Redeeming Motherhood from Postpartum & Grief
What did I expect when I was expecting?
Should I be embarrassed that I thought I'd smile and rest and cuddle? I thought it'd be fun to wash all those little cute clothes and diapers. I didn't think I was naïve, I mean, I knew babies cried and stuff.
But no one told me labor would leave me in such dire straights that I couldn't lift my own child or walk to the bathroom alone. No one told me babies could actually cry all night and all day, for months...and months. No one told me nursing would be so hard or that I would feel so drained. Or that I'd feel so paralyzed about every little decision. No one told me that babies need to be taught how to sleep. No one told me I would cry on the floor in the hallway desperately searching some dumb how-to parenting book while the baby cried in her crib because I had absolutely no idea what to do.
Worse, I had no idea hormones could turn me into a totally different beast. That I would not be able to function as a "normal" human being at all. Forget laundry! We're talking utter survival and lots of sobbing.
And I sure didn't expect the circumstances that came our way in the newborn season either.
It feels rotten to say that I felt so helpless and dismayed in the season I always expected would be so full of security and joy.
None of this is easy for me to share. I always worry my little ones will take it personally. (Baby, if you read this someday, remember what we talked about. You are perfect for me and you are gracious to me and I'm so glad you are mine. Mama's hormones made her sick for a while, but I'm so glad we made it through! Mama loves you!!!)
For the longest time, it was really hard to separate my personal struggles while entering motherhood with my actual motherhood itself. Only recently did I begin to realize that the way those hormonal imbalances effected me were not part of my personality or identity. Those of you who need to understand that will get what I'm saying. (If that's you, you might also find this helpful: I knew it! I'm not an angry woman!)
But just this week, I have spoken with so many women who are struggling with postpartum and/or are in the throws of difficult circumstances with a newborn. And my hope in sharing this is that my story will help guide you to your own story of redemption.
A redemption story:
A dear loved one passed away seven days before my first child was born. I was deeply grieving, drowning in postpartum depression, and my sweet girl cried inconsolably. When she was only nine months old, we moved away from family across the country. My first move as a young military wife. Whew. That's a lot.
Because our rental home had terrible mold, we spent those 7 months moving our family between 8 different places! (TLF on base, a moldy rental, many homes of "strangers" who quickly became family, a condo and finally our home). I didn't even count all the hotels in between! : ) Whew. We also moved our household goods 4 full times in those seven months. Double whew.
It wasn't hard to convince me I did not have what it takes to be the mom she needed.
When I took a children's book writing class in college, the teacher told us, "When your characters are down, throw rocks at them." I am not sure I can think of many more rocks you could throw at us at that point.
All this backstory to say, it wasn't pretty. We had no sense of stability or security. I was still grieving and my body fell apart from the mold. Worst of all, my relationship with my daughter suffered.
You know what's awesome about that horrible short story? All the beauty God showed us in it.
That's redemption, ladies.
In the midst of our homelessness, we experienced the body of Christ. They prayed for us, took us in their homes, cleaned out their guest rooms, and emptied out their dressers. Even cooked for this weary mama. And it was rich and beautiful.
In the midst of grief, I cried out and He comforted me. And He sent women alongside me to comfort me.
In the midst of lamenting the loss of that season of newborn joy, I cried on the shoulders of some of the women who took us in. One of those newfound friends, Shea, shared how she too had felt like the newborn season with her son had been stolen. She shared how she asked God to redeem it. And you know what? He did!
It was like a huge lightbulb went off in me: Oh yeah! I know the Redeemer! My God is the Redeemer!
Shea encouraged me to ask God to redeem the time with my daughter that was lost to postpartum and trials. And you know what? He did! In beautiful, intimate, and profound ways. I keep and cherish those moments safely in my heart.
Still more, the Lord healed a lot of the wrong thinking I had developed about my ability to mother as He taught me how to pray for my children.
This ending up being quite a long story. But the short story is this: My Redeemer lives!
Question for Reflection & Prayer: What do you need to ask God to redeem right now?
It may be in regard to your children, or it might be something else entirely. Just name it and ask the Lord to redeem that time. Trust Him to be your Redeemer.