The alarm blares at six in the morning. She turns with difficulty and hits the snooze button, too tired to open her eyes more than a crack. Her baby is already moving, probing gently across her belly. Her body is already communicating, sending information to her brain like text messages. Full bladder; must empty. Empty stomach; must fill. Dry mouth; need water. Feet aching; need relief. Back sore; roll over.
Every new ping sounds louder and louder, until the hamster wakes up at the back of her mind. It gives itself a shake and begins to run on the wheel that turns on the lights and begins all the productivity. Like the grinding gears of an enormous machine, new thoughts move sluggishly through her mind at first. But they get faster, louder, more demanding. Thoughts about what needs to get done today both in the home and at work, what errands need to be run, who needs to be called, and are there any appointments today that she might’ve forgotten about? Oh, and did so-and-so ever email her back? She should probably check–
No, she thinks forcefully. Go back to sleep.
Then a song joins the jumbled mess of thoughts. An song appropriate to her situation, but just as unwelcome as everything else.
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left…”
Quiet, she begs, pressing her face into her pillow. Please–
The alarm goes off again. Has it been ten minutes already? With a growl of frustration, she gabs at the snooze button yet again. Falls back into the mattress, tries to wipe away the obnoxious thoughts assailing her mind like gnats. She pictures a dark room, a blank slate, a broken radio, a faulty machine, anything that will communicate to the hamster that it can stop all production up there. But the hamster just keeps running, puffing softly, dutifully performing. And the song continues.
“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn…”
Her body chimes in again, sending a more demanding message to her brain. Bladder FULL; must empty immediately. Her baby gives a big shove and she finds herself doubling over, drawing herself in tightly to keep from wetting the bed. When the urge is less severe, the covers are kicked off. With curses and groans, she wrestles out of the comfort and warmth and safety of her beloved King, and waddles (yes, waddles–like an engorged penguin) to the bathroom as fast as she can.
The baby weighs heavily on her pelvis and lower back. Her feet feel swollen and tender; she winces with every step. Sitting brings little relief. The toilet is wedged in the corner between a wall and the shower. Even with both knees against a wall, her belly takes up too much space. She shifts and grunts and eventually settles. At least she’s able to empty her bladder in a dignified, adult-like manner. Leaning back, she sighs.
When did something so simple become so complicated?
She knows the answer, of course. She pokes the baby with a finger; he makes everything more complicated than it once was. He kicks back. A little smile, a speck of contentment, a moment of love. But once one physical ailment is relieved, the others swoop into the spotlight. Stomach empty; must fill. Mouth dry; need water.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
She lets the dog out of the kennel next, travels into the living room, opens the back door, watches the dog sprint into the grass. The cat leaps down from the couch, meowing in greeting. Both animals are fed. Then it’s her turn. Cereal and almond milk. She sits and reads a few verses from her well-worn Bible, tries to see beyond the familiar story and hear a different message.
What do You want me to learn today?
Breakfast is finished. She stays on the couch, staring into space. Trying not to follow the trains of thoughts still blazing through her head. Maybe she can go back to sleep for a few minutes now that her body has been appeased…But a quick glance at the clock kills that idea. Heave, ho, heave, ho! Up from the couch she finally goes. She walks back into the bedroom (ouch, ouch, go her feet). The pressure returns to her pelvis, low and deep. Baby gives another kick. She presses her hands into her lower back, suppressing a groan.
“I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends…”
She blindly selects an outfit for the day. Struggles into the jeans. Tugs on the blouse. Shoves her feet into shoes that had once fit her loosely but were now tight. Looks at herself in the mirror. A zombie stares back, eyes half-lidded, ringed with dark circles. With slow, painstaking movements, it tries to do something with her hair. She used to try. She used to care. Now, she just pulls it into a ponytail. The dog follows her every movement, carrying around its favorite toy, hoping to play. She manages to kick the toy a few times. The dog runs happily after it and brings it back to her, wagging its stump of a tail, almost smiling as it pants up at her.
Sweet puppy. How are you always happy?
She scratches it behind the ears before heading back to the kitchen. There she prepares her lunch. The same lunch she had yesterday. The same lunch she’ll have tomorrow. Does she have everything she needs for dinner tonight? A quick peek in the fridge and at her recipe book. Yes, all but two vital items. Of course. She’ll have to stop at the grocery store on the way home.
Prenatal vitamins are ingested. She experiences a wave of nausea as a result. Brushing her teeth thoroughly, she manages to erase the bitter taste from her tongue. Rinse. Spit. Look up. There’s the zombie again.
“…my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven so come and flood my eyes…”
There will be more aches and pains as soon as she leaves the house, little things that make everything feel worse. Faulty AC. Slow traffic. Irresponsible drivers. Never-ending phone calls from people with sob stories, people who feel the need to explain everything in specific detail before presenting their request, people who will demand things from her. Tasks assigned by coworkers. Disgruntled walk-ins (or worse: overly cheerful walk-ins). Nice people who only want to help. Concerned people who ask how she is doing. People she can never be honest with. And the long stretches of silence in between them all. Silences filled with nothing except her overwhelming desire to lay down and sleep. To shut out the world, to quiet her screaming body and squirming baby, and try to return to some semblance of the person she’d once been. Who was that again?
God, help me.
Blinking away tears, she tries to smile. She has to smile. Otherwise, her face betrays her true feelings. Frustration. Exhaustion. Selfishness. Apathy. Chronic pain. Things no one and nothing can alleviate. She is done being pregnant but a small part of her is afraid of what comes after. It’ll be worse, won’t it? It’ll be harder. If she can’t deal with this now…
Just let me get through today. Please. I need Your strength.
This is her mantra as she puts the dog out, snatches her short grocery list, picks up her purse and lunch and heavy water bottle, and waddles out to the car. She drives away, already anticipating her return. Will her husband have to work late again? Or will he be waiting for her when she gets home, ready to give hugs and kisses and much-needed foot massages? Baby rolls over in her belly. She winces and places a hand over him as she drives.
She almost wishes he wouldn’t move, but she knows the moment he does stop moving, she’ll go into a panic. She’ll assume something is wrong. She’ll jab a finger at him until he jabs back, just to be sure she hasn’t lost him like she lost the first one. So she bears his kicks in silence. Tries to be thankful for the discomfort. Tries to find the wonder and the love again. Reminds herself that a miracle is going on inside her body. Still, the thought that rings louder in her mind is:
Six more weeks.
*Song lyrics from Worn by Tenth Avenue North*