this is heavy. but we are also strong.

Last night before dinner I stole a few minutes while the quiche was cooking to cut up melon for tomorrow’s breakfast. The evening news hummed along on the radio, and the boys played peacefully on the porch. I savored the clean slice of chef’s knife into cantaloupe.

For one of those rare moments, everything around me rested calm and content.

But little ones can hear the sound of silence; it’s the most seductive siren they know. Sure enough I turned back to my cutting board to find the smallest helper had shoved over a chair from the table and was ready to help.

“What you doing, Mama?” he asked, bouncing where he stood.

“Cutting melon. Do you want to eat some?”

“No. I want to hold it,” he insisted, pointing at the half melon waiting on the counter.

“Really? You can try to hold it if you want, but it’s big – be careful.”

(Always with our warnings. As if we could rescue them from falls and spills and snares by words alone.)

He lunged for the melon’s slick surface, its round face bigger than his own head. His chubby hands grasped the sides firmly, and I watched his arm muscles start to quiver slightly as he raised it an inch off the counter.

“Ooo,” he marveled. “It’s heavy!”

“But I am strong.”

. . .

A professor from grad school used to remind us that the measure of maturity was the extent to which one could live with ambiguity. Why do I still find myself stuck marveling in adulthood how often I have to hold paradox in trembling tension? It grates at me not to resolve the unresolvable.

Maturity means growing into the space where the world does not make sense and yet we agree to live there. Because it can still be good. Because there is no other option. Because we are always asked to carry more than we think we can.

A friend who taught kindergarten once told me a story about how he helped his young students understand that they could feel multiple emotions at the same time. They might complain to him that they were tired, but he would remind them that they were also strong.

I loved this idea. I tucked it away in the back of my mind – remember this when you have kids – and along the way of raising our young boys, these dichotomies became part of our family parlance.

You might be tired, but you’re also strong.

You might be sad, but you’re also brave.

You might be mad, but you can also be calm.

And that night at the kitchen counter, marveling at his own small strength, my toddler made the connection for himself. He held the tension in his hands and realized it was nothing to resolve.

It was simply something to hold.

. . .

So many people I know are carrying something heavy these days. Kids who are sick or parents who are dying. Unemployment or overwork. Relationship anxieties or financial stress.

Maybe it’s just the nature of living in this broken world as fragile humans. But sometimes what we’re asked to carry feels overwhelming.

Given that context, my current woes seem eye-roll-worthy by comparison. Morning sickness that drags for months, exhaustion that feels never-ending. I know it means a healthy baby, and I never take that truth for granted. But my younger brothers can attest that I am a notorious wimp when it comes to pain: I whine about the slightest discomfort and will never be described in an obituary as saintly in long suffering.

So nausea and vomiting that feels like a three month stomach-flu-meets-hangover? Not my easiest burden to bear.

Even when I try to keep the complaining to a minimum, the litany is always circling through my head. Please God, make it stop; please let me feel better today; please let me be near the end. 

In my mind, the body becomes the burden.

But this body has borne my babies, birthed my babies, nursed my babies, too. This body has brought forth life, even as I’ve had to lay it down in a thousand small deaths. This body has allowed me to do some of the best work I’ve been blessed to do. 

So while this body may feel heavy now – while it may be a burden when I’m lurching for the toilet or dragging myself out of bed (or shuddering to remember how much bigger I’ll get by pregnancy’s end) – this body is also strong.

Pregnancy’s paradoxes remind me of what a two-year-old already remembers.

That we are each asked to shoulder the weight. But we are also strengthened for the carrying.

. . .

What weighs heavy in your life these days? Where are you also strong?

24 thoughts on “this is heavy. but we are also strong.

  1. rootstoblossom says:

    I love this, simple yet powerful. I completely understand the pregnancy bit though, I recall the months of miserable nausea and pain way too well, and also felt guilty for complaining about the miracle that was growing inside me. I wish you and your baby health and plenty of strength. xx

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, rootstoblossom! Solidarity always helps, so I appreciate your sympathy. It is a tricky balance indeed, not wanting to take the gift for granted yet struggling with the reality of how hard it can actually be to bear. Maybe miracles are heavier than we think.

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Melissa! And I should tell you that the source of the story I mention about the kindergartners is none other than Zac…never forgot that tale he told me.

  2. Lauren says:

    Thank you for this reflection. I have been teetering–that’s too strong of a word–on the edge of anxiety. Work is stressful, but it’s also blessed and productive. (That is, when I’m not taking the time in the middle of the morning to check your blog. 🙂 ) Friends and family are struggling through relationships and difficulties.

    I woke up last weekend in a panic, the first time I’ve done that in over a month. But rather than succumb to the attack, I talked myself out of it. It still stayed with me the next day, the frustration that three years after my uncle died I still wake up afraid that something is wrong with me, that I am alone, that something will go horribly awry.

    And yet, I find myself making the choice against anxiety, against living in fear. The last three winters have been dark and dreary but managed with the aid of medication and friendship. This year, I notice myself turning away from the chaos of a fearful mind. It’s there, and it breaks through occasionally, but there is a grace present that’s helping me to look toward what is good and holy and peaceful and whole. A year ago, that couldn’t have happened.

    Indeed, there is much to carry, but we are strong.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, yes, amen. So much to carry. But we don’t have to do it alone. That is the promise of grace, I think. Which can come in the form of friends and loved ones and medication, too. The goodness that carries us through the dark. Thinking of you in these dreary November days, and grateful for the goodness breaking through in your life.

  3. Val says:

    Morning sickness is one of those things where the what it points to and the what’s at the end of it can help you get through it. Actually, it brings me quiet joy to know this is your problem. ❤

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Val – quiet joy is a good place for me to start too. Yes, the ends indeed justify the means in this case. Although the means can be messy, too!

  4. Val says:

    Somebody really ought to do Mary with morning sickness. I’m not saying that to be flip, but she’s always so lovely and “together” all the time in art. I refuse to believe her pregnancy was devoid of biology, it messes with the theology of the incarnation as, well, incarnate. If you go by artistic depictions? She saw an angel, visited Elizabeth, then rode a donkey led by a really old man. Given her often lavish surroundings when encountered by the angel, I’ve been led to believe she reclined on satin cushions for the duration of her pregnancy, except when she was reclining on velvet cushions instead.

  5. Ginny@RandomActsofMomness says:

    What am I carrying these days: a heavy teaching bag full of Hamlet essays (literally and figuratively weighed down by grading!). I’m also toting a general load of stress about how the heck I’m going to finish this semester and get all the grading done in time. But I love your reminder that I’m stressed, but strong at the same time. I’ve gotten through grading hell before; I will this time, too.

    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Oof, what an image, Ginny! Yes, you are literally carrying quite a load! I hope the end of the semester will bless you with a few moments of peace amidst all the to-dos. And yes, knowing what we have carried (and survived!) in the past can often be the biggest source of strength for what’s still to come.

  6. Alisa says:

    I absolutely love this post. We ARE stronger than we think – it’s true! I witness this again and again as a doula, within the space of all kinds of births. Thank you for writing & sharing this!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you again, Alisa! I love how you apply this to birth and your work as a doula. There’s a lot of tension – physical and mental! – that we have to hold all at once during the birthing process. This will be a good truth for me to remember, too!

  7. taramoyle says:

    Thank you for this Laura! My husband and I just found out that I am 8 weeks pregnant for the first time at age 44. It is a surprise and something I had long since come to accept would not happen. However, we are realistic so are aware of our odds during this first trimester. We live in ambiguity all of the time but during periods of acute stress it’s heightened. I will keep in mind that while not knowing this outcome is unbearable, it is also somehow bearable. What a comforting thought right now! Blessings to you and yours.

    • Laura says:

      Tara, what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it here. You are certainly living right into this mystery and ambiguity…I will keep you all in my prayers and hope for all good things!

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