That’s what I posted on my personal facebook last Saturday. My baby turned one and this time it really was “just like that.” It seemed like I turned away and that first year had just disappeared, faded between night feedings and chasing two older kids.
I love the baby stage. I love a tiny newborn, although I’m more than happy to get out of that newly postpartum stage myself. I love a baby to cradle in my arms and wear in wraps and that starts sitting up and then crawling. I love it when he starts to grin at me when I walk into the room and the way he crinkles his nose when he smiles and tries to climb up my leg if I’ve been gone for a while (or if it hasn’t been that long- getting snacks takes a long time in baby time).
With this third child I even enjoyed night feedings because it was the one time I could be still and just enjoy the baby without needing to care for older children. I could stroke his head and let him snuggle against me and sleep. I had finally hit a stride nursing and wasn’t as freaked out by every little thing that happened with him. It wasn’t all new and that was much more comfortable.
But it’s not always “just like that.” I’ve had other children and each experience with each child is different. Your perspective as a mom is different because you grow and change as you progress in your mothering journey. My first child was not “just like that.” Looking back from here it seems like it went quickly but it didn’t then. As much as I loved my baby I was overwhelmed with his care and adjusting to motherhood.
I’ve also talked to other ladies. It wasn’t “just like that” for a lot of them. They dealt with health issues themselves, a baby with an unexpected diagnosis, family situations, postpartum depression. As much as they desired that beautiful first year with their newborn it didn’t happen. I have friends who haven’t been able to have babies. I have friends who have lost babies. I have friends who have walked the darkest valleys with their kids.
It can feel like a betrayal of motherhood to admit that it’s not always positive or good or easy.
Society portrays the beautiful pictures you see on commercials for diapers and baby cream. A well-rested mother with beautiful hair is smiling at her sleeping baby who hasn’t been up all night crying or nursing or spitting up. Or society presents children as a drag, a burden that holds you back in life, and in light of that you don’t feel comfortable presenting the problems lest you perpetuate that belief.
There must be middle ground. We love being mothers. Motherhood is important. But negative emotions abound in motherhood. I talked to another mom at the library and we agreed that no matter how much you treasure your kids there are unenjoyable parts. There’s a great saying- and excuse my language- “Everything sucks sometimes.” It’s true. Regardless of how great it is and how much you wanted it, motherhood sucks sometimes. Sometimes we are sleep-deprived with a newborn and nothing runs well through that filter. Sometimes we are mourning the loss of our pre-baby body with no stretch marks or scars or saggy skin. Sometimes we feel the loss of our spontaneity and our freedom to run to Waffle House at midnight.
Sometimes it’s the deepest things that wear us down. Motherhood can be agony. If you’ve ever watched your child cling to life in the hospital you know that. In your innermost heart you’ve wondered if life wouldn’t have been better/easier/happier if you had never had that child. You wonder how you can live if the worst does happen and your arms are empty. That’s agony. It’s agony to watch your child struggle with problems and differences and not know how it will turn out. There is only so much you can do as a mama. Most days it seems like there is so much you can’t do.
Emotions don’t come one by one. They are a package deal and each positive one also has a negative flipside. Pregnancy is a time of beautiful expectation: planning a nursery, shopping for clothes, feeling baby kicks. It can also be a time of great fear as you wonder if the baby is ok, if you will have complications, how birth will go. Birth is miraculous and yet totally insane and usually nothing like what you expected.
Motherhood is amazing and exhausting. There’s nothing to compare to it for the good or the bad. I’ve gone through situations with mothering that I thought would never end and I just knew at the time that I wouldn’t make it. (Obviously I did.)
Even those milestones- just like that, he’s one- are bittersweet. He’ll never be that tiny baby that I held in my arms at his first doctor’s appointment. That’s tucked away forever a memory no matter how much I would love to pull it out and replay it. Some women find they don’t even like the baby stage that well. Have you tried admitting that to someone? “I don’t really like having a four-month-old; I’m glad to get that first year behind us.” That’s a hard thing to say; people don’t always take it well.
There is freedom in knowing that no positive emotion comes alone and rarely do the negative ones come to stay. They will roll in and out of your life depending on sleep and the day and how many people unfriended you on facebook (no, really, you shouldn’t care. Let them go).
When you are disappointed with mothering, don’t give up hope. God made you a mama. He gave you that child. And while you might not like that right now- you might not like the story you are living- you are not without hope. Christ is our hope; mothering isn’t. He is our promise, our anchor, our grace for a new day.
Whether you have the life you imagined since becoming a mom or you can never picture getting that back, motherhood is not the answer. Motherhood is not your happiness. Jesus is and He can handle all the emotions that come with what He’s brought you.
Seasons change. We grow and learn. And next month motherhood will take us on a different journey.
When I say, “just like that, he’s one.” I really do mean it. It feels like I barely turned around twice since I gave birth last Halloween. Yet there he is, crawling across the floor fulfilling his self-appointed job of being the human vacuum cleaner. But even in this year I’ve been in other stages of motherhood that weren’t “just like that.” They were “this feels like forever” and “I have no idea what will happen here” and “this will never end.”
If you are in one of those stages of motherhood don’t give up on yourself. You’re not a bad mama. God has a plan that’s beyond what we can imagine. He promises that He will never quit working in our lives- or in the lives of our children.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6