when the truth is ugly

posted on: Monday, April 14, 2014

by Charles Swindoll

looking back on growing up, if there was one principle my dad tried to hammer home, it was the importance of controlling your attitude. he hung that quote from Charles Swindoll on my bulletin board in my high school bedroom, and referenced it incessantly. so much discussion about attitude prompted many a concealed eye-roll on my part, but apparently, it stuck. 

it took me a really long time to realize the difference between controlling your attitude, and squelching your feelings. 

for years, if i had a negative or ungracious thought or feeling, i would toss it aside as quickly as i could. can't let negative circumstances stand in the way of having a positive attitude, i thought. but i've since learned, there is something to be said for a good wallow. 

just because you end up in a place of gratitude, where you're thankful for your blessings, doesn't mean you have to completely glaze over the truly unfortunate aspects of your current situation. just as it is possible to experience incredible joy and debilitating sorrow in the very same moment, one can also have a positive attitude while feeling all those hard feelings. you can have them both. 

this is something that is hard for many people to understand. over the past month, i've beat my head against the wall during many a phone conversation where the person on the other end was trying their hardest to persuade me about all the positives of bed rest. it could be worse, they'd say. i say, just because it could be worse, doesn't mean it isn't still shitty. it's as though they were afraid that if i lost sight of the positive, even for just a moment, i'd try to nosedive off the top of the building. so many times, i felt like screaming just let me be angry! let me mourn! allow me to feel it!

before my existence was reduced to being the incubator of another human being, i was a(n incredibly overly dramatic) person with goals. hobbies. pleasures. a career that i loved and had worked really hard for. now, that career has been postponed. i’m trying to do a few things while on bed rest in order to receive some credit for residency during this time, but there will still be months to make up. IF the baby is born early—say around 35-36 weeks—i might actually have a shot of getting back from maternity leave and being able to make up the missed time before the August 31st deadline. if the baby isn't born until her due date, or even if she makes it to term (37 weeks), i won't have time. if i don’t finish my residency requirements by August 31st, i have to postpone taking my board exams until November 2015…and graduation will be delayed even further as well. 

it’s a hell of a trade-off: either a healthy, full-term baby, or the career i've worked so hard for. i can’t have both. 

i know that having a healthy baby is supposed to take priority, and maybe it’s incredibly selfish of me to even say this out loud, but i’ve worked really hard for a really long time to now be faced with the possibility of it all getting screwed up. this whole bed rest thing has got me feeling like I...me...Emily...have become secondary to this whole process. like my whole existence revolves around incubating this baby and keeping her safe. i feel ignored. it feels like all the advice and encouragement i'm getting is centered around me setting aside all my wants, hopes, and desires in order to be able to bring this baby safely into the world.

taking care of my baby comes at the cost of taking care of myself. my muscles have atrophied to the point that i'm losing weight. sleeping at night is incredibly difficult when you're barely expending any energy during the day. i was strong and healthy and capable before getting put on bed rest. now i feel like i am none of those things. i knew that pregnancy would require me to surrender my body to this process, but this feels a little extreme. 

there’s a part of me that wants to do this for her, to keep her safe, to give her a chance to grow. but there’s another huge part of me that is just so pissed off that I have to. not everyone does. why me? i get angry at other pregnant women, going about their daily lives, able to protect and grow their babies while still having their own life and existence. i laugh bitterly at the irony of it all. i was hell-bent on clinging to my identity after having a baby. it was of the utmost importance to me to not lose myself in the process of becoming a mother. and now here i am, completely lost for the sake of my baby girl.

i haven't forgotten how fortunate i am. how i've managed to stay pregnant for 5 weeks longer than anyone thought that i would. how the Air Force is paying my way and alleviating any financial worry. how i'm finally home and how much better that is than being in the hospital. how incredibly great my friends and family are, and how so many of them seem to know the exact words i need to hear at the exact moment i need to hear them. there is still so. much. to be thankful for. and i am.

my overall attitude is positive. i will get through this. i can do it. i AM doing it. and i'm trying hard to believe everyone who tells me that she is worth it. most days i do. but those feelings that creep up in the background? i've finally learned that i'm allowed to feel them. to talk about them. to share them. if for no other reason than to let others know that it's okay to feel things like this. it doesn't make you a bad person. it makes you a person of texture. capable of the full range of human emotion. 

it's something that no person or circumstance can take away from you...this ability to feel. so do it. even when it hurts. 


  1. Thank you for this post... it is heartbreakingly honest and and beautiful, and so very true. I constantly tell myself (and others) to "feel their feelings" and moreso to myself, that it's okay to just have a feeling and not have feelings ABOUT that feeling.

    Also, I really admire your strength, Dr. Emily. As a woman about to begin her medical education in the middle of what are supposed to be my most likely time to bear children in a healthy manner, I constantly fight with myself about what I'm doing. I feel selfish for starting a career that may delay my husband's and my ability to start the family we so desperately want, but I also know that I could never give up this chance to be a physician, a goal I've had for as long as I can remember. I can't imagine how frustrated you feel at being "second" in your own life, a life you worked SO hard for and for which you have already sacrificed so much.

    One of the things that I've really tried to embrace (operative word: tried) is that God has a plan, even if at the moment, I find myself staring up at the sky going, "Can You at least tell me... sort of what it is!?" on a regular basis. It sucks to say "It will all work out," because I know for myself, I want to know HOW, and I want to know RIGHT NOW. Unknown things are scary, and being out of control is scary, and those two things combined are my worst nightmare. I will be praying for you, Nick, and Lyla Mae. Thanks again for this post; it made me feel not so alone, even though our situations right now are so vastly different.

    Sending love, hugs, and strength to you.

  2. Very well said and written. I love your honesty when writing about this experience. Since I've never been pregnant and not a physician I would only say to continue to allow yourself to feel what you feel. I think it's very healthy to do that. Thank you for writing this post.

  3. After a normal first pregnancy I went into labor at 26 weeks with baby number two and at 25 weeks with baby number 3. Both 2 & 3 delivered at 38 weeks, perfectly healthy and both weighed the exact same thing. It was bizarre. I've done my time in that position of human incubator. It's difficult to from sixty miles an hour to perfectly still in a blink... that kinetic energy thing where your body just wants to keep moving? Hard to conquer. In my situation there was a less than ideal marital situation, a less than ideal financial situation and it was before we had the internet. In fact, during bedrest with #2 the first Gulf War was going on. It was ALL that was on tv. Ask me anything about that war, I'm an expert. My career (such as it was) was more established but my long absences affected my job advancement. Let's face it, having babies changes everything anyways.

    Here's the thing: it's ok to say it's not ok. It's ok to grieve the pregnancy and even the career future that you expected. I can promise you one thing - this kind of pregnancy is the perfect preparation for motherhood which will involve more variables and unexpected twists and turns than you could ever imagine. There will be a lot of things in the next 18 years (ok, honest, the next forever!) that will require this same kind of kids first/me last sacrifice. At times you will resent it but for the most part the trade off is worth it. After twelve weeks of incubating with baby #2 on the way home from the hospital my husband said, "let's have another one right away!" We were that crazy about him. You'll feel the same. *hugs* Heather

  4. I absolutely hear you! I am taking care of a dying husband and two teenage grandchildren and I don't want to do either of them. I appreciate your honesty. It is hard to always be positive and people who always are postitive are both liars and they just piss me off. It is possible to experience both joy and sorrow in the very same breath. Keeping your blog honest is why I keep coming back. I really do understand. There are moments that I hate my husband and love him all at the same time.

  5. you're so good at sharing and articulating. you're my hero. thank you.

  6. what a beautifully candid and truthful post. thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks for sharing this! I'm not going through what you're going through - but I am pregnant with twins and it's crazy how when you get pregnant you really do become backseat to everything going on inside of you. It's a joyous thing but at the same time can be devastating for your own goals, mindset, well-being, etc. I keep being told that I'll be on bed rest soon bc of being pregnant with twins and am really hoping that it doesn't get to that point. I can't imagine the waiting, the loneliness, etc. Plus - working from home doesn't really sound exciting either. It's a trade-off, though.

    I can't imagine what you must be thinking though, since you're close to taking your boards anyways. To postpone that a year and a half out would be heartbreaking. The mantra I've always lived by is "everything happens for a reason." It's something that has always rung true throughout my life ... and life has a funny way of balancing out and putting in front of you what needs to be done ... whether we like it or not.

    ashley @ sunnysideshlee.com

  8. Beautifully written. I cannot even begin to imagine. You are so strong. And you are NOT selfish. Obviously. Nothing about what you are doing is selfish. Sending thoughts and prayers of encouragement your way!

  9. I'm a resident too (anesthesia), and I know what you mean about working so hard toward this career and not wanting anything to screw it up. I think that, in medicine, we are so conditioned to put this career before ourselves. There is an especially unique battle being a female resident- like your husband, for example, is able to continue on with his life. But just some perspective from someone that would actually kill for some bed rest right now- she is absolutely worth it. Being an MD isn't life. Being "behind" a year seems insurmountable right now. Your career is not screwed up because of this situation. Time will pass, and you will become board certified, even if it is a little late. Keep your head down and do your own thing. When you look back in 5 years, you'll laugh at how big of a deal this seems to you now.
    Hugs. Hang in there.

  10. Your career, one that you're truly passionate about, IS a part of you. Don't feel bad about being worried about it. Some people are ok with solely being a mom. Some people want to be a mom and have a successful career (I know I want both). You're doing what you can do, when you can do it, but that doesn't mean you can't want more for your daughter and for yourself. Feel it all, girl. And don't apologize.

  11. You have a lot to be thankful for. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. I haven't been able to keep a child past 5 weeks, so you are a lot further ahead.

  12. Well, I know exactly what it feels like when you have no control over body and have to take the situation you're in just as is. I was an incubator for my babies starting from week 28 throughout week 36. I was on strict hospital bed rest and I hated every single bit of my pregnancy since then. I was robbed the experience of healthy pregnancy, of life security, peace of mind. I was worried all the time, I has to forget about myself in order to save the lives of my babies. Don't get me wrong, I was very grateful that my body was allowing the babies to stay in longer in utero but I was feeling everything you're feeling at the moment. Moreover, I developed multiple health complications while on bed rest and simply not moving. I was miserable and everybody kept encouraging me to prolong my misery as long as possible. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in life but it was worth it in the end. I gave birth to two healthy baby boys:) but I'm still recovering from the whole process.

  13. I truly appreciate your honesty and openness. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I truly appreciate your honesty and openness. Thank you for sharing.

  15. (Btw I think you've gained a spam comment along the way)

    Anyway!! I think it's perfectly normal to have days where you might resent your pregnancy a little bit (or a big bit!) but at the same time you still love your baby with all your heart and wouldn't wish bad on her (does that make sense??). I have no idea what it's like to be working on the same career for years. I hold my BA in Performing Arts and now work in a customer service team at an energy company who deal with solar panels - not quite what I expected!!

    Somedays I get in a knot, I get stressed that walking up a flight of stairs gets me out of breathe and each time I step on the scales I'm a little bit closer to what I weighed last summer (I lost 21lbs between August and Christmas) but then I look at it the other way - I can climb the stairs it just takes me a bit longer and I have to be sensible. The 6lbs ish that I've put on is partially baby and the rest is probably something to do with baby too.

    Bed rest would drive me mad. I'd probably think it was cool for the first day or so when I could catch up on sleep but in the end I would start to go stir crazy.

    I hope that Lyla Mae arrives when she's supposed to so that you can try to have the best of both.

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  17. Such an honest post and so much that I can relate with. Your are doing an amzing job and what I tell myself on days where these feelings come in is "what is 1 more year in a span of the next 50 or 60 I am going to live?" as an engineer I work in worst case scenarios, percents of success - you will be a GREAT doctor it may just happen at a 1.5 - 2% delay :) I hope today is a better day for you!!

  18. I know everyone is saying it - but this is SO well articulated. I'm not a doctor, or pregnant, but I still know that feeling of being so thankful for what you have but so aggravated that you can't get to that next step when you can see it in the distance (a distance that constantly just seems to get farther and farther away). I have spent many days lately shaking my fist in the air, while at the same time quickly saying "But I'm so thankful for...." It WILL get better!! At least you have a sort of set-in-stone date of getting off bed rest and getting back to work. But at the same time - I would be mad as hell at the situation if I were you too. Keep your head held high, we're all thinking about you!

  19. I read this in my Feedly app when you first posted, and meant to comment, but here I am, very much after the fact. I mostly just wanted to say that I love the honesty you put forth here, like every commenter before me. It's refreshing to me to know that there are women out there who aren't completely okay with the idea of giving up their identity or career to have children. I believe that there can be a balance to be had, but the overwhelming amount of blogs I read or friends I have lately are women who are content to throw away everything they've worked for once a baby comes along. And I mean, that's fine, for them, if that's what they want, but I'm just glad that there are others out there with different convictions too. Haha, that was lengthy, and by no means meant to offend any current or soon-to-be mothers. But I wish you and your baby well! :)

  20. Thank you for your honesty:) I am in the midst of a master program in marriage and family therapy, and have often thought about the feelings I'd have if I were to get pregnant right now. Thanks for opening your heart to these emotions and sharing them with us, xoxo Katie

  21. As much as you love ur career (even ur dog) there is nothing that can prepare u for how much u will love ur baby girl. U think u know, u think u can imagine, u think u are prepared, but u aren't. From the moment u hold her u become a different person. U will love in a way u didn't know was possible. So hang in there. Yes, grieve for the pregnancy u expected, complain about the bed rest ( it is shitty) but don't for a second doubt that it is all worth it. Best wishes to u! A beautifully written post!!


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