The Third Trimester Identity Crisis
Athletic, active, petit, productive, driven, passionate, energized, outgoing, adventurous, cute, uniquely fashionable, quirky, skinny, funny, confident, creative, motivated, unforced beauty, secure, engaging, playful, silly, runner, carefree, inspired.
Can I be really vulnerable with you? Like shame hangover vulnerable? Like, eat my words, delete the whole thing and never want to talk about it again vulnerable with you?
I had to face a pretty sobering truth this week that I am in the midst of a pregnancy induced identity crisis. All those words are words I’d use to describe myself…not pregnant. They served as identity anchors. Things that I put in front of myself to qualify myself and hold myself up. This stage of pregnancy has taken those things from me, and replaced them with self deprecating talk, fatigue, and frustrations. My physical limitations are threatening my confidence and my sense of self.
My life has become belly-centric. It’s a stage in pregnancy when everything is about the belly. What my plans are for the day are determined by bathroom availability, how much walking it will involve, and whether or not I’d need a nap half way through. My wardrobe is down to a pair of shorts (on their way out) a jersey skirt, slip on shoes, a few tank tops, and some summer dresses. I choose according to underwear options (slim to…well, you know, none) and how scorching the merciless dragon mouth summer heat will be that day. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be hot and my legs are going to stick together.
Even my conversations can be majorly interrupted by a dramatic and painful baby movement, an awkward baby position (this baby has a hilarious obsession with pushing my belly button out, it seriously cracks me up, until it hurts), and a charming phenomenon something been-there-done-that moms have lovingly called crotch lightning. It’s when your leg gives out because the baby hit a nerve and you involuntarily cry out in pain. Not to be confused with that cringey pain Cathy describes as a demon fingernail scratching your cervix, though just as lovely.
I would have maybe spent the next 7 (yay!) weeks unknowingly resentful, tired and threatened by this stage of pregnancy. And who would blame me?! Certainly not other pregnant women, or other moms, who empathize in solidarity. Who wouldn’t feel bad for little not-so-little Darla, just fighting to make it through the final stretch? Hating all her clothes, and randomly stopping in her waddling tracks to catch her breath, or try not to pee when she sneezes, or bite her lip in pain. Ang can be quoted in her final week saying, “Dang, I can’t wait to be awesome again!.” And I nodded in agreement. My self-pity has been…pretty pitiful. I felt bad for myself and I really wanted everyone to feel bad for me too. And to further expose myself I will share that because I’m considered “petit” and “cute” when I’m pregnant, I felt the need to make sure everyone knew that these last few weeks had been neither a petit nor cute experience for me. In other words, I was laying it on thick, y’all. Yikes.
But my friend Riely, a twenty something, fun, spunky, Jesus-loving, single lady offered a different perspective. After rehearsal for the worship team, she listened to my griping and complaining with tenderness and sensitivity and then basically punched me in the face (don’t worry! Just figuratively!) “Sounds like you’re really struggling with what you’ve put your identity in.” It was so true that I didn’t even pout or protest (some of my favorite things to do) I just immediately saw what she meant.
All of those descriptors are supposed to be just that, descriptors. But I, totally unknowingly, had used them as identity anchors. When my physical circumstances changed to this degree at this stage in my pregnancy, my entire identity was threatened, and I was just being tossed amongst the waves of how I felt any given day. It stirred up some ugly stuff that I’m trying to work through hour by hour, day by day, reminding myself that who I am is not defined by my body. Pregnant, postpartum, nursing, even trying to conceive, training for a marathon, wearing tents or skinny jeans, sick or well, injured, or brimming with energy. My identity is not set in my productivity, personal achievements, fashion, or sense of accomplishment. My identity is anchored in my faith. In the one who was the same yesterday, today is the same and will be the same forever; in the one who doesn’t flinch when I fall, who doesn’t move when I waiver, who doesn’t change with the seasons. He is always good, true, and faithful and loves me through all of my shortcomings and despite all of my insecurities.
Here’s the thing, I’m going to be hanging out with 150 of my favorite special needs kids and families this Sunday. They are CHAMPIONS of joy. They have taught me over and over again that hope and identity isn’t found in our flesh, it’s in our hearts and nothing can touch that truth.
The pain and frustrations I’m dealing with in this pregnancy are temporary and beautiful and redemptive. For me to surrender my full and true identity just because of a physical trial would be giving up much too easily.
If I anchor my identity in Him, then it can never be threatened, no matter the circumstance. It was silly for me to lose sight of that. So, here’s to constantly learning about myself and realizing that I desperately need God’s grace and mercy new each morning. Here’s to friends who speak the painful truth in nothing but love. Here’s to fighting against the negative self-talk and not allowing my silly insecurities to steal the stomach dropping joy I have in anticipating the arrival of our sweet little love. S/he will be here before I know it and I’ll have plenty of new lessons-of-love to learn. But, if I’m anchored in Truth, then I won’t be shaken.
To quote a song I sent Riely for a completely different reason but still rings true (as truth does in every season):
“If I have you, and nothing else, I have everything”