Are we there yet? The labor of going back-to-school


Transitions always bring blessings and challenges. Getting a family back-to-school is a major transition, and I know from my own feelings and from speaking with a number of moms this week (our third week back to school) that these transitions can feel pretty overwhelming. I know I have felt that this week!

Why do we feel overwhelmed? I don’t know all the answers, but I have noticed that when we start something new, it takes a lot of energy. We often begin with great excitement and bring that positive energy with us. We go along, doing what is needed for the changes at hand. Then the changes continue and that requires continued energy. Our energy wanes as the days pass and the transition continues. We start to feel tired. New situations, needs, maybe even problems arise, and everything starts to feel a little hard. We start to wonder, “Can I do this?”

At this point, we have to decide how to continue. I know that during the years when I was dealing with chronic depression, this point would be where I would let my feelings of frustration or mental fatigue overtake me. I would enlarge them by dwelling on them or believing that the challenges I was facing were bigger than they really were, or by thinking I couldn’t do it. My emotional downward cycle would begin.

(Add a hormonal change, pregnancy, or sleepless nights to the mix, and WOW, do you have an emotional stew!) 🙂

What can we do to not begin this downward cycle, but complete the transition and have a positive outcome?


Nature teaches us some incredible lessons. I learn a lot from nature. In remembering the pattern of labor (meaning the labor that precedes childbirth), I see a helpful key to making it through transitions. As I recall, the beginning of labor usually includes positive emotions: happiness and excitement (“The baby is coming!” and “I can’t wait to deliver this baby!”) mixed with some fear of the unknown and of possible pain (“I hope I can do this!” “I hope this doesn’t hurt too much!” “I hope this goes fast!”)

Contractions during active labor are real but not typically super intense yet. You are timing contractions–they are somewhat regular–and dilation proceeds. With every centimeter of dilation, the excitement increases. Feelings  include, “We’re getting there!” “This baby is going to come!” and “I can’t wait to deliver this baby!”

Then labor moves into the transition stage. The body is getting closer to delivery but there is still significant work to do. This is where it gets hard. I remember that no matter how many times I had delivered previously, the challenge of this stage would seem to supercede past experience, and I would start to wonder if I could really finish.

Funny, when we’re laboring intensely, we don’t necessarily think very logically.

How many women are able to stop the process and just go home for a while?

Our bodies are amazing, and the process of childbirth is somehow programmed into our bodies. Labor continues whether we want it to or not!

At some point, longer or shorter, we travel through that super intense transition time, and our body is ready to push. At this point, we might be so tired that we don’t think we have enough energy to push the baby out.

Again, we may not necessarily be thinking very logically. How many women can put off the urge to push?

So we gear up because we so want the baby to come no matter what it’s going to take to get it here.

We push.

And it doesn’t feel very good.

We push again.

And we wonder why it has to be so hard.

We push again.

At this point, some babies are delivered! But for some, like me in my first labor and delivery, we push for a couple of hours, and we think there is no way on earth we can keep pushing.

But we do.

We keep pushing.

I remember when the doctor said to me that if I didn’t push the baby out, he was going to use forceps to assist the process. I did NOT want my baby to have cranial/facial injuries or marks due to forceps, so I found it within me to push that one more time (or set) that delivered my beautiful Sarah.

DELIVERY: that magical moment unlike ANY other moment in life! Words cannot describe it!


And YOU did it.

The invaluable lesson we get from labor and childbirth is that we get through the end of a transition by pushing. When getting our family back to school, we get up in the morning. We go through our old and new daily routines. We adjust the schedule. We adapt. We cry a little as we deal with our children’s roller coastering emotions. We might raise our voice a little or even throw a little tantrum of sorts. (At 44, I’m still learning not to act like a child!) And we climb into bed every night exhausted. We pray for help at the beginning, middle, and end of each day. And somehow, we find the energy we need to eventually get there. There? The place where we feel comfortable with the new routines and changes.

I’m not sure I’m “there” yet. I think I might still be a few more weeks out. But this morning when I woke up, having helped to get the children and myself back in school and classes, dance and soccer, student council events and church activities, music auditions, volunteer work and volunteer meetings, having helped move a child into her first apartment and get finances worked out, having helped get transportation for 9 people arranged and a car repaired, and even made it through the PTA Fall Festival last night, I feel like I have made it at least to a MAJOR milestone.

I am tired.

But it feels good.

(I couldn’t have done this 20 years ago. Motherhood has a way of teaching you how to do things.)

It’s hard, but I am doing it! You are doing it! We can do this!

Now: if I can just figure out how to get those school lunches made regularly…

Happy Pushing,

Liz 🙂



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