My university years were rich, developing, healing years, and I thank God for the many wonderful friends I made in that time. Most of them are crazy gifted as well, and Hannah is one those. We lived on the same hall our freshman year, majored in the same department and worked on our campus newspaper together. She is a wise, compassionate, thoughtful, kind woman, and one of my dear friends. I think her words today will be timely ones for many of us as we remember our first months with a newborn. I hope that these are words of healing, hope and freedom for you as they were for me.
Oh, darling, you were a wreck, weren’t you?
It was hard. Honest-to-goodness hard. Those first weeks (and months) can be ruthless. No mom who’s being truthful would say otherwise.
But you still thought it would be easier, didn’t you? That it would come more naturally. Instead you struggled through every day and dreaded every night. The feedings were especially hard then, when J casually snoozed through your quiet sobs and had no idea that you were drowning.
Why am I not better at this? This is supposed to be natural.
Your mind viciously wandered back to a conversation you had with a friend some months before your first babe was born. She was talking about another friend, someone you didn’t even know, but you will never forget what she said.
“Being a mom doesn’t really come naturally to her, you know?”
You had nodded your head in mock agreement, completely ignorant yourself of what “being a mom” entailed but unwilling to admit it, lest she turn her wagging tongue on you.
But her words settled heavy. Festered. Grew. Suffocated.
They gnawed at you in that moment of nasty, juicy gossip but then, once she was born, you wept over their brutal honesty.
God created women to be mothers. But look how you struggle! Your mom was a natural. Why aren’t you? Look! You didn’t even get your first motherly instinct right.
And it was true.
You and J had decided not to learn the sex of the baby beforehand. You wanted the surprise. The “It’s a boy!” moment at the hospital. And that’s what you expected: “It’s a boy!” Every single person you encountered during your pregnancy took one look at your growing belly and declared with absolute confidence, “Oh honey, you are having a boy.”
And then there you were, in the hospital, holding your lovely, perfectly pink and healthy baby girl and all you could think was “you were supposed to be a boy.”
Was it a defunct motherly instinct that expected a boy or just an impressionable naivety clouded by the opinions of others? Either way, you already weren’t a natural and she was only moments old.
And so it set the tone of those first few days and weeks. Nursing, napping, swaddling- all of it was difficult. You loved her desperately, but, goodness, how could something so small have turned your life so upside down?
You put on a happy face. You smiled appropriately but sobbed later when well-meaning visitors gushed over how wonderful it was to be a new mother. And you were drowning.
You were not a natural.
But you are three kids in now. You survived that first and find yourself in awe that she will soon start Kindergarten. You look back on who you were five years ago and can remember the pain so fresh. But you have grown and changed and learned.
And now you can say with honesty and grace for yourself, “No it didn’t come naturally. Dying to yourself never does.”
Because that’s what having a baby is. It is teeny, tiny bundle of lessons on how to die to yourself. How to give up what your self wants for the sake of someone else. And the self never wants to give up, to die.
You forgo rest for countless nights to feed a demanding human being while the flesh screams, “Sleep!” But you don’t sleep. You feed.
Re-route your entire life to accommodate their sleep schedule. The self cries, “Not fair!” But you do it anyway.
Listen to her cry at night and cry harder than she is because you know she must learn to sleep no matter how awful the learning is, and the flesh begs, “Don’t do it!” You hold fast and she learns.
But it’s not natural.
While birthing a child may be a completely natural process biologically, to do the deed of a being a mother requires the most un-natural giving up of one’s self. It is learned and trained and struggled through and prayed over.
And it will always be hard. But you do it anyway because it’s worth it. Because there is something greater than you going on here. Because Little Lives are watching, and they see it all.
They see how you loved and nursed and prayed and made mistakes and asked forgiveness. They see how you died to yourself for their needs day after day.
And you know what they will say? One day, when they’re grown, they’ll say the same thing you said about your mom.
She was a natural.
This post is Day 25 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)