Parenting - Blog

What to Do in the Pain and Mess of the Unexpected

Amanda Stephens

Can there be purpose in the pain and the mess of the unexpected?

When I was expecting our first child, who turned out to be twins, I remember seeing new mothers pushing their babies in their strollers, and I couldn’t wait to do the same. I pictured my transition to motherhood being filled with sweet smelling baby snuggles as I easily maintained everything else I’d done before having kids. But like most things in life, I learned that parenting usually plays out differently than the expectant couple thinks.

Five weeks before our twins’ due date, I contracted HELLPS syndrome (a life-threatening condition for both baby and mother). That’s when my picturesque image quickly began to disappear. Doctors frantically wheeled me into the operating room. They sedated me and delivered the babies via emergency C-section. I wasn’t conscious when our boys were born, my husband wasn’t allowed in the room with me and I don’t have a clear memory of holding my babies for the first time.

I wasn’t conscious when our boys were born, my husband wasn’t allowed in the room with me and I don’t have a clear memory of holding my babies for the first time.

Life Was Harder Than I Imagined

After an almost week-long hospital stay and two blood transfusions, it started to dawn on me that this parenting thing might turn out differently than I had imagined.

Now, the reality of staying on top of my life going on only a few hours of sleep per night seemed laughable. And in the midst of the day-to-day chaos, I was fighting a mild case of the baby blues, which made me feel like I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Is family life turning out harder than you originally envisioned?

  • Are the demands of having children taking its toll on your marriage?

  • Did you see yourself in a different place professionally by now? Are you finding it difficult to juggle work and kids?

  • Are you feeling isolated and secretly long to break away from the little ones?

How We Got Through the Unexpected

Fast forward ten years. With the support of our family and friends, we survived those early days of parenthood. We eventually found a good balance, and we even added to our family again. But my story is still different than I imagined.

I’ve learned that the deeper we get into life, the more likely we are to experience the tension between our own expectations and the reality of how things are actually turning out.

So, when life refuses to go our way, do we push ourselves harder to turn things around?

Do we allow anxiety and fear to control us? Do we hide behind our smiles on social media, only to harbor feelings of discontentment?

You might be surprised to find that this battle is not necessarily waged on the outside. The battleground is not in your living room scattered with Legos or baby toys. The battleground is not at the office or even in your bedroom with the spouse who seems far too distant. The battleground is in your mind and in your heart.

The First Step

The first step to dealing with life’s unexpected situations is to acknowledge the lie that you’re the only one wrestling with them. Behind every perfect social media post, lies a bigger story. And that story is filled with reality — the flawed and frustrating moments that pepper life and make us human and relatable. Without knowing it, we begin to believe the lie that others are living out a better story than our own.

The first step to dealing with life’s unexpected situations is to acknowledge the lie that you’re the only one wrestling with them.

The truth is that there are people who can relate to what you’re going through. You’re not alone, and you were never meant to walk this road without authentic relationships. Are you feeling connected right now? Do you have a friend, or do you know someone who might understand? Can you take a step toward going deeper with another person?

Being honest and sharing your struggles with someone else helps you realize that even though what you’re going through is hard, you’re not the only one. Having a support system makes a world of difference. It builds hope, it offers perspective and it lends a helping hand when you need it.


More on Finding Purpose When Life Is Different Than You Thought

“Though we wish it were so, the reality of life is not always a Cinderella story,” writes Barbara Rainey, co-founder of Cru’s FamilyLife ministry. “During some difficult days, I learned there was something better than a magic wand to wave away my troubles.”

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When Your Life Is No Cinderella Story

 

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