I’m baaaaack!! My maternity leave is over and I’m happy to say that we’ve welcomed a baby boy, Murray, into our family and home.
Here are a few pictures from the day of his arrival if you'd like to meet him.
Precious, right? ***Insert heart-eyes emoji.***
Now it’s no secret that I hated pregnancy. I complained about it daily and I experienced almost every negative symptom you could imagine…. Alright, I’m exaggerating. But still! Most people in my life knew about the physical discomfort because I took them up on every opportunity to complain about it: the weight gain that briefly messed with my self-image, the swelling, the hemorrhoids, the acne, the sciatic nerve pain that made it so I could barely walk at 36 weeks, the fear about the upcoming surgery (C-section mama, right here!). Did I mention the swelling? There I go again-- complaining! Trust me, it was bad.
However, this pregnancy felt a little different from my first with my daughter. Shortly after Christmas my doctor called me with news that I tested high for a certain kind of protein (alpha-fetoprotein) in a genetic test. My doctor kindly explained to me the risks of testing high, in which my baby could experience growth issues that could lead to stillbirth in the later stages of my pregnancy. My medical team, including my OB and a perinatologist at Methodist Women’s Hospital, kept a close eye on my baby's progression. Luckily, my Murray grew steadily and showed nothing that alarmed them in the bi-weekly and weekly ultrasounds. My perinatologist and I had an ongoing joke that I was his easiest patient and some of our appointments weren’t much longer than him giving me a thumbs up and strolling out the door saying, “Looking good in there, I’ll see him again on tv next week!” Both he and my OB did a great job of calming my nerves during our appointments, but I must admit, the anxiety lingered in the back of my mind when it wasn't busy. Those moments were pretty scary and anxiety-provoking as I neared the end of my pregnancy, but I had the best outcome I could have asked for!
Now every day I when I look hard enough, I can see my own reflection in my son’s dark eyes and it reminds me that he was so worth the pain. With each coo and each grin (usually after a spit-up or a #2), it reminds me that he was so worth the pain. Looking back on my pregnancy, it makes me appreciate being a mother and the purpose it has given me. So many good things, including my baby, come from pain.
When my clients describe their painful histories and their feelings that “it” will never get better (whatever their “it” is for them: anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, addiction, marital issues, etc.), I understand their fear. Many of them have let their traumas define them and can't see a life where it doesn't. But the reason I am posting this blog entry is because of an email I recently received from a client. We were working together for about a year on the trauma history that impacts her relationship with her husband and kids and she asked that I contact her when I return to work from maternity leave. We decided to use my leave as a "trial run" for entering the maintenance stage of therapy, in which my clients would contact me for a session on an as-needed basis rather than regularly weekly appointments. She writes back, word for word:
"Whoa," I thought. The phrase, "almost makes the pain worth it," really hit me. It hit me hard enough that I wrote an entire blog post on it. Could the pain of our trauma histories ever be worth it later on? I thought more on this question and what I am taking from my client's comment is this: her newfound ability to understand herself (i.e. where her negative thoughts and certain behaviors originated), her discovery of how strong she is to work through those issues rather than “just get over” them, and her present peace of mind/general happiness since taking action is probably a place she never would have gotten to without experiencing pain in some form. I think we sometimes get stuck in autopilot and it may never register to us to get help in understanding ourselves unless something terrible happens (addiction, marriage trouble, work stress, etc.).
Now with my new baby boy, I know the pain is worth the purpose I feel as a mother. Don’t get me wrong, I could do without the 5:00 AM wake-up call, but it calms me to remember that I’m his person. I’m who he goes to for nurturance and comfort. My client knows that through her pain she has found connection with her family and compassion for herself. Must we actually experience pain to reach self-actualization? Probably not, but it sure lights a fire under our butts to reach out for help when we feel we can't go on.
So, what actually makes the pain worth it for me? The insight. The understanding. The new ways of living. The new ways we can learn to love. What is it for you?
Note: Permission from my client was obtained before sharing the above email anonymously.