It's sure easy to judge when we're not in it... I thought about this the other day when I saw an old photo of myself, holding my friend's little one. It's so funny how the years fly by-- I can still remember being so young and wondering what it would be like to be a parent, and now I'm a mom... I'm in it. I'm doing it. And of course, all of the things I said I'd never do, well here we are, doing most of them. Parenting is crazy like that, it kind of forces you to take a long look at yourself and the way you do things, and constantly question it all-- is this for the best? Is this working? It's been four years now, and the longer I do it, the more I realize that a big dose of kindness and understanding goes a long way, for both myself and for the parents around me, doing their thing too.
I knew motherhood was hard, but I didn't KNOW it was hard. It's beautiful, and life-giving in every way, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But just like everyone said it would be, it's humbling, it's exhausting, it's exhilarating, it's terrifying. I've been an emotional wreck as I climb this steep learning curve of new-motherhood.
Because see, I thought that the first 6-12 months of motherhood were going to be so easy. Exhausting, yes, but not unmanageable. I thought I'd rock it. I take care of babies for a living! Toddlers are where the mystery begins, right? Um no.
I should've know better when, for the first 24 hours of labor, I was pretty sure it wasn't real labor. My due date wasn't for 10 more days, but more than that, I wasn't READY! Initially, I blamed the chaos on that early surprise. The house wasn't finished. My non-maternity clothes weren't unpacked. Heck, the baby's crib wasn't even assembled! But now, 11 months later, I can see that it would've been difficult no matter what. (And I'm just now unpacking the last of my non-maternity clothes. Ha!)
Yes, I take care of babies for a living, but I didn't factor in the hormones (ohhh the hormones), the postpartum anxiety, the 5 months of relentless pain. I didn't know that breastfeeding would be a full-time job for the first 6 weeks (seriously, 8 hours a day). I didn't realize that just because you know your baby isn't desperately NICU-level sick, doesn't mean you don't question every little cry, quirk, and squeak. I didn't anticipate how much harder it would be when the baby is YOURS. When your heart and mind and body and soul are invested in this unpredictable little being.
I mean, for the first 6 weeks, it took everything in me to let anyone beside Ross hold Noah without me wanting to snatch him back into my arms. For the first 3 months, it made me overly anxious if Noah was out of my line of vision. For 6 months, I couldn't hear Noah cry without wanting to cry myself (and there was a lot of crying on both ends!)
Today I sit here totally identifying with Ann Voskamp's words:
Yeah — if you’re being gut honest here — you don’t really want the cards or the flowers.
Or what gets wrapped up in shiny paper, or stuffed in a bag with wrinkled tissue paper, or anything that gets tied up and presented with these dangling tendrils of curling ribbon.
What you really wanted is to be extraordinarily, obviously, good at this. At this mothering thing.
You wanted to be the best at this.
You wanted to take the podium and gold medal in mothering — not take a million timeouts behind some locked bathroom door, turn on the water so no one hears you sobbing at what a mess this whole shebang is, and how you’d like to run away. Ask me how I know?
Honest? You wanted to be more... Never once did you ask to come stumbling into this with all this baggage — all these unhealthy-coping mechanisms, all these triggers, all this unspoken broken.
What you really want, desperately, wildly, in spite of everything — is for them to remember the good…. to remember enough of the times you whispered, “I Love You” … to know how many times you broke your heart and how how hard you really tried.
All you want? Is for them to feel a deep sense of safety, that they are safe to trust people, safe to dream large, safe to believe, safe to try, safe to love large and go fly — and you need to know that you haven’t wrecked that. That they feel the certain, tender embrace of your love —- in spite of all the storming times you acted unlovely.
I didn't know motherhood would make me doubt everything. I didn't know it would challenge my endurance and patience from the start. I didn't know that I could feel like such a spectacular failure on a daily basis.
But I also didn't know how much more I would love this baby who is my own. I don't take the honor of being his mother lightly. In fact, that's probably why I'm so hard on myself. This is real life. A real person. So impressionable. So dependent. The stakes are high. The calling is higher. I can only do this by, in turn, being dependent on One who is above me. By learning to rest in my own Provider when I can't do something alone. By remembering that He cares for me and has my best interest at heart, even when I don't understand. A mom's love for her baby has given me a beautiful glimpse into this kind of love God has for us. Thankfully, His love is steady and unfailing when mine is not.
On this, my first real Mother's Day, with Noah's first birthday on the imminent horizon, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Thank God for my mom, who put up with me being a 4am riser for my first year. History repeats itself, eh? She's been such a good listener through my anxiety, and as a mother of 4 with a husband who was a medical resident and then young doctor, she did motherhood with everything she had. Harder and better. I have the best role model. And I grew up with some pretty awesome grandmothers as well.
Thank God for friends who take my panicked texts into stride and continue to pour out love and advice without laughing at me (or... at least not in front of me)!
Thank God for a doula who has taken my worried phone calls for months, and never fails to strike the perfect balance between super natural crunchy mama and, well, common sense, that resonates with me.
Thank God for physical therapy and the emotional clarity that started to resume once I wasn't in a steady state of pain.
It does take a village to raise a child, and I'm so thankful for mine.
Happy Mother's Day to the one who made me...
...and to the one who made me a mother!