One year ago today, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Practically, yes, I knew I would live. But emotionally, I wasn’t sure how to keep moving forward. Ella was just six weeks old, and I had never known a love as fierce and all-consuming as the love I had for her. But I was also exhausted, and feeling unsteady. We had ventured into this thing called parenting with our eyes as wide open as we thought we could get them: our best friends had kids, and I’d helped Robyn clean up poop and puke more than once. We had been married for seven years, had already changed jobs several times: we knew one another well as spouses. We had the money saved up that we needed for Ella’s birth and medical care. We had been praying about starting a family for years, and I had been praying for my children since I was a child myself.
What, then, was my problem? Why did I feel scared and unsure? Why, when I looked at my daughter, did I both want to melt into a pool of grateful tears and also curl up into the fetal position she had just so recently left?
Well, the lack of sleep was one thing. One huge thing. I had not gotten more than three hours of sleep strung together for those six weeks, and I was tired. Really, really tired. Every new mom knows this, but there is a special kind of exhaustion that those newborn days bring. I’d heard about it, but it’s different to experience that kind of bone-tiredness, and I was not functioning well without sleep.
The hormones were another thing. I knew I had hormones prior to getting pregnant and giving birth, but wow. Wow. The high of having a child had definitely petered out by week six for me, and now I just felt overwhelmed. I felt overwhelmed by her need for me—I had never felt so tethered to another life.
And that weightiness of caring for another life—not one buoyed up in my womb, encased in layers of water and flesh—but here, awake, pink and crying—this felt important. It felt heavy. At times, the weight of her life and my weakness felt too heavy to bear.
I remember crying, and I remember asking Michael if life would ever be the same again. How could he answer? Well, of course not. We had a child. We were now parents. Our lives were unendingly altered. But yes, we would sleep again. And yes, we would gain our sea legs in this vast ocean of parenting. Just not right away. Not right now.
So I had two goals every day: keep Ella alive, and keep myself alive. Ella’s needs, although high, were straightforward—milk, sleep, touch. For me to stay alive was very different. I needed food yes, and I desperately needed sleep. Friends brought meals and family watched Ella while I napped. But I needed hope—and for me that meant getting time with God every day, even when it felt impossible to do anything. I have had friends who also needed medication and counseling, and although I did not need those things after Ella’s birth I am grateful they are available if I ever do. But my first lifeline in those early weeks was getting daily time with God. It often took me until five pm to get even twenty minutes with the Lord, reading the word, journaling my prayers through tears or through drooping eyelids. Sometimes I just turned on worship music and sang along; sometimes I immersed myself in the words of Scripture, hungry for something stable and sure in my life, which seemed unendingly new. Sometimes I just sat and wept, out of gratefulness or out of fear.
And for me, steadily, those feelings of being overwhelmed started to lift. God spoke to my heart that it was not my responsibility to carry the weight of Ella’s life–that was his responsibility. Just as I had not created Ella, I could not sustain her. Her life belonged to him; my call was to love her and delight in her, not carry her life as a burden I could not possibly bear. And I was able to hand to God the things that scared me and the things that I felt unable to hold–I gave Ella back to him, just as she has always been his. I told him, again, that I trusted him with her life. And along with the babysitting from family and the meals from friends and the conversations with my husband, I met God in a new way in that release. He carried me, and he showed me that he was the one carrying Ella.Click To Tweet
Much can change in a year. I have had calendar years in my life where very little changed externally—this was not one of those years. I would not change this last year for anything, but I am also thankful that time does not go back. I am thankful that I have needed to continue to learn that the Lord is the sustainer of Ella’s life. I am called to give my life in many ways so that she might thrive and so that she might love Jesus. But he has already given all of his life for her. I can trust her Maker and mine with this child I was blessed to carry and that I now get to raise. Ella is a gift. Her life is weighty, yes, because she is of eternal value and worth. But I am not her maker. I am not her sustainer. I am her mother. There is a difference.
For me, that difference has been very, very freeing.
So has the increased amount of sleep. That’s helped a lot, too.
This is a #WritingWednesdays post. Think back to a year ago today and write about how you have changed since then.