On November 14th, 2017, my husband Brian insisted we go and get a pregnancy test. It’s true, I had been feeling nauseous for a few weeks, and more tired than usual, and, to go into a little too much detail, my period was late. Yet I was still sure that I wasn’t pregnant, while my husband was sure I was. So, he loaded us into the car, and we went to get the test.
When we got home, I made my way to the bathroom, sure that this test would prove that I know my body better than my husband does…
Two minutes later, and I came out of the bathroom speechless. And remained that way for a while, while Brian barrelled into the bathroom to see that little pink + sign that was going to change both of our lives forever. He was ecstatic! Like jumping up and down, can’t contain his joy, the whole apartment building needs to know, kind of ecstatic.
I still didn’t believe it, and proceeded to take many more pregnancy tests over the next few months.
We weren’t trying, but we weren’t not trying. I’ll leave out those details.
In time, we were both extremely excited for who was coming. I remember reading Psalm 139 and having it come to life in a very special way. This baby was currently being knit together in my womb, being fearfully and wonderfully made by God. God’s eyes seeing this unformed body being woven together inside of me, having all of their days ordained and written in his book before one of them came to be. At that moment, I understood God’s love and connection to me and with me more intimately than I had before, because those things were not only true of the baby now growing in me, but were also true of me.
Preparing for sacrifice
Some of the moms that give birth to their babies get a rough taste of what being a mom is going to be like while they are carrying their little one–with the tiredness, the puking, the food changes, the body changes, the worry and concern for this growing little one.
They get a taste of sacrifice.
For me, my experience during pregnancy wasn’t that bad. I actually kind of loved being pregnant. My nausea wasn’t horrible and it didn’t last long. I had a job that made the tiredness manageable. And I loved the belly look.
I was really lucky.
Even though those hard pregnancy experiences suck, they do warn you about what’s coming: the sacrifice that is being a mom.
Newborn days: anxious and angry
Though pregnancy was easy, giving birth….not so much. I ended up in the OR after having Chloe and lost a litre of blood. Recovery from the anemia was very slow, leaving me very depleted. Add taking care of a newborn baby to that recovery time, and you can maybe imagine the exhaustion.
Then Chloe’s weight was up and down for her first month, which, for a mom, is emotionally really difficult. On top of that, Chloe was and is a sensitive little one. She wants what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it, and from whom she wants it—and would scream until all of those wants were met.
And all of those wants involved me. It was a lot for this first-time mom who was recovering from surgery, and so, at my final midwife appointment, I realized that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. I didn’t like being a mom.
I was often angry at Chloe and Brian: at Chloe for needing so much, and at Brian for not being able to help in the ways I desperately wanted. I was experiencing regular panic attacks caused by the anxiety that I felt about all that was required of me, and all that was taken from me in the moment that Chloe entered the world. I wasn’t well, and I knew that I needed help.
Thankfully, I’m married to an incredible man who was extremely loving, compassionate, understanding, patient, and helpful throughout all of it. I was also connected to the support that I needed very quickly, from my doctor, and a number of mental health professionals, so I had the hope of better days ahead, though it took months to see that hope become reality.
Though I understand that most of the postpartum mood disorder is caused by the rollercoaster of hormones that are involved in pregnancy, delivery, recovery from delivery, and then breastfeeding, through the year and half of being a mom, and as those factors have settled and been treated, I’ve seen my deep and intense selfishness.
I gotta be honest, I see it most clearly in the moments that I want her to sleep. Sleep is something that Chloe doesn’t love. She’s just too social, active, and full of energy to, in her words, “waste time sleeping.” Okay, she can’t say any of those words yet, and definitely can’t string together a sentence, but I know that’s what she’s thinking.
I want her to sleep when I want her to sleep because when she sleeps…
I can sleep.
I can be with my husband.
I can read a book, watch TV, work out, talk to people without interruption…
I can sleep.
It’s like going back to a simpler time. A former way of life. A life that, in moments, I miss dearly.
But then she smiles at me. Or she laughs. Or she does something new. Or she plays with her daddy. Or she just says “Mommy” as a statement, not a request or a complaint–just identifying me as her Mommy.
In those moments, my frustration and bitterness towards the sacrifice that mothering requires completely dissolves …until it comes back again…and then dissolves again…and comes back….and…you get the picture.
My love for Chloe as my child is what motivates me to continue in the sacrificial role of mother. She can’t express thankfulness yet, and she doesn’t get repentance either. But it doesn’t matter, because in those moments where I feel like I can’t keep going, my love for her as my daughter takes care of it all.
I thought I was a bad mom because I don’t love the sacrifice that is involved in being a mom. But what many people pointed out to me was the fact that I kept going, even though everything in me didn’t want to. When all I wanted to do was give up and pursue my own selfishness, I still showed up. No, I wasn’t thrilled, but I didn’t walk away. I didn’t give up.
Pointed to the love of God
I had never personally experienced a love that was so centred on a person’s being–their identity–and not their doing, until Chloe came. I am committed to her because she is my daughter, and for no other reason.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the kind of love that God has for people. Maybe the sacrifice that Jesus made for me was purely motivated by that love and nothing else–not out of frustration or annoyance, not an investment for some return.
And in that love is a freedom for me to be. To live. To make mistakes. To journey and to discover all that there is for me here–the good, the bad and the ugly–knowing that my identity is as a child of God.
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