“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ [asked Alice.] ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)
Pregnancy has me feeling a lot like Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Throughout the first story, Alice goes through a variety of absurd physical changes causing discomfort and frustration as she struggles to maintain a comfortable physical size, always finding herself too big or too small. In addition to that, Alice encounters a series of puzzles that seem to have no clear solutions, expecting that the situations she encounters will make a certain kind of sense, but they repeatedly frustrate her ability to figure out Wonderland.
But in the next story, Alice’s journey through the Looking-Glass World is guided by a set of rigidly constructed rules that guide her along her path to a preordained conclusion. Within the framework of a chess game, Alice has little control over the trajectory of her life, while outside forces influence her choices and actions. Throughout her adventures, Alice feels an inescapable sense of loneliness from which she can find no relief.
This season of pregnancy has certainly had moments of physical discomfort, frustration, and loneliness, unexpected experiences and outcomes, and the feeling of making a series of choices that in all reality I have no control over. And while I believe God’s sovereign will is playing out in all of our lives in ways we cannot always see or fully grasp, I do not believe that free will is an illusion or that we are mere puppets on a chess board.
It has been my foundational belief that life is largely dictated by perspective. As humans, we see life and situations as we wish to see them. This one belief has shaped my life in ways I cannot begin to articulate. Growing up, my mother lived in reaction to what she felt she had been dealt. The course of her life was dramatically altered by her perspective of what others had done to her, and she felt that perspective was absolute.
Learning from her misery, I chose to take a different course. I embraced the concept of, “Life is what you make it,” and leaned on my faith to guide me forward. In every situation I try to ask myself, “What can I do to make this better?” Let me give you a small example:
I’m sitting here, ten months pregnant (nine days past my due date), eagerly seeking ways to make these long days the best they possibly can. So I decide a nice hot bath sounds like just the thing. Only problem is, my bath tub is the most tiny and uncomfortable bath tub I have ever stepped foot in. The size and shape are accommodating for a child about the age of four. But never mind that. I’ll add a luscious lavender bath bomb and soothing lavender bath salts. What else might distract me from the fact that I have to sit completely upright while the bath water only comes up to my lower (giant) belly? How about a nice candle. What else? How about some sparkling water with raspberries in my favorite champagne flute. Okay, I think I’m ready now. Oh wait, one last touch. My favorite classical station on Pandora. Perfect.
On a larger scale, let me share how I’m maintaining my sanity in desperate desire to remain at peace. Anyone who’s been pregnant will say the last weeks are the hardest. You’ve met your physical discomfort in new heights while you’re trying to wrap your mind around a pain and a joy you’re about to experience like never before. Simultaneously, and at any moment. And while I don’t have a specific “birth plan” that I cling to, I have felt very strongly about not wanting to be induced into labor (unless the baby or myself was in danger).
The way I see it, I trusted God on if and when we should get pregnant and I want to trust God on when He wants to bring this baby into the world. I wasn’t going to let mere discomfort or impatience dictate something as important as my son’s birth. Beyond that, I believe every choice we make dictates the direction of the future in ways we cannot foresee. So I’ve looked at my “Due Date” through a sort of looking-glass. Similar to the way Alice travels forward and backward through the Looking-Glass World, changing the way she thinks and interprets her understanding of her own world.
Let me bring all of this to a point. The intricacies of life and death are beautiful and sometimes confusing. They’re complex and uncontrollable. But what differentiates a good life from a bad one, or a happy person from a sad one, is largely in our own hands. It is how we respond to life, how we chose to look it at and grow from it. Don’t shy away from pain and challenges, but rather embrace them and allow them to shape us into something more. Something better. And whether things are going according to plan, or not, always ask yourself, “What can I do to make this situation better?” (And if you’re pregnant, try not to look at your “Due Date” as some set-in-stone date that your body and baby cling to as you might wish.)
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” (Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll)