Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mommy Confessions

The past thirteen weeks of Theodore's life have been nothing short of amazing-ness but also challenge. Anxiety. Depression. Fighting for joy. Wanting to be the perfect mother and beating myself up whenever I didn't get something right- when he would wake up from every nap after only 20 minutes, when he would all of a sudden fight me to breastfeed, when the house in all its disarray seemed to be symbolic of how I felt my life was. Fighting for a big chunk of all of this alone, thinking I was big and strong enough to get over it and through it on my own, my husband and a few friends have seen right through that facade and have stepped in through various helpful means. As grateful as I have been for all of the help, I've fought against it still, thinking I should be able to do this...I should be enough to handle it all. Until this past Thursday, when I got so fed up with myself and my emotions and daily crying episodes and threw my cell phone across my bedroom and screamed. I realized I was not okay. And that my awful need for perfection had inched its awful way into another realm of my life: parenting. My mindset was shaken and I once again was rattled by my mistakes and shortcomings as a mom and felt like the biggest failure when something didn't go right.

I realized I was so caught up in my need for perfection that I wasn't fully enjoying my son. Whose name, it turns out, means "gift of God." I was trying so hard to do everything exactly like the blogs and books said to that I wasn't fully enjoying or embracing this miraculous gift of life that God has given to me.

I pictured it very different for me. I never thought I'd be the one to dislike pregnancy or struggle with postpartum depression. I always imagined being the mom who glowed throughout pregnancy, loved every moment, and would miss being pregnant when it was over. The mom who would drink in every delicious second of motherhood and time with her baby. And it, to my dismay, was and has been the opposite. Pregnancy plagued me with 23 weeks of morning sickness followed by 8 weeks of bed rest, having to abruptly leave my teaching career, more ER and triage visits than I can remember, and a lot of confusion and pain. I thought it would be different, and I hated myself for not liking it as much as I thought I would.

God heard my prayers for instant connection with Theo when he was born, because throughout the last trimester and time on bed rest I felt so disconnected from him. Although I have felt a consistent, rich connection to my son since he was born, I have fallen back into wretched patterns of trying to be self sufficient and get everything right. Turns out that in raising a child, you get ZERO control over anything that occurs. Zip. Zilch. You cannot control a single thing. The worry and anxiety that comes along with that can eat away at your soul. I refused to sleep much of his first week of life in fear that he'd stop breathing in his sleep. I've obsessed over baby milestones and if he was reaching them on time or not. Comparing him to other babies. Comparing myself to other mamas. The cycle has been vicious.

I love and completely adore my son and would do anything for him and his happiness and joy in life.  But it's been a sobering reality that I can't promise him fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) to come from me and my parenting, because only God can be all in all, only He can bring Theo the fullness of joy and life. None of my worrying or striving can do that. Only the one who never fails can.

The Lord was gracious to me after this episode on Thursday, because the next day on Friday I saw a friend of mine post something about losing her precious baby niece. I just couldn't imagine going through something so heartbreaking as losing a child and my heart truly grieves with anyone who has. Tears streaming down my face as I was holding Theo as he was napping, I realized it was time to surrender my need for perfection and control in this thing called motherhood and to fully enjoy the gift God has given me. To treasure up every moment with my son and stop worrying if I'm putting him down for his tummy time enough or following the correct bedtime regimen. I'm done chasing after being the perfect mom and instead am going to surrender and chase after my Lord, my King, the only perfect one. He is the only one who can bring me fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, too. And he never expects me to do any of this mothering thing alone but is daily, every moment, with me, gently guiding and leading and holding and carrying me through.

All my life I wanted to be a mama, and I get to be Theodore's mama. Besides the cross, and being Andrew's wife, it is so far the biggest act of grace I know of in my personal life. It's time to surrender to this act of grace and stop seeing it as anything any of us mothers can earn, or prove we've earned, through how well our child sleeps through the night or how many milestones he or she has hit. It's time we stop finding any sort of self worth in any of those things because IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH US OR HOW GREAT OF A PARENT WE ARE, and start seeing that our ENTIRE worth is found in the cross, that we are heirs and co heirs with Christ, that we share in his sufferings as well as his glory because we are adopted sons and daughters through faith and grace alone.

I share this with all of you because when you're fighting battles as a parent, it's easy to feel like you are the only one who feels that way. It's hard to speak out because parenting seems to be the most delicate subject matter that people can write or talk about. Everyone has an opinion, and there are even certain moms who can make you feel like you're the worst mom on the planet if you make a comment about things being hard or messy. But it doesn't have to be like that. We don't have to hide because hiding is isolating, depressing, and lonely. Bringing these things to the light can be so utterly healing for us, and that's what it is for me as I type.

So yes, the past three months of Theo's life and my first three months as a mother have been a lot of things- incredible, challenging, exhilarating, life-giving, frustrating, rich- and "perfect" has not been one of them. But I'm ready to stop expecting that to ever happen. It may never be perfect, but I can trust that it will be unparalleled in its indescribable beauty and joy.

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