When I was going through puberty, I didn’t react hatefully because of my hormonal changes, but I was very, very weepy. I think my entire family should win a major award for dealing with me during that time.
I remember crying about silly things, things like not being able to be a part of the table tennis team (honestly, I think my parents were trying to help me out there. I don’t know any cool people who were a part of the ping-pong club). At the time though, I was pretty sure that my parents were slowly sabotaging my life and social status. I cried over boys, and poor grades, and teeth that I didn’t think were white enough, and misplaced shoes, and anything else that seemed to stir my emotions at the time, which believe me seemed to happen daily.
Perhaps the worst meltdown came one summer when I forgot my bathing suit at a friend’s house. I left the bathing suit in Dinwiddie, which round trip is about 1 ½ hours from my parents house in Chesterfield. I couldn’t drive at the time, so I was at the mercy of my parent’s schedule. I begged and begged my mom to take me to get it, but the truth is we simply didn’t have the time.
The pressure was on because in just a few hours we were attending a pool party, and not just any pool party but a pool party with all of my closest friends.
My mom suggested that I wear one of her suits. Now, if you know my mom, you know she’s a pretty fashionable lady, but this suit certainly was not.
It was a “mom” suit through and through.
It was awkwardly high-cut on the sides to showcase my whiter-than-white thighs. It had a key-hole cut out of the back and scooped super low, lower than any one piece bathing suit should go. In the front, it came all the way up to my neck and a strap fastened between my shoulders. I’m all for modesty, but the high–necked suit caused what I have since termed the “uni-boob” effect, where your chest is one large, giant mass, which is unsightly and creepy.
To make matters worse, the entire thing was a gradient that moved from navy, to purple to teal to green. This sealed the deal for me. My friend’s cute, Hawaiian-print bathing suits would look so fun and flirty next to my mom-ish Brazilian-life-guard cut bathing suit.
It had a matching sarong. For a moment the thought comforted me. I thought about wearing the sarong, but couldn’t bring myself to do it, as I didn’t think the word sarong was in anyone’s vocabulary under 30.
The sight of myself in the mirror in the suit and my fear of being made fun of resulted in one of the most disgraceful, most dramatic, and most terrifying crying fits I can recall in all of my adolescence.
It was so bad in fact that my brother still remembers the fit to this day. He remembers asking my Dad what in the world was wrong with me. He was baffled to find out that it was all over a swimsuit. Some things a 10-year-old boy just can’t understand.
The worst part about it though was that once I got started, it was very difficult to stop the emotional train that was charging full speed ahead. Sometimes in the midst of an emotional outburst I remember thinking that the situation was really, really not that big of a deal, but once I got started it was harder and harder to stop.
It was an out-of-body experience really, where I could look at the girl freaking out over her bathing suit and my rational self thought, she really should stop that, but my emotional train was nearly impossible to halt.
It is what I imagine being drunk would be like, knowing that what you are doing is unwise or stupid but not being able to force yourself to do otherwise.
I’ve had similar experiences in pregnancy, not about mom suits, but about other things that are equally as trivial, but seemingly equally as distressing at the time.
I’ve heard countless times women describe these moments in pregnancy as if they are in puberty all over again. They describe scenarios almost like they are transformed back in to an awkward 13-year-old who really cannot control her emotions and is somehow justified or forced into behaving badly.
The truth is, my teenage self sinned in overreacting and my teenage self blame-shifted when I said my hormones were the cause.
The same is true in pregnancy. My hormones do not force me to sin, but they may influence me so that I have to fight a lot harder against my natural tendencies to do so. I think the solution may be stopping the train before it starts.
One of my favorite writers, Nancy Wilson, has a few things to say on the matter of dealing with the difficulties of pregnancy that have deeply challenged and encouraged me.
“As the Christian woman approaches childbirth, she should endeavor to prepare herself spiritually as well as physically and mentally. She should pray that God would give her a gentle and quiet spirit as she enters into labor. She should seek to glorify God throughout the process, both in preparation and in the actual delivery. She should reject false ideas about her personality suddenly changing [in pregnancy] and in labor, turning her into a sharp, nasty woman who is biting people’s heads off. That is a lie. If she is normally quick to be angry, certainly labor will be just another opportunity to sin. But if she is normally a kind-hearted woman, she will continue to be so under the provocation [or stress and difficulty of labor].
[People] want to excuse sin and do so by calling things syndromes. Childbirth is something that women are equipped by God to do. He has promised to keep His people and He will certainly not abondon His children at a moment when He is bringing a new child into the world. ‘The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). These everlasting arms are something a new mother can eternally trust. Christ will never leave us or forsake us. He wants to bless us and provide for us in all conditions. Our business is to rest in him.
At the same time, we are flesh and blood. He knows our frame. We are not to see ourselves as cartoon bionic women who can do anything. We may become frightened. We may grow weary. We may wonder why we are shedding tears. We must remember that He is sanctifying us”
–Building Her House, Nancy Wilson pp. 58-59.
I find these much more encouraging than the doomsday “just you wait” or the “I couldn’t help myself” or the “my hormones caused me to be this way” talk.
I know I will struggle, I know I will fail as well, but I pray that God would give me the strength to repent and to begin to learn better self-control during this more difficult, very hormonal time.
[And because honestly, none of us really want to re-live middle school all over again]