I realized later that I was saying good-bye to a part of myself that had been “free” to spend my time as I pleased, but moreover, I was grieving the time I had wasted by spending it on things that didn’t matter at all.
Congratulations on having your first baby! It is such an exciting time for your new precious family. Your dear sister, my friend, has been keeping me up to date on your new little family member.
I am sure that you, like many expectant mothers, spent a great deal of your pregnancy preparing for your baby’s arrival by looking through magazines, ads, online purchases and social media. I used to prepare for my baby’s delivery by focusing on pictures of babies in their little pajamas, all curled up in their beds with their tiny lips pursed and long-eyelashes resting gently on their rosy cheeks. The images of such peaceful innocence would chisel away at my anxieties of giving birth.
The truth behind these images may not be as evident though. Some of our babies weren’t peaceful sleepers. Some of the beautiful young mothers holding their babies do not at all represent how we feel after giving birth, or even two or three months later. The truth is that something more difficult than labor pain happens when you give birth. Something no one wants to talk about. When it happened to me, I felt like my world had ended. That was until someone wrote me a letter like the one I am writing to you now.
From what I hear from your sister, your sweet baby girl is fussing and seldom wants to sleep, or let you put her down. You try rocking her to the point of wearing holes in the bottom of your socks (this happened to my mother) but she still squirms and fusses in your arms. You try walking her back and forth and she seems a little more content, so your arms and back are aching and constantly tight, but you don’t notice until later when you lay down, if you get to lay down at all. All you can think of is getting her to be calm and happy, but it rarely happens and you feel incompetent and confused.
No one told me it would be like this…
Doubts are whispered in your ear from an enemy that doesn’t like mothers, families, or even life itself…especially purity and innocence. The voice tells you are not fit to be a mother. What makes you think you could do this? What if you drop the baby? What if you hurt the baby because you haven’t gotten any sleep? Or worse?
The world has turned darker for you. You stand in the grocery store and you wonder why everyone is just walking around living like something earth shaking hasn’t just happened? Don’t they know? Don’t they know that we are all so vulnerable? Don’t they understand that at any time, something could hurt us? Something could happen to your baby? You feel as though can’t protect her. You can’t even protect yourself.
Beware of these lies:
Maybe your thoughts are something like this;
The world isn’t the same. The darkness of doubt and vulnerability have crept in. No one understands. No one. Life as you know it, has ended. And you are alone with your tiny person depending on you. You can’t be depended upon because you don’t know what you are doing and you don’t have the strength. How can you possibly be everything to this tiny person? How can you be anything to anyone anymore?
Now listen to the the truth…
Timelessness in a new experience…
It seems like time may have stopped for you. It’s only because your new reality is so, well, new. The first time we absorb something profound and different, our existence grinds to a halt because we are completely present to the moment we are experiencing.
My son, who just started college, just said the other day how long the days feel because it is all so new. I assured him when he looked back it will feel like it went faster. But for now, it’s a difficult change and so feels like the days are dragging.
It is common to feel time slow down when things change. My point is that when your experience of time slows down during moments of change–especially those that are difficult–it may compound the lie that this will never end, never get better, but that simply is not true.
My own witness…
I experienced this too, Christine. I want to tell you it will get back to a new normal very soon. The sun will shine, the baby will grow and will be well because you are completely equipped to handle this. You were the woman God chose for your little girl to depend upon in this life. You will show her the beauty in the world and she will teach you things too, and you will learn together on this journey. Believe me when I say that later, you will rejoice in these days. The rate of growth of your infant is 1/2 to 1 inch a month and 5 to 7 ounces a week. Soon she will be sitting up, laughing, and eating small bits of food on her own. You will miss the precious days of her tiny fingers grasping around yours.
A Spiritual concept of Giving Birth; Grief of Self
When I finally came out of this darkness, I came to terms with what had happened to me. Later I shared it with two or three friends who had experienced postpartum depression and they agreed that it was exactly what they had experienced.
What happens to us is that we “died” a little to ourselves. What you may be feeling now is grief; a grief for the part of you that once only lived for yourself. I realized later that I was saying good-bye to a part of myself that had been “free” to spend my time as I pleased, but moreover, I was grieving the time I had wasted by spending it on things that didn’t matter at all. Now, there is no time to waste and it is all being poured into another soul, but one that owns a little piece of you.
Your Heart Transplanted
Welcome to a new life where part of your heart is now forever implanted into someone small and precious. Your heart will someday, in a sense, walk out into that world on its own without you, and that can be frightening. Just as God gave His heart to His son (who in turn spent it all on us) He similarly seems to take a tiny bit of us and implant it in our children. It’s the most beautiful imitation of Divine Love, which is self-sacrificing.
You are so not alone…
Now you live the life of a saint. A saint lives for others, sacrificially always putting others first in the name of love. Those saints are keeping you company as you take your place among them..be sure to ask them for their prayers for you. The communion of saints is real and it means behind you is a “stadium” full of souls who are rooting for you. Turn around now and then and give them a wave (you know how fans love that). You don’t have to be a mother or a father in order to understand what all of them knew: what it is to die to themselves for the sake of another, an imitation of Christ, who poured himself out for our salvation. They didn’t rely on themselves for strength; they knew the only way through this life was to draw strength and love from Christ. They soon found that there was no end to the love they had to pour out to the world–an eternal font.
Everything is as it should be Dear One; be at peace. When you hear lies telling you that you aren’t equipped, reject them outright and don’t be afraid to wield the mighty name of Jesus around (Acts 16:18) as it is a stronghold and protection for you. Remind yourself that God knitted your child in your womb to be exactly as she is, and you as her mother.
Take Off The Gloves
When my first born came and I struggled with the same kind of battle you are enduring, I had trouble handing him over to anyone. I wanted to make the situation right and be the mother I knew I could be to him so I just wanted to keep trying. That didn’t help him, me or anyone else. I remember one time calling my dad over as if in an emergency and when he got there I wouldn’t let him do anything. Not only that, but I was trying to make him something to eat! Needless to say, we were both confused. As women, we just struggle to let others help.
I learned eventually to let others in, especially my husband. The more he held the baby, the closer they bonded and the more rest I was able to take. I knew that if I had a nap, a good meal and a little rest (and some moments of silent prayer), I would be fully armored for the battle against my feelings of inadequacy later. Whoever enters into any kind of battle without rest and nourishment (physical and spiritual) is truly at a disadvantage. Ask others to help you, and then let them help.
Instructions from the book of life…
Remember Christine, you are only human. Our days are written in the book of life (Rev 3:5) and they all matter, especially the ones we wrestle through because that is where we grow the most (James 1:2-4). Take captive your thoughts (2 Cor 10:5) and cast out the lies (Rev 12:10), allowing yourself to be fully present without analyzing everything so much.
Your future days will be made of tiny things that shake your world, like a tiny smile, the syllable of a mysterious word, and a wobbling step. Soon you will be reading a book in the sun as your daughter giggles at the grass and chases a ball. You will forget that it was so hard for a moment in time. You will say to yourself “How could I have ever loved my life without her?”
Allow your child to make her way through this her new reality as well. I can tell you first hand, a feisty infant makes one heck of a strong person later! I am grateful for the times my kids were strong enough to stand up for themselves and I had recognized that strength in them at birth, even if it could be hard to parent at times. Her strength and fight will serve her well.
Permit lots of space for all of your little family to grow together without comparing images of other’s seeming perfection clouding your judgement. Real beauty and peace are born from the strength of enduring difficulties together.
Remember dear Christine, that at the very core of this moment in time, and your tiny daughter, you are both newly born.
This letter was similar to one recently written to a friend who is struggling with postartum depression; one of the greatest spiritual battles and biggest secrets in motherhood. I suffered from it with my own children and my dear neighbor, Pam, wrote a letter like this to me. She didn’t know how I was suffering at the time, but I will always be grateful for the life she gave back to me with her words; God bless you dearest Pam.
This is not intended to be a medical or psychological article; just words of a faithful testimony to someone I care deeply about. After I wrote this letter, I received a letter from “Christine” saying that she read these words daily, as they gave her strength and hope, helping her grow in her belief that as a new mother, knowing Christ was so pinnacle in overcoming her darkness (it was a newfound relationship for her).
Around the same time I mailed this letter to her, I read about a young mother who had taken her own life at the hands of postpartum darkness. While many new mothers never experience these feelings, many I have spoken with experience some of these feelings on some level that is enough to be terrifying to them.
It is my intention that what was done for me, and I have passed along, will be given to others suffering in this battle. I have held back nothing in hopes of helping anyone.
Please share with any new mothers you know.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.