This post suddenly hit me while I was taking a shower. For some reason, my in-depth personal posts almost always come to me that way. Maybe because when there’s nothing to do but wash your hair and look at blank space it FORCES you to stop and think. This one is for my mamas, especially the ones who have an infant or toddler. Because this is personal reflection, fair warning, this is faith based. I know my readers may not share my personal faith, but perhaps if you keep reading something will hit home for you, too.
Let me do a bit of a backstory. I was married in 2008, and we didn’t have our daughter until 2016. Honestly, we didn’t know if we would be able to have kids. When we had my little girl I was thirty-six years old, and had been wishing and praying for a lovely little child of our very own. However, I was also scared of the baby stages, not having been around many babies in my adult life. Most of my friends are childless, either by choice or not (so can we bust a myth right there about people with kids leaving behind their friends without kids?). So, those baby days were HARD.
Here’s the thing I have to say. I had spent thirty-six years on this planet, and of course, in that time I had fostered my own passions and interest, and even grown my own business. I loved my hobbies and my friends and my life. But now, here I had this little bundle I had been praying for. This alien, screaming, never-sleeping-when-I-wanted-to-sleep bundle.
People said “oh, babies sleep all the time! You’ll get lots of sewing done while she sleeps.” LIES. My baby had what they call “silent reflux.” But it was undiagnosed for about the first three months of her life, so during that time while I cried and questioned my life choices while my child screamed and sputtered and didn’t want to eat, I escaped into social media or I tried (unsuccessfully) to nap.
Here’s where one of the myths of our Christian culture can come in. There’s a little thing that goes around that people like to say “if you’re unhappy, you don’t have enough faith.”
My sweet sisters, let me tell you this. We can have JOY. God grants us joy. But happiness and joy are two different things. You can be unhappy. You can cry. You can have post-partum depression. But you can still have JOY.
I feel like there’s this thing that goes around in mom circles, which causes many mothers in the early days to question their sanity. People say “this is the best age.” But when you’re home and in the trenches and haven’t slept more than two hours at a time, and your child is screaming, and you can’t figure out why you can’t breastfeed because it makes your child sick, but you’re supposed to because its “the best”, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you.
“Cherish this time, it goes so fast.” Now that she’s almost three, I do look back with some fondness to those baby days. But those early baby days still send waves of fear and anxiety down my spine.
ITS OK, MY LOVES, IF YOU FEEL THIS, TOO. We are the unspoken minority.
Just because it’s hard, just because you may be having a hard time adapting to your new life, just because you may mourn for those hours you could spend immersed in your work/hobbies/identity/interests… NONE OF THOSE THINGS MAKE YOU A BAD MOTHER. THEY MAKE YOU HUMAN.
“For this child I have prayed.” YES. AMEN. But you’re allowed to have hard times. You’re allowed to be uncertain, or have sadness, or mourn parts of the old life. It’s OK.
Past me, when wanting a child so badly, may have seen what present me admits is hard and be jealous I even had the opportunity for those hard times. But let me tell you, bottling up our challenges because we are afraid of what our past self would say is NOT HELPFUL to other mothers who really just need someone else to admit this being a mom IS HARD. Don’t let your past self guilt you into lying to yourself, and to God, about your present place. He knows what’s going on anyways. Don’t go to the girlfriends who are wishing and hoping for a child of their own, because they need their own prayer and need their own safe space. But find those mothers of your clan who will listen and let you cry, without the overwhelming advice you don’t really need or the “this goes so fast”. That’s not what you need when you’re already struggling with your personal feelings and new life. In retrospect it goes fast, but in the moment it goes SO SLOW.
And snuggle that little darling. Because as hard as the hard times are, we all know those precious times are worth more than all the gold and riches we could ever wish and hope for.
Oh, and by the way, we are perfectly happy with one. Please stop asking.
If I don’t respond to comments, please forgive me. Because, if you’re in the same spot, you know that all those free moments can only go so far and we’re all just doing the best we can with what little brain cells we have left.
Melissa BorromeoSeptember 25, 2019 at 9:49 pm (4 years ago)
Thank you for your honesty. Your story sounds so much like mine.
Diane PappSeptember 25, 2019 at 11:49 pm (4 years ago)
Oh my goodness! How lovely of you to share and remind me of my own Mom challenges in the trenches…I think I may have called the nurses at the pediatrics unit 5 times during our first night home after he was born!! I had no confidence at all. It gets better. My two sons are grown-ups now (30 & 22). Hardest job and best job of my entire life. You are indeed blessed, Lauren!!!
Megan GSeptember 26, 2019 at 5:41 am (4 years ago)
Needed to hear this one today. My son will be 4 in January. He’s finally sleeping through the night…. as of what seems not long ago… (he was like 18mo before he really started sleeping… even then he was maybe 2 1/2 before it was consistent)
So I’m just now starting to find myself again, and get back into my hobbies.
I want more children, but the thought of losing myself again is terrifying. My son had reflux and colic as well, so the baby days were not fun…
This was the only life I ever wanted for myself, but somedays… its hard..
It’s always good to hear that one isn’t alone. Thank you for your post.
DeborahSeptember 26, 2019 at 7:58 am (4 years ago)
The baby days with my first born taught me why sleep deprivation is literally used as a form of torture. People may sympathize, but only those of us who have been through it can really understand. And you do get through it. At some point your child does start sleeping. And you may never fully recover the old you. That’s okay. You will be a new, stronger version of you. Honestly, I put sewing away for a decade. I know that sounds impossibly long, and that very well not be everyone’s story. But it’s okay. It really is. I finger painted and colored and crafted with my daughters. I forgot all about sewing. And then they got older, and I rediscovered it. Nowadays I sew all the infant clothes and little girl dresses I never got to make for my girls and give them to friends and to charity. And of course, lots of sewing for myself and my new, different, stronger, older Mama body. Love and prayers for all the mamas in the trenches now. Something wrong with you ? Ridiculous. You are heroes.
BethOctober 1, 2019 at 6:05 pm (4 years ago)
You are not alone. I agree motherhood is hard work. I have 3 adult sons whom I have always and will always love, but I consider babies parasites or at best saprophytes until they start talking. You and any of your readers who are in the trenches right now trying to cope have my sympathy. I got through it by following the best child-rearing advice I ever heard, “Just keep trying.”
JocelynOctober 6, 2019 at 8:22 pm (4 years ago)
Very well put. Can definitely empathize! Love them so much, but yes, I understand.
DorisDecember 4, 2019 at 11:31 pm (4 years ago)
I read this blog post only now, but I guess it will never be “out of date”, as there is so mich “truth” in it.
And I could relate to so many things – so thank you for writing about those moments in early motherhood that are not always happy, often unpleasant, and full of doubts and feelings of guilt that are all too human.
I had my first child when I was 38, as life was not entirely as I had planned it. I always wanted a child, even though many people I knew then where all “ugh, you’re going to give up your entire private life, your uni degree, this is a long-term commitment with lots of sacrifices” etc. I didn’t care, because it was my decision, my deepest wish. And despite being an “old” mom, we decided to have another one. Because my first child was totally easy to to have. No problems, no issues. She slept a lot, cried rarely. A joy to have. Then I had a traumatizing miscarriage, and when I finally was expecting my son, I couldn’t enjoy the pregnancy. I was worried all the time, and I felt guilty, because despite being happy to be expecting, I was sad about the lost of my other baby, and I was always anxious to lose a baby again. And when my son was born, the worries continued. He suffered from plagiocephaly, had to attend therapy from an early age on. He is a bright, intelligent boy, but he was a late speaker and still is fighting to catch up. He’s my “worry child”. Sometimes I feel guilty because I couldn’t enjoy that pregnancy as much as I wanted. I DID love him already then, before he was born, I wanted him just as much as his sister, but I was worrying all the time. And I love him today, as he’s a vivid, but sensitive and very caring boy, and I’m excited to see how he grows, developing a character, detecting skills and gifts hidden for a long time in that “speechless” human being. To see all that, also how my daughter is turning now into a little miss, is the joy that keeps me going on. My baby boy and his toddler sister kept me so busy, that my own health deteriorated, and I never realized I was suffering from a post partum depression. I haven’t recovered entirely from that until today. I never questioned if it was “worth” it, but I felt miserable for sometimes being unhappy, depressed, unable to do certain things other moms did with easiness and joy. At some times I was only “operating”, but not living. But every smile of your child, no matter how exhausted, depressed you are, makes you going on. And at some point it really does get a bit easier. It was a fight, it still is, and it won’t be over for many years to come. I still feel guilty sometimes for feeling unhappy about some things, about certain troubles we have to go through, especially as it’s an age where things should be getting much easier. But as long as I love both my kids endlessly, with my whole heart, despite their different disposition, despite the less pleasant times (talking of a pre-teen girl at home…), it’s all part of “the big plan” that allows us to have doubts, make mistakes, feel sometimes unhappy and tired, but also allows us to grow and learn. We’re human.