I was 40 weeks pregnant. I had reached my due date (when I typed in "due date" it auto-corrected the phrase to "die date," and any pregnant woman whose due date is smack dab in the middle of the Florida summer heat can attest that, without a doubt, the second term is extremely accurate). I had visited my doctor AGAIN and was told AGAIN that the baby would "for sure" be here by the end of the day. Now you'd think I would know better, by my third child, than to believe this. You'd think I would have known that you can't trust when your OB-GYN is "for sure" during the last month of your pregnancy anymore than you can trust when the meteorologist is "for sure" about a summer day forecast in Florida. But I digress...I put my trust into that false hope and went on with my day to eat Cajun food (spicy food brings on labor? FALSE!) and then to do one last grocery haul at Costco. I waddled my big belly through every aisle of Costco with my two kiddos in tow. I ended up having a 10 lb. 9 oz. baby two days later. So as you can imagine, the pressure on my lady parts as I pushed this shopping cart and loaded the 50-pound bag of dog food and the crate of bottled waters and all the other gigantically proportioned items that Costco sells was absolutely horrific. I finished my spree after eight stops of food samples, a break on their display couch, and what seemed like forever. Then, I dug down deep within to slowly maneuver my cart and kids and groceries and belly all the way through the parking lot and to the car. As I lifted and loaded every single item into the back of my freshly cleaned and baby-ready SUV, a lady approached me, looking stunned and said, "You should not be doing this! Can I help you?" I stood up (slowly, because if you know what "lightening crotch" during pregnancy is, you know that fast movement is an absolute no-no) and chuckled a reassuring, "Oh no, thanks! I'm good!" My pride lobbed the last few items into the car and then I climbed in the front seat and shut the door. I sobbed a silent, tired, painful, lonely cry and thought about how I had imagined the feeling of accomplishing it all by myself would've felt a heck of a lot more gratifying.
This is a reoccurring pattern in relationships in my life. I come from a long line of strong, feisty, and independent women. Nana was an absolute hoot and told naughty nursery rhymes until she was way too old to do so. My grandma raised five girls on her own. My mom was a 20-year-old mother of two and decided to step out and handle the chaos of raising us alone rather than subject us to the relationship she and my biological father had. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree, as I refuse any help from anyone at any time. I would constantly remind my husband, many years ago when we started dating, that he was in my life because I wanted him to be, and certainly not because I needed him to be. Ten years later, I attest that this is a LIE. I literally would not know the PIN to my own Target debit card if it were not for this man. #kept
Now, I birthed this baby the size of a toddler two days after my Costco trip a-la-pride and they wrapped her up in the generic blue and fuchsia striped blanket and fed me to the sharks....oh, I mean, sent me home with all three of my children. We had the weekend together, and then my husband went right back to work. Whoever said once you have two kids, adding the third is like nothing, lied. I was struggling. It was hard and I just wanted to sleep, and be able to feel my legs, and hold my bladder while I sneezed (still working on this one). True to my "never ask for help" style, I stayed the course and sucked it up. I was drowning, but I never accepted anyone's help or allowed myself to cry on anyone's shoulder. Nope, because that's not what good moms do.
The voices in my head constantly tell me:
"You're weak if you need help."
"You have to prove yourself through doing it alone."
"Doing it alone makes you better at it than everyone else."
"You can't handle it, so you must not be cut out for this."
"Needing help makes you less than."
"You are not enough to handle it alone. So you must not be enough at all."
"Asking for a hand makes you a failure."
"Moms do it all alone all the time. You are not the exception. Get it together."
"It's your job...to never need help and to handle it all, alone."
A funny thing happened though. This group of women, who you would never put together if you were to create a group of friends out of a room of random individuals, began to show up. They didn't wait for me to ask, because they knew Hell would have to freeze over for this to happen. One literally just showed up at my house with a birthday cake, a balloon, and washed the nastiest sink full of dishes you've ever smelled. The others came and took my older two kids to do really fun stuff so I could rest with the baby. I had meals dropped off consistently for two weeks, and encouraging messages on my phone all the time. They specifically told me not to write thank you cards, or feel obligated to owe them anything, and any sort of payback was forbidden. Each woman, in her own way, came and helped me with no strings attached. I received in a way I hadn't before. It was condition-less. It was freely given. It was healing and beautiful.
The thing with our culture today, especially in the world of moms, is that we give to people with our own selves in mind, and we receive from people with them in mind. We offer ourselves not out of love, but out of feeling guilty or obligated, sometimes expecting that the person now owes us. I wonder if that need we feel to make sure we return the favor, or publicly thank them, or write them a thank you card immediately, is more about our hearts than the act itself. Are we more concerned with the other person when we receive help and how they perceive us in that gesture that we miss the blessing and just let it add to our to-do list? Who in their right mind would ask for a hand from someone else if they knew it would cost them their other hand? We owe it to ourselves and each other to stop the cycle. To relationally give and receive like the bible tells us to do, with the same amount of enthusiasm.
I am forever changed from that moment in my life with a newborn baby where people showed up to help and gifted me the art of receiving. I give differently now. I just may allow you to help me after you offer six times now (baby steps). God called us to give and to receive because He knows that place of vulnerability is where bridges are built and holes are closed and hearts are mended. That's why God made it take a village. Not because we need to learn how to care for our children that are a handful, but because the adults need to learn to accept a helping hand.