As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Labor of Life - The Art of Praying and Breathing

As I bustled about my morning getting ready to go to town, the weight of this week bore down heavy on me.  In stark contrast to the blessed calm of last week, this week finds us shuttling from here to there with appointments four of the five days.  Yesterday and today were doubtful that I'd even get out at all, because there are freezing rain warnings and I don't have winter tires on yet. Those are sitting in my basement, awaiting the day when I can leave the van with my husband so he can put them on. As I rushed through getting ready listening to the kids bouncing off the walls downstairs, and the baby crying outside the bathroom door, rushing to get ready for his overdue doctors appointment which I'm not even sure I'll be able to make, I know this is only the start of a very busy week - and it weighs on me. 

While the pain is not as physical as labor, it nonetheless reminds me very much of those moments when tension is taking over.  And if there's one thing that always gets me through those moments, it is not giving in to the pain.  Having been through the process seven times now I know that if I just breathe and focus all my energy on keeping my muscles calm, it keeps the contraction from taking over and helps it pass much more quickly.  This is the heart of what they teach in prenatal breathing exercises, but it's not easy.  It's an incredible feat of self-denial and mind over matter, of disciplining the will not to give into the immediate sensations of the body that are beckoning you to panic.  Doing this, for me, always requires prayer.  I usually find myself clinging to the familiar repetitive prayers of the rosary, the ones that I can say without really thinking, because when my mental stores are depleted those are the ones I can recite without too much thought. At my worst, I simply utter the name of Jesus over and over until the worst is passed.  And He never lets me down.

This morning as the weight of this craziness weighed heavy on me, I remembered labor - and specifically how Jesus has gotten me through it every time.  Every person who has ever witnessed my labor has remarked at how calm I am, but the truth is I know it's not me - I trust fully in God, and he takes my limited efforts and makes up the rest.  He gets me through.  Why is it so much easier for me to trust Him in the delivery room than in my everyday life?  Because while I know I would never scream and flail about during the delivery, when faced with a loss of control in my daily life I go from zero to sixty at breakneck speed. It doesn't take much to bring about my unravelling, which I am quick to blame on my circumstances rather than my own lack of faith and trust in The Lord. 

This morning it occurred to me that what gets me through labor and delivery is the fact that I go into it with the full knowledge that there will be pain, there's no way around that, and that I need God to get me through it.  When the pain sets in it doesn't take me by surprise, and even when things don't go as planned it doesn't matter - I never thought I had this on my own.  Weeks like last week when I wasn't so busy are a much-needed grace, but too often I mistakenly start to feel like I've got this. And when the reality of a crazy life sets in once again rather than relying on God to get me through a situation I always knew was bigger than me, I fall apart and long for the days when things were less crazy.  This is no way to live, and a sure way to make the pain of tension a million times worse.  It is not that the situation is unbearable, but that my coping mechanisms are sorely lacking.

And so this morning as the chaos of children in the basement mingled with the franticness of a screaming infant who just wanted his Mama, and I finished getting ready as yet another deadline loomed, instead of exploding as I too often do, I prayed. I said a Hail Mary, and I started breathing. Over and over again, like when I'm in labor, until the worst passed. I prayed and I breathed.  I called on the name of Jesus, with no notions that He would take this situation away from me but that rather it would pass in its own time, and that my own efforts were not enough to get me through.  It's a tough lesson, but a poignant one for me.

When the contractions of daily life come at full force, may we be quick to deny ourselves and train our will to seek Christ, who alone is the a answer to our deepest longings.

"Here is where the law of the gift comes into play: when you are lifeless, make of your life a gift, and you will come back to life." (Bishop Robert Baron)

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