The Weightiness of Her Life

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.

© Miss Motley Photography 2013

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.

Whenmotherhoodis hard...

This is a #WritingWednesdays post. Think back to a year ago today and write about how you have changed since then. 

Comments

  1. Oh boy, can I relate to this. Those overwhelmed feelings of love, gratitude, and fear. The tears. All of it–in just the past week! :)

    Brian and I waited seven years before our first was born, and I’ve often wondered if that was wise for us. The adjustment was HUGE after that many years of being “just us,” and I wonder if it would have been easier on both of us if we had started earlier.

    Probably not. :)

    • Shelly–We, too, had been married for seven years…to the day! She was born on our anniversary. I think the transition is huge at any point, but I’m with you. Not sure it matters when the transition comes…I’m just so thankful for the grace of God!

      Also, I’ve been following along with your trip posts as we are traveling to the same exact places soon! Love your insights and your foodie tendencies! :)

  2. Nancy Gries says:

    Beautifully written Ann. Thank you for your transparency about a hard reality! I know that bone tired weariness. Though my youngest is 27, when I think about that time, I can still recall how it felt. I was so dismayed and ashamed, with my first child, about what I was, feeling, thinking and needing, it was very hard for me ro ask for help. Additionally, my “mothering instinct,” wasn’t very strong. Fortunately, it grew stronger with each child.

    With your new insight and journey into motherhood, what advice would you give family and friends in ways we could come alongside new moms? How were you able to reach out and ask for the support you needed? We are all there for the first couple of weeks with meals, advice and giving moms time to nap. I have found there is a real reluctance to accept more help. Many parents want and need time alone to bond when baby first comes home. They may not want to impose, do not recognize the need and/or may be experiencing those horrible feelings of inadequacy.

    • Nancy,
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your heart. Those early days can be so difficult for us as new moms! Honestly, I think that some of the best ways to come alongside are the practicals in the early days–the meals, the babysitting (even just so mom can take a nap!), etc. But after the early weeks pass, I think as a veteran mom it would be great for you to be more lovingly forceful. Tell them you are coming over one night this week to babysit so the couple can actually get out of the house and get a date night–they get to choose the night but you are coming over! :) Drop off another meal a month or two after the baby has been born (or a gift card to a easy restaurant), or even offer to take the new mom out for coffee some day with the baby. I just struggled to even get out of the house, and I needed help but didn’t always know how to ask or what to ask for. You can always say “When I was a new mom, I wish someone had done x for me–can I do that for you?” I’m sure young women would looooove to take your help and advice in that very tender season. You are wonderful!! :) Love, Ann

    • I too can so relate to those feelings!!! Pure tiredness, no sleep for months on end. But you come thru it, and out the other side. Such a very honest account thank you for sharing it, it touched me deeply, and i wanted to cry. I so wish I had your faith in the lord. Bless you

      • Cheryl, thank you for sharing your heart! I just want to say, if you are feeling alone or tired, reach out to some friends or a local church–no one should have to walk through those difficult seasons of life on their own. And as an encouragement, my faith in Jesus has grown over the years–and yours can too! Saying a prayer for you right now.

  3. Thanks Ann,
    Your practical advice is very helpful and insightful. I shared your post on my facebook page. Would you mind copying your response in the comments section of my post? As a mother and mother-in-law, I try to be sensitive to the fine line of being helpful rather than intrusive. Then with hormones thrown into the mix that line really becomes dynamic!
    Take Care! Bella is such a doll!

  4. So my daughter was born July 4th 2013. I will never forget the moment I felt overwhelmed & the thought of thought of “oh God! How am I going to do this? What if…” Then one day, I read this post. From time to time, I come back to this post to help me remember that she is in his hands & that I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing.

    • Leah, I am so heartened by your words. You aren’t alone–and, in Christ, you never will be. He is your strong support, your firm footing, your closest love. And He is the same for your daughter–what an amazing thought! May you know his peace and nearness afresh today!

Trackbacks

  1. […] of my life—becoming a mama—have required me to be braver than I ever thought I could be. I’ve written before, but the transition into motherhood wasn’t easy for me. I had no idea how it would change […]

  2. […] at Darling Magazine: “Thriving with a Newborn.” I’ve written about it before, but the transition into motherhood wasn’t the easiest for me. Through this article, I’m hoping that my distilled experience can offer the equivalent of a […]

  3. […] in the night. It has been too much. I am coming to find that all of life is too much for me. The weight of raising children in this difficult world? Too much. The stress of doing any job with meaning and purpose? Too much. The work of keeping a […]

Share your thoughts!