Honest Reflections on My First Year of Motherhood

then...

Mama.  Mother.  Ma.  Mommy.  Whichever way I call it, I am one.  The responsibility and privilege of all that it means still astounds me, and sometimes I look at my daughter and think, “I can’t believe that she’s mine, and I am hers.”  A year ago I was feeling (and seeing!) her wriggle inside of me, and in a week, she will turn one years old.  I can’t help but reflect on this past year.  The day she was born; the day I became a mama.  There were a few things that first entered my mind in those days right after she was born.  One was:

“I’m really glad that’s over!” (the birth)

And another was:

“I don’t ever want this to end.”

That is, life.  Seeing new life for the first time.  Being a partner in creating life.

I have to be honest, after I had her, amidst all the reeling emotions, physical and mental responsibility and of course, hormones, I really didn’t want to go through all of that again for a long time, but at the same time I could think of nothing more sad than the day when my childbearing years would be over.

We rarely talk about what happens after the birth.  I found myself in a strange new land called postpartum.  A land where tears flowed, sometimes for good reason, most of the time for no reason at all, sometimes just because they had to.  A land where nothing is as it was before and everything had yet to be.  It is a strange land of in between.  It was like a roller coaster that you didn’t want to get on in the first place and you wouldn’t know when or where it would stop.  During that time, fears had never been more real and life had never felt so unstable.  I wondered if I would ever feel normal again.  Maybe not all women had this same experience as me, but I truly felt as if hanging on was all I could do until it (hopefully) subsided and a sense of normal life could begin again.

It did.

But it wasn’t at all “normal” in the way our lives had been before.  It was better.  And harder.  And more amazing, all at the same time.  It’s amazing how one little life can change so many people.  I’ve heard the saying before “Marriage is our last best chance to grow up.”  As true as that may be, I think that children are our last best chance to grow up.  I didn’t know it before, but I had a lot of growing up to do.  And with a baby, I had to do it quickly.

I realized raising a child is a difficult task not because babies are unpredictable and challenging (which they are) but because it requires so much sacrifice on the part of the parent.  I realized very quickly that it required me to be disciplined in a million different ways, ways in which I was not accustomed to be disciplined.  It required energy of me when I didn’t have it.  Patience when I had none.  Love when I didn’t feel loving.  Basically it required a supernatural amount of sacrifice and selflessness.  I couldn’t do it.  I needed God in ways I had never needed Him before.

I’m convinced now that Marlee had some degree of colic and reflux.  I became all too used to spit down my shirt, all our clothes constantly in the wash, stains on the couch.  There were times she cried after she ate, before and during.  Sleep did not come very easily.  It’s hard to understand how stressful reflux can be unless you’ve had a baby that’s had it.  Some days we both cried.  But there was a great turning point in my walk with God, my relationship with Jesus and my attitude as a parent when Marlee was a few months old.   At times all I wanted to do was get some sleep and ignore the fact that I had an incredible responsibility on my shoulders.  But God showed me that I needed to change my perspective, my attitude and desires.  Even though I knew this already, I had to know it- that children are a blessed gift, and part of that gift God gives is the opportunity to let go of our selfishness and instead to become selfless as He became.  Children are so often not the difficult ones, but it is us who have yet to be made into the likeness of Christ.

There are three things God put on my heart this year and am still learning the importance of as time goes by.  They are simple and hard and for that reason not many people do them.

1)  Don’t complain about your children to others or yourself.

2) Speak well of your children, to them and others (even if they are not around and even if you have every reason to complain).

3)  Children are a gift, and an eternal inheritance.  Don’t view having children as the world does- a burden, but instead be open to it.

During that turning point, I realized (God helped me realize) that leisure and comfort and even sleep are gifts directly from His hand.  They are not my rights.  I had to surrender to being uncomfortable, to sleeplessness, to doing what I often didn’t feel like doing and simply wait on Him to give me what I needed- day in and day out.  This is a lesson I’m still learning.

As Marlee got older, I’d hear words of warning from so many people:

“Enjoy this time, it goes by so quickly.”

“Enjoy it now while she can’t walk!”

“Just wait until she’s older!”

…With a look they’d say, and I’d wonder if having an older baby and toddler was as bad as everyone kept saying it was.  Oh, I know they loved their children, but it wasn’t very comforting.  But as she got older, everything just kept getting better.  I had a good friend finally give me words of comfort when she agreed.  She said it only gets more fun!  Yes I know it will be challenging in brand news ways when she is running around and I’m literally chasing after her, and when she’s talking and asking me a million questions I don’t know the answers to, but then that is life isn’t it?  New challenges and new joys often go hand in hand.

As a mother, every day can be an adventure or routine.  Everyday can bring surprises and challenges.  But everyday brings another day with her.  As I approach her second year of life, it is this I want to remember, day in and day out, through new challenges and old ones, through milestones and hardships.  My privilege, my joy- I get to be with her.

now

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Reinvented Lass
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 03:30:56

    You continue to amaze me. You are a great mother and such a fine example for the rest of us in regards to love, whether we’re mothers or not. Keep up the good writing, my friend! Cathy 🙂

    Reply

  2. Booksphotographsandartwork
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 04:54:13

    I don’t think I have been normal since I gave birth! I only had two children and would have loved more but that wasn’t possible.

    This is a beautiful article that you wrote and I hope that it will be read by many, many people. Number 2 is really so terribly important. I wish I could go back and undo the mistakes I made in that area. There was one time in particular that still breaks my heart when I think about it. I was venting my motherly frustrations to a friend and my son overheard me. Oh if I could ony take those words back.

    You might find this next statement a bit strange but it is also something I would change if I could. I would not go to church everytime the door was open. That leaves almost no time for family. It’s too much. It’s out of balance. When my son was a teenager I missed out on taking him to a sports team that he was on and it caused great hurt and angst to him. That is something I can never fix. God gives us children to take care of and love. If we do right by Him, He will take care of the rest. Later as an adult my son and I had the opportunity to gain so much more from a home bible study at a friends house. All of that earlier time wasted and gone that I can’t get back with him. It was something that meant so much to him. He would have learned about God’s love if I had given him what he needed.

    Reply

    • thegentlehome
      Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:10:45

      Your advice is definitely taken to heart. You have been through what I have not yet, and so I know you have a different perspective of this journey. Thank you for your encouragement too! Luckily we do have a good bible study that we do every Sunday night except in the Summer time and it is with a few other couples that have babies and small children, so Marlee gets to play while we all (try) to study and then we all get to eat and fellowship. It’s much more relaxed and I like it a lot.

      Reply

  3. Mea
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 06:10:43

    I got sick and tired of people being so negative about pregnancy and children. I even had one person tell me I had their sympathies..?????? I have been enjoying every moment of my pregnancy. Yes I got heart burn a few times, My bladder is often a trampoline, my stomach a punching bag. i wake up several times a night to potty but you know I think its all cute. I love feeling the little feet and hands playing around in my tummy. People look at me with horror when I tell them my stories of second trimester baby vetoes. Those were the most memorable and I love sharing them. I wont here because I’m not sure if you or your readers would like to be ‘grossed’ out lol. I agree this is a big change. For me, my job as Mother started at conception. But that is a whole other story. I am excited about the birth of my first child. I am looking forward to all the emotions, sensations, pain, lack of pain, the whole experience. I dont care how long I labor or how much it will hurt if it does. I dont care. I want that experience more than anything (and you know why) And it does hurt that most people put me down for wanting it. But then I have to remember they didn’t go through what I went through. I also look forward to all the challenges and hardships that lie ahead. And also thank you for being so supportive of me in my journey into motherhood. It feels good to hear your positive words.

    Reply

    • thegentlehome
      Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:13:01

      I do know its hard especially when people can’t understand why you want to have a homebirth and do all of that! I definitely support you in that area and know it will be exciting for you! I can’t wait to meet my niece/nephew!

      Reply

  4. Elizabeth
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 06:50:09

    Wow, I really enjoyed this post! Your reflections on and heart for your child and motherhood are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! You are such an inspiration to me as how I would one day like to me a mother to my (hopefully) child(ren). I want to really love and enjoy nurturing them…just as you are doing with your daughter. Wonderful words. Keep on enjoying!

    And Marlee is beautiful, by the way. So precious. You are very blessed (but you already know that, of course ;)).

    Reply

  5. Jean McCardle
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 18:07:55

    Jean McCardle (great grandmom)
    Marlee and her mom are two beautiful people.

    Reply

  6. Juliana
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 17:01:56

    I was looking for some wisdom last night about being a godly woman and I came across your blog, this post really stuck out to me. I’m a mom to a toddler and motherhood hasnt come naturally for me. I’ve struggled very much with selfishness and anger. But what you said about being comfortable not being an entitled ‘right’, that’s so true! It’s been hard for me to let go of my wants and ways and to fully embrace God’s current calling on my life – to be a faithful loving wife and an unselfish and compassionate mother. I remember in birthing class we had to hold ice in our hands for 30 seconds to show how to endure a contraction. The idea wasnt to fight it, but to embrace it. And embracing change in my life hasnt been easy and instead of alloweing the tears to flow and cry out to God in my time of need, I’ve become angry and fought life and dreaded so many aspects of life that are meant to be a joy and blessing. But instead I need to submit my anxieties and fears and frustrations to God and pray for my daily bread. I’ve been fighting life for so long, not embracing life as God has given it to me. I’ve been yearning for that which is outside of my little world, but I need to embrace that which He has put into my little world. All the joys, all the challenges, all the precious little moments, to embrace determination, compassion, love, and patience knowing that He has given me everything I need and that I am content in Him. Anyways, before this gets long-winded I just wanted to say thank you for your honesty. You have a beautiful child and you are a beautiful person. Much love and shalom be yours, ~J.

    Reply

    • thegentlehome
      Mar 12, 2012 @ 15:07:07

      Thank you for your honesty too! I’m glad to know something that I’m going through can encourage someone else. We are all on the road, it is a journey and every day I think we have to remind ourselves what is really important. I hope you can let your fears and anxieties go to God and let Him transform them into something beautiful.

      Reply

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