Learning from Limitations


I recently wrote about the pregnancy scare I had when I was almost 29 weeks pregnant with my first son, which resulted in several weeks of bed rest and early delivery.

Funny thing: the day after I wrote that post, my doctor put me on bed rest again!

No drama, though. The news didn’t exactly come as a surprise during this, my second pregnancy, nor did the event involve any blood or traumatic hospital visits. Basically, my body is just getting ready for labor way too soon so I need to take it even more easy than I have until now. A lot of lying down, etcetera, but as I told a friend: I feel fortunate I’m not on the chained-to-the-bed-with-a-bedpan type of bed rest!

If you’re busy and exhausted, you might be tempted to say: hey, bed rest sounds pretty good right about now! But honestly, bed rest stinks. Maybe a day or two would be okay, but beyond that? No thanks. I’m normally not super active, but I can actually feel my muscles atrophy! And my poor, active 21-month-old, who I’m not supposed to lift…sigh.

One of the hardest things about bed rest, though, for me at least? I just feel so limited. And feeling limited physically reminds me of all the other limitations I feel I have. In writing and life, I often feel severely limited by my abilities and circumstances. Seriously frustrating!

In our society, there’s so much talk about pushing limits, overcoming limitations, and shattering glass ceilings. Often for good reason.  Perhaps because of that, the word limit and its close friend limitation (I pretty much use the terms synonymously here though they have slightly different meaning) have gained negative connotation. Limit=bad.

But can limits sometimes actually be good? We are all subject to limits, after all. (gravity comes to mind) Apart from physical limits, we face limitations of circumstance, of intellect…It would be nice to know limits are not all about restriction.

Well, the limitations of bed rest are at least teaching me some good things. A sampling of lessons already learned (or relearned—how soon we forget!):

Humility. We humans cling to independence (my toddler does, anyway). Not only do we value independence, but we often shun dependence because we equate dependence with weakness. And weakness? Heaven forbid. But, come on, is anybody truly self-made? Of course not. My (as yet) unborn child, for example, is completely dependent on my every breath. Becoming the helped rather than the helper is not entirely easy for me. But it reminds me that I need other people, and that that is a-ok!

Compassion. Pregnancy bed rest stinks, but at least I will have a newborn to snuggle when it ends. So many people suffer: when you are doing fine and dandy yourself, it’s hard to remember those people. Being limited by bed rest teaches me to be more empathetic, and surprisingly, less self-centered. (when I’m not glutting in self-pity, that is…)

Gratitude. When I’m off bed rest, I will dance down the street! (after some post-delivery healing, of course…) And until I can revel in my returned freedom of movement, I’m grateful for every day Boy #2 stays in my belly. Also, friends and family have been so gracious in offering their prayers and help with childcare and meals. My husband, bless his patient little heart, gladly pours me milk from the “heavy” milk jug. Accepting help isn’t easy but I feel overwhelming gratitude at others’ love and concern.

Now, I’m not saying you should limit yourself (unless you have doctor’s orders). Defeatism isn’t flattering. As people and as writers we should strive to constantly improve, to expand our abilities. But if—like me—you sometimes feel frustratingly limited by circumstance or even yourself, be patient and take comfort:

It’s not all bad.

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