I have a sweet friend who struggled through infertility. She begged and prayed and cried for a child, undergoing years of both emotional torment and physical discomfort. Thousands of dollars, innumerable injections and procedures, and a whole lot of work later, she was finally pregnant. To say she and her husband were thrilled is an understatement. It seemed as though the internet and their support system all simultaneously exploded with joy and celebration. Finally, they were getting their baby!
Then morning sickness hit.
My friend who had begged her body to hold a baby could now no longer hold down breakfast. She was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, the form of severe morning sickness that doesn’t subside. She had a pump attached to her around the clock to provide anti-nausea medication. Her joints began to ache as the hormones of pregnancy caused them to start separating. Her stomach was covered in stretch marks from growth and bruises from daily injections.
Then one night, I received a teary message from the mama-to-be: “I feel so guilty. I prayed and prayed for this, but it’s really, really hard. I can’t complain or be honest because I begged for this, but it hurts so much.”
This wasn’t the first (or last) time I’d heard someone express guilt over acknowledging difficulty, especially with regard to motherhood.
As moms, we set ourselves up to fail. We feel the very real weight of our responsibilities and influence, and (incorrectly) think that means we must get everything right, every time, every day, with a smile on our face. We turn the call of motherhood into a call for martyrdom.
Mom guilt forces us to find fault in all we do. If we correct, we did it too harshly. If we picked up their favorite dinner, we didn’t cook them a healthy meal. If we work, they’ll miss us. If we stay home, they’ll drain us. If we clean, we ignore them. If we play, we don’t clean enough. If we do everything right all day long and make it to bedtime in one piece, we didn’t do it with a smile.
We are quick to negate our work with criticisms and comparisons, using some imagined ideal that only we hold ourselves to.
We already struggle with sharing the truth of how hard motherhood is, then silence ourselves further by holding to the notion that if we prayed for it, it can’t hurt.
Friends, this simply is not true.
Sara herself begged God for a son, then was granted not only a child but an enormous and important legacy with descendants who outnumbered the stars. Sara was given her heart’s greatest desire in such a miraculous and unbelievable way . . . yet her labor still hurt.
Sara became Sarah and then became a mother, and as much as she praised and thanked God for choosing her, she certainly still waddled when she walked at 39-weeks pregnant. She awoke countless times to pee, endured unmedicated labor, bled and cramped for weeks. She prayed to God for this miracle, and was incredibly granted not only a baby but a position in history and the lineage of Christ . . . and it still hurt.
Being granted a privilege does not protect one from pain. You don’t have to trade your miracle for the reality it exists in.
It is OK if what you prayed for hurts, and you are not ungrateful or faithless if you share honestly about that pain.
An old friend’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent multiple rounds of chemo, several surgeries, and countless tests, but the cancer would not be beaten. She went into hospice care and her family gathered around her, praying for her suffering to end. She was weak, sick, unable to speak or eat. She knew what awaited her on the other side of this life and didn’t fear death. Her loved ones sent out texts and messages, asking for prayers that she would pass soon, quietly, uneventfully, so her pain would cease and she would no longer be tethered to a suffering body.
A few hours later she passed away, and while it was exactly as her family and friends had prayed for it, the pang of loss was still very real. Though God had healed and welcomed her after her last breath, the empty seat at the dinner table still spoke of an ache, of grief, of a hurt that was still very real even after having gotten exactly what was prayed for.
You are not a martyr, friend. You are not a statue or an example of otherworldly resolve.
You were not called to avoid pain but to praise God through it.
It’s OK if you hurt after a prayer is answered. It’s OK if pregnancy is rough and raising the children you asked for is hard. It’s OK if the job you fasted for is demanding, if the house you labored over requires a lot of work. Jesus Himself endured unimaginable pain in order to fulfill exactly what His purpose was.
Do not doubt your gratefulness or dedication if you feel pain when handling an answered prayer. Remember what Sara’s pain meant for her, what Jesus’ pain meant for you, and allow yourself to honestly experience whatever miracle you’re in the middle of. Faith does not mean a life free of pain, only a life full of hope.