Have you ever been to a week long summer camp? You know the days when you first get home and you just can’t tell your mom all about it yet because you’ve got to figure out what happened and try to remember back to Monday by looking through all of your photos…? That’s how I feel right now about the first year of motherhood. I looked through pictures on Will’s birthday and almost felt as if I was watching someone else’s life… I can barely remember much at all of the first six months without the assistance of photos and videos. I feel sort of strange when I see or hear myself in them.
Becoming a mother changed everything. It changed my body, my hormonal makeup, the way I thought, our intimate life as a couple, the way I loved, the way I spent my time, my anxiety level, my attitude towards other people, my friendships, the way I experienced the news, the way I looked to the future and reflected on the past, the way I thought about my own mother, the way I saw my sin, the way I related to God…
I could go on and on.
Motherhood seems to have turned my life into a series of simultaneous antitheses. This year held within it concurrent bliss and despair. Its moments felt eternal and yet they slipped right through my fingers. It gave me everything I’ve ever wanted and plagued me with emptiness and anxiety. It left me terrified to miss a moment and wanting to run away and escape it all. It felt like a perfect use of my gifts and found me completely ill-equipped. I’ve never been happier to be alive on earth and longed for heaven so much all at once. It lasted forever and it flew by. The first year of motherhood was one giant juxtaposition. No wonder it’s hard to sum up.
I don't want to underplay that sheer wonder and joy that came with being Will's mom. He is amazing and my heart could just about explode I love him so much. I find myself playing and laughing more than I ever recall doing so in any other season. And I love watching my husband be his father, and seeing how much they favor in looks and personality. I love how he slows me down and makes things so much more simple. I simply adore being a mom... and without a doubt it is my favorite life stage to date.... but it is most definitely not what I expected. I thought the whole thing would look like a newborn lifestyle photo session... with everyone gazing at each other lovingly and in perfect harmony all the time. I thought it would look and feel effortless. But it was hard. As exquisitely wonderful as it was... this year was hard.
I wasn’t capable of as much as I thought I would be after Will was born. I had to stop meeting with some of the high school girls I really loved. I couldn’t do “cry it out” the way I thought I would and turned out to be more of an attachment style parent. I couldn’t stomach criticism … and advice was so hard to distinguish from it. Our family didn’t operate the way I thought it would. I didn’t expect to struggle so much with fear. I didn’t heal as quickly as I thought I would. I got a lot less sleep than I thought I would. Breastfeeding didn’t come as naturally as I thought it would. I didn’t know as much about babies as I thought I did. My marriage wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. I didn’t turn out to be as patient as I thought I was. Yes there were euphoric surprises too... but this year held a lot of grief and disappointment too.
Motherhood wasn't exactly how I thought it would be, but God was just as good as his word says he is. Just as powerful. Just as wise. Just as kind. Just as loving. Just as patient. That’s what jumps out at me the most as I look back over this year… this year that left me raw and exposed and more filled with joy and wonder than I ever imagined possible. I think back to the nights I went to bed feeling completely defeated followed by mornings of waking up to that smiling baby or a new milestone and I see his MERCY. I think back to the tender care of friends in a season where I wasn’t a very good friend at all and I see his FAITHFULNESS. I think back to nights where my husband and I just couldn’t seem to find each other that led us to breakthroughs in a counselor’s office and I see his POWER. I watch our son obsess over his dad when the bond wasn’t so immediate initially and I see his KINDNESS. I think back to my bouts with anxiety and despair in the first few months leading to the stability I feel now and see that he is LONG SUFFERING.
You see, this first year of motherhood was beautiful… but it didn’t fulfill every longing. It did however put me in the most humbling place I’ve ever been to behold that God’s blessings have nothing to do with my merit… and I’m learning to enjoy them without feeling like deserving them is a prerequisite (my son is the most incredible little person and I’m married to the kindest most patient man… I do NOT deserve them).
Maybe you’re reading this blog and you’re struggling to have a baby… Maybe you are pregnant not so on purpose and feel like your quiver is already full enough (the Jim Gaffigan sketch about someone handing you a baby while you’re drowning comes to mind) but I believe there is something here to be learned of grace. God doesn’t always give us the grace we want… but he always gives us the grace we need to learn to trust him and to become more like his son. That’s always been the case… and this year was a giant reminder of that for me. As time continues to pass and we, Lord willing, continue to grow our family, I pray that I will remain as convinced of that as I am in this moment. I trust God will give me the grace I need, even when it isn’t exactly what I had in mind. Because this year was not what I would have chosen… and yet I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I have come unto him weary and found rest for my soul. I have experienced the power of reconciliation. And my cup runs over. He has done great things for us and we are glad! May we always have eyes to see.