I’m not always certain about the outcome of the choices I make because I cannot predict the outcome of those choices. But, the decisions I make are not based on a whim. I am careful to consider the possible ramifications of what I choose to do or not do. Even then, the unexpected happens.
When my husband and I both settled on the idea to start our family, I knew little to nothing about pregnancy, childbirth or raising a child. I learned though. I checked out books from the library about these topics and talked with friends who had already experienced what I was embarking upon.
Though I could not imagine my belly growing so large as to accommodate a very large watermelon, it did. And though my husband and I took birthing classes before I went into labor, the severity of the pain alarmed me. In the midst of trying to breathe through yet another contraction, I wanted to slap the person who’d come up with the idea of breathing through labor. How utterly absurd I was to think “natural” childbirth was the best route to take. Then, finally, after thirty-two hours from start to finish, I held our first born. Oh my! Elation flooded my whole being and the pain and discomfort disappeared.
After a few years of getting the hang of mothering, nursing, diapering, weaning and potty training, I was ready to try for a second child. This time, the pain was not as alarming, the labor, which lasted only eight hours, was not as extensive. But the elation was just as great holding my second born as it had been with the first born.
Though my husband had thought we’d stop at two children, I surprised him. “Let’s have one more,” I crooned in his ear. With my track record, it seemed like a reasonable and logical decision. I’d had two healthy babies with no complications during pregnancy or labor. What could possibly go wrong?
But things did go wrong. Our full-term baby was dead before I began labor. I chose the option of induced labor just to get it over with as quickly as possible. But nothing could have prepared me to labor through delivering a dead child. It was the worst kind of labor imaginable. There was sweat, nausea, relentless contractions and sorrow mingled with hopelessness. This time, there was no elation when I held our baby, only weariness.
After that, it seemed I’d lost my joy. Life was drudgery and I only went through the motions of living because I had to. Eventually though, the ache of my loss wove itself into the fabric of my life and I trudged on. But, I still longed for the chance to experience the joy that comes after hard labor. Fortunately, after some time had passed, I did get that chance.
Why bother to consider joy? Though we long for joy, it may be delayed. But this delay only matures our elation into a deeper and more patient appreciation for those experiences we’ve been granted; both the painful ones and the joyous ones.