A postpartum journey memoir
Love is the axis of human existence. Love is strength, it is weakness, it is security & vulnerability. Love brings peace, it’s started wars; it drives good people to sin & sinners to repent. Love is wild, unpredictable, incredible, undeniable.
A life well-loved is a life well-lived; or so the saying goes.
But sometimes, love blindsides us and holds us captive in a way we aren’t prepared for. Our world turns upside-down and right-side up all at once, leaving us fumbling for a life raft – a little blurry eyed, short of breath & paralyzed by fear. At least, that’s how motherhood started for me.
The childless version of me didn’t think I had a love deficiency – life was going exactly according to my script: impressive degree, blossoming career, a dreamy husband who loved me unconditionally, and certainly, no shortage of confidence (Insert eye roll, here).
When my dream-of-a-husband and I welcomed our first baby, we’d already spent nine [mostly] blissful years together. We’d experienced so much life hand-in-hand that I was sure we were prepared for our next milestone: cozy pink blankets and sweet squishy snuggles with a daughter that was half him, and half me. It sounded….romantic.
I expected an instant bond with her; the kind that everyone talks about when they hold their newborn baby. I expected everyone to come out of the woodwork and smother us with affection. I expected that we would be the center of everyone’s universe. I expected to feel complete and never look back.
A few hours into active labor is when the fear first settled in and took up semi-permanent residence. My body, convulsing with pain, wasn’t following my script at all. I fought every stage with every ounce of my being. I remember thinking to myself (or maybe screaming – it’s a blur) “I can’t do this, I can’t. Someone end it for me, I’m done.”
Thirty-one hours, Pitocin, oxygen, & two-and-a-half hours of pushing later, I held my daughter for the first time. I felt…. exhausted. overwhelmed. terrified.
Of course, I fell instantly in love with my daughter – I had an unparalleled urge to protect & defend her – but she felt like a stranger in my arms. A stranger who had just ravaged by body & stollen my previous life. So naturally, when love didn’t feel like enough, I was sure she’d been born to the worst mother in the world, and I was only minutes into the journey.
The abrupt transition from doted-on expectant-mother into the selfless world of life with a newborn left me dizzy and insecure – constantly grasping for assurance. But as days turned to weeks, and the novelty of her newness wore off, everyone else returned to their normal lives.
How, I wondered, can the Earth still be spinning on her axis when my whole world is upside-down?
Day after day, I faced a slew of unmet expectations & even more unexpected challenges. There were the hormones that made me burst into tears without warning (that lasted for months). I had a baby that didn’t sleep, and 102 people giving me conflicting advice (and judgement) on how to get some rest. I lived in fear that my husband would lose interest in the new (but certainly not improved) version of me. I wondered if I’d still be taken seriously in my career when I returned from maternity leave. But mostly, I was crippled by a furious new love that left me open, raw & exposed – like watching my heart beat outside of my body.
Control – the thing that had always kept me pushing onward with confidence – had suddenly been stripped from my world. I could’t ensure that my baby would continue to breath through the night. I couldn’t protect her from illness or discomfort. I knew that someday, someone would break her heart, and that my friends, nearly broke me.
So in place of control, I focused on faith.
Faith in my own strength & resilience, faith in my marriage, faith that sleep would return, and faith that it would all be provided by a good & loving God, who has a master plan that I contribute to, but don’t control.
In faith, there is peace; but it’s an ongoing journey.
When my second daughter arrived last year, she was met by a much more confident mother (Albeit, MUCH more exhausted). With her arrival, I found the courage to leave my job(s), volunteer commitments, and other organized groups – It was like handing in a resignation letter to my former life:
Thank you for all the opportunities & relationships you’ve provided, overcommitted self, but I’m no longer satisfied by trying to impress perfect strangers. My resume isn’t reflective of my heart, so effective immediately, I’m going to completely and unapologetically commit myself to my family.
And believe me, that did take courage.
Now, everyday I spend at home, I’m reminded that patience doesn’t come naturally to me, but it certainly is a virtue. I’m practicing patience with myself, patience with my kids, and patience to adapt to all of life’s unmet expectations. I pray daily for God to give me the tools I need to meet toddler frustration with tender hugs, and irrational fits with composed explanations; love is only felt by others when it’s supported by calm clarity.
To have love, grounded in faith, upheld by courage & lived out in patience – that is where I’m finding my ‘enough’.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.