On Becoming A Mama: The First Weeks At Home
I've tried to sit down and write this post several times and have struggled to complete it -- not because of the interruptions of my newborn (well, yeah that too) but mainly because it's so difficult to describe these first weeks with our little guy. I can't believe he will be eight weeks old on Friday and we will have been doing this parenthood thing for two months.
I remember coming home from the hospital and feeling like I was in a dream.
About two hours later, I wanted to wake up.
And I don't mean that in a bad way. It's not that I wanted my life to go back to before Charlie, I simply wanted my life to stop feeling unfamiliar. I thought that 40 weeks of pregnancy would prepare me somehow to "feel" like a mama, but if I'm being honest? I still wrestle with the reality of being a mother. I mean, I'm a mom. It's still crazy to me. I have a son. I am Charlie's mom. :)
Brian and I sat next to each other on the couch many nights and wondered when being a parent would finally feel familiar.
The first two weeks were the most difficult in many ways. Physically I felt like a victim of a hit and run. But each day brought unexpected relief in one area or another. It's funny how in the moment I thought I would never recover. Or I thought it would be months before I felt like myself again. But within a few days, I could feel everything healing. Breastfeeding slowly stopped hurting. My back relaxed and the cramping slowed. My skin released the 40 gallons of water it was holding onto. My shoulders relaxed (thanks to the occasional neck rub from hubby). By the third day home, I wasn't taking anything for pain.
My sister gave me some good advice -- as much as you can, get outside and in the sunshine. By the fourth day home, I was taking a 15-20 minute daily walk around our neighborhood for some fresh air and sunshine while Brian would sit with Charlie. I would pray and pray and pray, mostly desperate prayers like, "God, please help me make it through tonight," or "Please empty me of myself and fill me with Your Spirit. I can't do this without You." My neighbors probably think I'm looney tunes because I was marching around our street talking with God out loud because I needed to hear myself. :)
It really did wonders. Especially for all. the. emotions.
I felt so lost in myself those first two weeks.
As my body began to recover, my emotions started having "contractions" and it took a few weeks for them to ease up. I was prepared to experience waves of sadness or what is knowns as the "baby blues." But it's hard not to believe all the thoughts swirling in your brain. Since I am typically an emotionally reserved person to begin with, I knew I didn't need to battle through this alone. I remember standing at the sink right before we were going to bed (notice I didn't say "going to sleep" haha) and feeling like I needed to cry for hours. Brian walked by and I reached out and grabbed his hand, "Hey, um, I'm feeling a little weepy ... can you just hold me for a second?"
Letting my emotions show in front of Brian really helped me pull some of the ickiness into the light. It always helps to get that stuff out. Sometimes if no one was around, I would pull out my phone and starting typing out (or voice texting) into a note what I was feeling. Finding the right words and writing it all down helped me feel less alone in the midst of so many hormones. Seeing it written out also helped me navigate through true or false emotions.
Marriage became different in unexpected ways too.
Practically, I have depended on Brian more than I ever have before. With his help, I could once again feed myself and take a shower and vacuum the house and read my Bible for a few minutes. This "I can do it all" woman became a very dependent, very grateful little mama. It created a lot of new love and respect in my heart toward him. I feel like we were both walking around in the same sleep-deprived coma but we kept holding hands to make it through each day and night. And even though I was spending a lot more waking hours next to him, I still missed him.
It's a weird feeling. Being new parents is a tangled mixture of mourning the loss of what you had before the baby but also learning to rejoice in what God has given you as a new family. And I had to tell myself that it's okay to be sad and miss the way things were sometimes (and let him do the same). But we didn't stay there. We are learning our new normal and finding joy here.
The enemy always wants to attack marriage, especially when you're "down" (aka, sleep deprived, in pain, overwhelmed, out of your comfort zone), so I learned to watch out for his attacks. Resentment, irritation, frustration were all very much within reach during these last few weeks. Add the crazy hormones to the mix and it's almost impossible to figure out what's really going on in your marriage.
So my advice? Pause. Ask for grace. Give grace.
There are a lot of battles and a lot of victories.
Guarding my heart with the truth was absolutely the most important job of my day. Yes, I might physically be able to get my aching body out of bed to feed, clothe, and clean this little human -- but my heart could potentially rob each moment of the worship and joy to be found there if I did not preach and practice the truth.
People say that you don't have any time to yourself when you have a newborn. And yes, the little human does need a lot of attention, but I still found time to get in the Word and listen to sermons and sing out loud and count the gifts. This refueled and refreshed me -- I don't know if I would have survived without it (and that includes today!). It allowed each moment of parenthood and wifehood to become something more: an invitation to worship Jesus in new ways.
"In the daily (and nightly) work of mothering, we're given dozens of invitations to worship God as he reminds us of the hope we have because of his gospel." – Gloria Furman
So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, GNT)
I'm so thankful the gospel isn't advice for how to be a better woman, wife, and mother – but it is the life-changing news that He came for me in my mess and demonstrated His love for me. I don't have to earn it. I simply get to rest while it heals me through and through. So as I sit here reflecting on the goodness of God over the last several weeks, my heart sings and sings and sings.
Because, wow. Motherhood is such a tool of God that He's using to transform me from the inside out.