On sickness, feminism, and sacrifice: Thoughts on “doing it all”

“How do you do it?” The question lobbed gently at me last week from a curious junior in college. “The schooling, the job, the wanting a family, what does that look like?” My mind went blank.  I wanted to give her a stellar answer with an impression that I have it all figured out.  But I simply looked back at her and said, “I don’t know.”

However, something was clear in that moment.  It’s not me doing it all.  I told her about choosing a partner who is 100% in support of my vocation – that we do work together on our homestead and separately at our workplaces, but we are equal shareholders with our home, marriage, and parenting. I lauded my community as a place resembling a village where childcare is shared, and I can walk to some of my closest friends houses.

That was true last Wednesday at 6:07 a.m. when my 18-month-old babe had his second febrile seizure.  For two minutes he convulsed next to me and my husband as we tried to cool his little body off.  We knew it was not necessary to call 911 like last time in July. As scary as these sound and look, it is just part of sickness at our house now.  Some people have much more traumatic things to deal with, I get that, but for the 15 minute window afterward when Thatcher lies there unresponsive, well, needless to say, I go to dark places.

But the dark didn’t last long when I heard a voice in our hallway, “Guys, can I come in?” Ari. A nurse, sure, but more importantly, Thatcher’s godmother, our neighbor, and even more so, dear friend.  We called her instead of the paramedics.  She was there within three minutes of our call.  She talked us through it; gently covering Thatch with a sheet and making sure we were okay.  Quite different than having a dozen firefighters, two cops, and paramedics all in our small room last time.

He started shivering after he came out of his limp numbness.  He was cold, but his temperature said otherwise having caught it measuring at 104.7.  There is nothing to be done except try to keep him comfortable, hydrated, and on a regimen of Tylenol and Ibuprofen.  So we watched Daniel Tiger and listened to cartoons sing about being sick and needing rest.  Thatcher curled up on my lap and eventually fell into a deep sleep leaving me to reflect, write, and rest, too.

If I could go back to the conversation I had with the student after the seizure, I would tell her the same things – to keep pursuing issues of justice, to notice what lights her up, and that just because you choose one path doesn’t mean you are on it forever.  But I would also tell her that she cannot do it alone.  The reason I have a family, a homestead, go to school and teach is not because I am some magically energized person.  It is because I have come to terms that to do this life requires interdependence – no matter who you are – and sacrifice.

Interestingly enough, last week I was also in my Third World Feminism class where a few of my classmates rejected “sacrifice” as something feminists should embrace.  Mind you, we were discussing the Dalit women of India who have had to sacrifice nothing short of their bodies and lives just to wake up every day. But as I sit here looking at my life – full of privilege, not trying to deny that – sacrifice is included in it, and I don’t think that is disharmonious with my knowledge of feminism.

To put it a different way, I’m not sacrificing who I am or the voice God has given me. But as I watch this little boy sleep, I am aware of priorities shifting for today and forever, of leaning on others who know more, of realizing that I cannot do it all. The truth is, I see sacrifice as a sort-of acceptance of surrendering.  I surrendered my sanity the day I had a child, and on the day I look my vows, because I am not guaranteed safety, health, or prosperity for any one of us. That’s what surrendering to love does – it is not rational – it desires, craves, deals with hope and loss, and cries out for something restorative amidst the darkness.

The two times I have held my baby while he has seized in my arms has brought me face to face with sacrifice. I let it wash over me – the emotions, the fears, the trauma – and I have to let it shape me.  For in this, sacrifice isn’t something belittling where I give up more of myself, but face what is the scariest reality possible and continue living into who I am with those around me. I am not autonomous; I am cannot work myself into a state where I am exempt from fear and bad things happening.  But I ground myself into my community, my home, my faith, my body, and keep learning about how they are all interconnected for the better or worse.

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One Comment on On sickness, feminism, and sacrifice: Thoughts on “doing it all”

  1. Becca Stone says:

    Somehow I missed this post from last month! I came to the site looking for another of your past posts. This must have been just what I needed today. I get asked the “how do you do it all?” question a lot too. Not sure I ever offer a stellar answer. I think it’s possible for my answer to even change based on the week. I have no secrets really. I don’t strive to balance (I read about that in a book once…ha!) and remind myself to stay in the moments, no matter how hard they may be. You expressed that so well here. Thank you for sharing about this fearful situation with Thatcher.

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