“You’re shaking. Are you cold?” My husband asked anxiously.
I exhaled deeply, the contraction loosening its grip on my body. “No,” I assured him. “It’s normal.”
I’m in transition
For a laboring woman, “transition” is often the most difficult part of labor. I experienced shaking and sweating as my contractions intensified, crashing down on me in rapid succession over the next hour (Thankfully I avoided the vomiting that many women experience).
Transition is also emotional; it’s where women often lose their confidence and resolve.
During Eli’s birth, I remember looking into my doula’s eyes and saying, “I don’t think I can do this.”
Immediately, she and my midwife emphatically assured me, “You are doing it. You’re doing it now! You can because you are!”
You can because you are.
This was good advice for when I was in labor. It bolstered my confidence and carried me through the fiery intensity of pushing my baby into the world not long after my confession of doubt.
But when I think about LIFE transitions, particularly, the way my world is going shift on its axis with our move into military life, I can’t quite follow this advice.
Our big transition is in sight. It’s coming closer every day. The countdown is on. We’ve made decisions and we’re not turning back.
And even though I’ve made conscious, enthusiastic choices to get to this point, it all feels overwhelming.
I’m emotionally shaken, wondering if I can do this.
I think of other transitions I’ve gone through, and, while I have some solid history of going through transitions gracefully—like moving when I was 8 years old to a new town and going to college out of state, starting grad school with two toddlers—I can think of quite a few transitions in my past that nearly did me in:
Becoming parents to twin boys at age 23
Receiving Benji’s Autism diagnosis
Struggling with breastfeeding my 4th son
Quitting my job last year
Even getting married was a rocky transition for me, as I tried to figure out who I was in light of my new role, new responsibilities, new relationship, even my new name.
It was tough.
“I don’t think I do transitions very well,” I told my counselor at a recent session. “How do I go though this military transition gracefully?”
I asked this question at the end of the appointment so we didn’t have time to hash it out until the next week. And even though we were able to talk through some of my fears, expectations, and thought patterns about my future, I still don’t have a clear, put-your-finger-on-it answer.
How do I go through transitions gracefully?
How do I accept change—even good change—when the world I am stepping into is completely unknown?
My husband jokes that we aren’t starting a new chapter in our lives: We’re starting a new volume.
Somehow, it’s a small comfort to know that transitions are part of what it means to be human. The only constant is change, right?
There’s transition in starting—and ending—a job.
There’s pain in the transformation of becoming a parent for the first time, and pain in the adjustment to an empty nest.
There are health transitions and wealth transitions.
There’s death—of loved ones, pets, relationships, and dreams.
I’ve done more stumbling than waltzing through my life transitions, fumbling in the dark for something called “Normal.”
And I think that’s where I’ve messed up—it’s where I’ve been searching for “Normal.”
When I had my twins, the life I knew dissolved before my eyes—I spent weeks, months, trying to grasp at my past life, my past identity, my marriage, friendships, body image, time management, hobbies, sleep, life-as-I-knew-it–before-kids.
But the thing is, my life-before-kids was gone. Poof! It was no more.
And the harder I tried to get back to that place, that Old Normal, the more frustrated, confused, and discontent I became about my new life.
I couldn’t go back. I could only go forward. And when I did, I was able to enter into my new Normal with newfound joy and contentment.
But there’s also grief in the moving forward, in the unclenching of fingers from dreams and memories that are already slipping away.
There’s grief in the letting go. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially to a life well-lived, like our 14 years in our current city and 9 years in our current home.
I don’t know what the future holds, but, as I go through this transition, I’m clinging to faith that God still has so much Good in store for me in the future, despite all the unknowns.
Embracing the grief
Believing in the Good
Maybe those are the keys to graceful transition.
Share your wisdom with me: How do YOU go through transitions gracefully in your life?
What eases the pain?
What helps you thrive in the face of change?