Salty, Sweaty Trust
It’s early. My warm, weighted blanket begs for me to stay in bed, soaking in the stillness of our dark room. I move a large hairy arm back to his side and force myself to sit up. The whirr of two fans softens the sound of my rising. My feet need to hit the floor before the two little sets or this will never get done.
I shove my tennis shoes on and pile my hair on top of my head, securing it with my daughter’s scrunchy—left on my bedside table from reading together last night. I pad quietly to the living room. A hint of grayish blue light filters in through the windows, the beginning of dawn. My contacts try to settle on my bleary eyes as I squint at my laptop. What fresh torture awaits me today? Something called “Lower Body Hypertrophy.” I do not like the sound of that.
A sigh escapes as I pull my weights out from under the couch. I breathe deep, trying to muster some courage, hit play, and grudgingly begin to move. I attempt to step gently, the 70-year-old hardwood flooring beneath my feet wanting to squeal with glee and wake the others. The minutes of the workout sluggishly tick by. Sweat gathers on my back and forehead as the heater kicks on, warming the house for the day.
I grit my teeth and try not to give up, willing my body to tolerate the load. For thirty minutes I lunge, shuffle, squat, and pulse—all the while trying to quell the cold fear that threatens. “You can do this,” I tell my bones and joints. “You are capable.”
Most women work out after having children to shed extra weight, maybe even fit into their favorite pre-baby jeans.
I work out because I am terrified of my next pregnancy.
I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom, a genetic disorder which causes hypermobility in my joints and ligaments. My hips and shoulders in particular can pop in and out of place at will. What was once a funny party trick to gross out my friends in school is now, in my childbearing years, something much more sinister.
Women’s bodies produce relaxin in the second half of pregnancy, a hormone that loosens the hips, pelvis, and pubic bone to prepare her for birth. When it hits me, I experience pubic bone and pelvic dysplasia—which are exactly as brutal as they sound. My overly loose joints fail to hold my bones together, so the nerves running through my pelvis are easily over-pulled, creating shocking, radiating nerve pain.
The “pregnancy waddle” is an entirely different animal for me. Picking up one foot to put on my pants (or shaving my legs) causes spasms, leaving me temporarily immobile. Taking the stairs is a gamble. I have to wear a therapy belt to assist holding my bones together, forget supporting my swelling belly.
When I became pregnant with our son around my daughter’s first birthday, I was terrified. I was still nursing (which also produces relaxin) and my skeleton wasn’t stable. My pregnancy with him was considerably harder, nerve pain appearing a full month earlier and lingering a year after his birth. My daughter did not walk until 19 months (read, one month before her brother was born) which far exasperated the matter, adding her weight to the load my body was carrying.
Yet despite the physical misery, I don’t feel ready to be done having children. So, I have one option. I have to train my body to hold itself together.
I did not participate in any type of The Sports Activities growing up (largely thanks to my obsessive book-worming and my doctor’s requirement to carry my inhaler with me whenever I ran). For the first time in my life, I am training to be an athlete. A mother athlete, capable of carrying her children, both in and outside her body.
For the past seven months, I have shown up at dawn four times a week to teach my body how to work as one unit. The nerve pain finally subsided as my muscles surround my joints with new support.
I keep working. As I strain, groan, sweat, and sculpt, there are forces at work beyond my muscles. Along with my abdominal wall, my trust is strengthening.
I am gaining trust in my own ability to show up for myself. I am learning to care for myself the way I do my loved ones. My body has been through so much, and she deserves tending.
Our bodies are more valuable than the pain they experience or forms they take—mine included.
I am flexing my ability to put my trust in the Lord each day. He chose me to be the mother to my children. If it is his will, he will sovereignly choose the right time for me to carry my next baby. He will carefully measure the amount of pain I will experience, allowing just the right amount to press but not crush me. He will carry me through each harrowing step, using the ones where I stumble to showcase his strength above mine. He will prune, sift, and sharpen me to come out the other side of childbearing more similar to Christ.
The first light of day prickles through the trees and curtains, accompanying me while I toil. The beams dance on my face and across the room, creating a dazzling spectacle—like our home is wearing its very best jewels. It feels like God is telling me, “I know this hurts, but keep going. I’ve got something to show you, and I don’t want you to miss this view.”
I smile through the sweat, grateful to move and work, trust and heal.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series "Illuminate".
A HUGE shout out to Ashley Keller of @glowbodypt, a Jesus-loving military mama who helps women save time with the most effective training. So far, I have completed her Postpartum Plan and I'm almost done with the 10 Minute plan (you can purchase her plans here). I HIGHLY recommend them to anyone who will listen. Literally, I will DM you my before and after pics if you'd like.
(I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by her, although she does occasionally respond to me on Instagram, so I'm basically an influencer now, right?)
If something here stirred you up or helped you to feel less alone, will you share with another Mama who could benefit from hearing these words? Please consider yourself hugged.