I got pregnant again, I’ve felt like he is getting cheated. Here is a small excerpt of what I wrote that day:
The first overwhelming feeling I dealt with was anger and resentment towards this new baby for already getting in the way of my relationship with Gregory. Those first 16 weeks, I was so sick, I could hardly stand being around him. So many smells, so much movement required…it all made me want to vomit. I missed G so much during that time. I missed playing with him, cuddling with him, spending all day getting to be his mommy. I was angry that something was getting in my way. My inability to keep producing milk for him after getting pregnant also made me sad– G would cry, wanting to nurse, but there was nothing there. I felt like he was getting the short end of the stick so much, and it made me hurt for him.
As I began to acknowledge these feelings, the guilt set in. How could I be resentful of this new baby, just for existing? It wasn’t his fault that my body and hormones were reacting in such a way! How could I be so evil as to resent a baby, especially my own baby?
That frustration melted away as I began to feel better physically, but it’s back every now and then, usually when I have no lap for Gregory to sit on as we read books, no energy to hold him for more than a few minutes, no ability to bend over 50 times to play catch.
And the guilt part never really went away. I still wonder if I will ever really love this baby as much as Gregory. A part of me thinks that I never will. Maybe it’s because with Gregory, part of learning to love him was learning how to embrace my new role as a mother. Now that I’ve accepted it, adding a new person into the mix doesn’t feel as monumental. I could be mistaking this lack of transition for lack of love.
Some of these feelings were getting additional air-time because I was noticing a difference in Gregory.
I know that he senses things are about to change. Last Friday, we went to a breastfeeding refresher course. Enough people around me, new and veteran moms alike, are having trouble, getting mastitis, etc. that I knew it wouldn’t hurt just to go.
The lactation consultant had us each hold a baby doll, practicing different feeding positions. Up until this point, Gregory was happy as a clam, playing with all the different toys in the room, smiling at all the other ladies. The moment I picked up the doll, however, Gregory completely freaked. Ran over to me, started whining, trying to crawl/claw his way up onto my lap, eventually resorting to cries. Later, after the instructor put the doll away by her chair, we found Gregory STOMPING on it! STEPPING ON ITS FACE. It was terrifying and so sad.
Remembering how wonderful those first few months were, makes me afraid that it isn’t really another baby that I want and feel nostalgic for– it’s that I want to have Gregory be a baby again, to go back in time and live through it again. Were these feelings somehow transferring themselves onto G?
So, as you can see, I was having lots of internal issues. LOTS. Both my mother and Jesse will tell you that everything I’ve said here is completely accurate and made it’s way into every single meltdown I’ve had since August.
Unsurprisingly, all of this ick became the center of my confession last Saturday.
You know what I love? I mean, really really love about Orthodoxy? In all 5.5 years of going to confession, I have never once been met with judgement. Never ONCE been made to feel like a horrible person for my sin. Never once.
I have only been met with unconditional love. This is across the board, from 8 different priests, at 4 different parishes, 3 different jurisdictions across the United States! It’s not a one-time fluke. I truly believe that they are acting on God’s behalf, because I’ve met the same exact spirit of love dozens of times. God doesn’t heal us through guilt, and confession is ONLY about healing.
I don’t know about you, but I find that absolutely amazing.
Fr. Lawrence explained it best this time around. He said, “The only thing we are judged by now is Love. Once Christ came to earth and defeated death, there is no guilt. No condemnation.”
Anyways, all of this stuff came out. 6 months worth of fear and resentment.
And you know what? Fr. Lawrence never ONCE validated any of it. Never once said, “these feelings are natural and normal.” Because that would’ve been wrong. He wasn’t trying to make me “feel” better, he was trying to act as Christ and heal. And, sometimes, healing involves shooting down lies, calling them out for what they are and blowing them to smithereens.
Instead, he immediately began talking about the logos moi, who I’ve heard about many times. Those thoughts that buzz around us like flies until they can find somewhere to land and take root. Once they take root, they are like a virus. They kill the person in order to multiply.
The mistake that I think many Christians make is to assume that these thoughts are actually from them, that they are part of our “fallen humanity”. But that is exactly what they want us to think, because they then get to stir up guilt. We think, “wow, how can I actually think that? I am so awful!” There is productive humility, and there is destructive humility, the kind that makes you think that sin is too great to ever overcome. The kind that lies in you for months, festering, because you feel too weak and too awful to conquer it.
There was a lot of other confessing that went on during that hour, but I cannot tell you how free I felt when I was done. Perhaps a picture or a poem would scratch the surface. Maybe a song. But truly, there is nothing else.
And you know what?
I have not thought ANY of those things since. For the first few days, I didn’t trust it. I couldn’t believe that a few hours had gone by and I hadn’t thought about how crazy hard having two kids is going to be.
A few more days went by. I decided, with much trepidation, to re-read all the thoughts and feelings I had written about the week before.
These thoughts, which had been so pervasive within me that I could’ve recited them verbatim, felt like they had been written by a stranger. They meant NOTHING to me. I can’t even describe how weird it was. Not a single one of them felt like my thoughts. Not a single one of them gave me even the slightest twinge of fear.
As I said, Jesse has been a front row spectator to all these thoughts and feelings, as he’s had to hear them, on and off again in various forms, for the past 6 months. When I told him that they were ABSOLUTELY gone, it shocked him into silence. Even he could not believe it.
I know that having two kids will be tough, I’m not blind. But I suddenly have no doubt in my mind that I will love Anthony just as much as I love Gregory. I am excited to meet him and not just eager to be done with pregnancy. It’s as though my heart and my brain got reconnected. Whatever Christ did to heal me last Saturday reunited those two.