I recently got together with a sweet friend who has a six month old. It was the first time we had actually talked face-to-face since he was born and the first time I was able to hear firsthand about the struggle and hardship she had been going through since he was born.
As she processed her past six months and the amount of stress and anxiety she has been walking through, my heart just broke for her. Multiple times during our conversation tears filled my eyes, not only because of how hard life had been for my friend but it brought back memories of my first few months of being a new mom. My daughter had acid reflux which resulted in A LOT of tears. I was also super stressed about the Babywise method/routine not working. All this stress took a toll on my body which resulted in lots of breastfeeding issues. Add a little postpartum depression and anxiety to that and you’ll find yourself a hot-mess of a mama. It was by far the hardest season of my life.
We All Handle It Differently
As I’ve walked through motherhood and seen many of my friends enter into it, I am realizing that we all just handle it differently.
Type One: Some women breeze through it. They are able to cherish every moment of infancy, flawlessly breastfeed their good little eater into the 90th percentile, easily sooth their child into deep-long naps, coax their infant into sleeping long hours at night, and able to agree with all the old ladies at the store who tell them to “cherish every moment of this stage.”
Type Two: And then there are other moms, like me, who didn’t get off so easy. Those who limp through those first few months and wonder what the heck just happened to their life. These are the moms who have to bite their tongue when the sweet old ladies tell you these are the best years of your life.
All humor aside, if you find yourself identifying with the Type Two Mama, this post is for you. Maybe you’re there because of a colicky baby. Maybe you’re walking through the dark days of postpartum depression. Maybe you’ve found yourself at home and more alone than you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you’re overly anxious and can’t relax enough to enjoy your new baby.
Whatever it may be, my heart goes out to you. I truly believe Jesus has words and truth he wants to share with you in these long, dark days.
Struggling mama, I wish we could relax in a comfy chairs, sip caramel lattes and simply talk through what God may be doing through this season of your life. Since that probably isn’t an option, I want to share my heart in a different way. Here are some thoughts/pointers/advice for YOU.
Don’t Be Ashamed
I am seriously growing a lump in my throat as I write those words because I still feel the pain of feeling ashamed for my feelings and response to motherhood. It wasn’t what I expected. I felt trapped. I felt alone. I loved my child but had a hard time liking my fussy baby. I felt bitter towards those who didn’t seem to struggle. Above all, I felt ashamed and guilty for feeling all of these things. That was the worst. The guilt of not loving motherhood like I “should” have been.
Sweet mama, yes, you need to fight sin. You need to dig into God’s Word to find reasons to be grateful. But you DON’T need to feel guilty for struggling. You DON’T need to feel ashamed for not liking the trial in which God has you in. Nobody likes to walk through the trials. Nobody enjoys the refinement that God puts us through. (Hebrews 12:11) You don’t need to feel bad about that. Don’t let guilt keep you silent. Reach out. Be honest. You’d be surprised at how many perfectly-instagrammed moms feel the same as you do.
Stop Comparing & Embrace Life
When you are surrounded by other moms with easy going babies, it’s so easy to slip into the comparison game. It’s easy to imagine how much easier life would be if your kid were as happy as their kid. I even found myself growing bitter towards other moms who didn’t seem to struggle. Comparing myself and my baby was stealing my joy and preventing me from letting God be God and embrace that THIS is what he had for me and it was GOOD for me. I wish I would have read the book Compared to Her at this stage in my life and really applied the truths and wisdom. I still struggle with comparison but that book gave me some great tracks to run on when I see it rearing its ugly head. Fight comparison with all your might.
In addition to fighting comparison, choose to embrace life as it is. Stop fighting what God has put in front of you and embrace the hardship. Even though your days may not look like what you though they would, tell yourself that this is the day the Lord has made. I want to rejoice and be glad in everything that comes with it (Psalm 118:24) When I would remind myself of this truth, I was able to embrace what that day held. I was able to put aside my expectations and embrace that God is in the details. Embrace who your child is. Embrace that God in his perfect timing and planning has made him/her YOUR child. Embrace it all and do your best to not wish for something different. I turned a big corner when I got to this point. It took a while and I still struggle to do this but once I learned how to not fight my circumstances, life got a lot better.
Take One Day at a Time
The what ifs and unknowns can be paralyzing. I remember thinking that I would have a fussy child FOREVER. I thought my experience of motherhood in the first few months was a taste of what my entire life was going to feel like hence forth. I was paralyzed by how I would function as a mom in the future.
When God’s people, the Israelites, were in the desert he gave them food (manna) daily. He gave them just what they needed for THAT day and no more. We get overwhelmed by the future because today’s strength won’t go that far. Well friend, that’s true! God will give you what you need for TODAY. Tomorrow he will give you what you need for TOMORROW. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). What a promise and blessing! We don’t have to worry about the future because every single day God will give us just what we need. That’s why it’s so important to take one day at a time.
Let’s Get Practical
While getting the big picture is super important, I love practical, concrete advice. Based on my experience and on those who have struggled through those first few months of motherhood, here are some tangible things that might help.
For some this is easy and even a lifeline. For others, this is harder and takes more effort. When you’re sleep-deprived and stressed, the last thing you may want to do is to put forth the effort of going out and socializing. Sweet mama, if I could show up at your doorstep right now and go for a walk, I would. Because I know how life-giving being around other people is. It takes the focus off of yourself and your baby and reminds you that there is a world going on outside of your stress-hole. Yes, I just said that because that is what it feels like. Aside from God’s Word, his primary way of speaking to you is through others. You need truth. You need empathy. You need community. Reach out, get out, and speak out. It’s worth the effort.
I’m a firm believer that being outside is good for the soul. There is something about being in God’s creation the refreshes the soul. Let the sun shine on that pale body, rev up your allergies by taking a walk in a park, strap on that baby carrier and go for a walk. Your body will thank you and your heart will be refreshed. Make it a discipline to be outside at least once a day.
Say I love you to your baby.
Enter the mom guilt (mentioned above) for even making this a practical step, but the struggling mamas will understand. This especially applies to those with fussy babies. When your baby’s cries are piercing your ears and you sense anxiety, frustration, depression, or stress taking a grip on your heart, tell your baby you love them. Out loud. For me, this would remind me what I truly do feel and put things in perspective a bit. Reminding yourself of the maternal love you have for your little one often will trump the increasing negative feelings.
I’ve decided to be brutally honest about my experience as a new mom simply because so few people are. This only perpetuates the sense of guilt and loneliness in struggling moms; and I want to free moms up to be honest and open if they are struggling. Sometimes we just need to hear that we aren’t the only one in order to brave up and reach out.
When I write about struggling in motherhood, moms come out of the woodwork and identify with the pain. My hope is that this post shines some light in a dark place if that is where you are and lets you know that you are not alone. Not only are there other moms out there struggling, but you have a God who knows you, knows your pain, knows your heart and walks with you daily. God is our ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) and wants you to lean into his strength, not your own.
Get in the Word!
Lastly, this season of my life was one in which God’s truth was like water to my soul. I needed scripture to speak truth to my heart because my emotions weren’t doing me any favors. If you are in the same boat and wanting some verses to remind you of truth, we have put together some verse cards just for moms.
Rachel and I hand-picked 25 verses that we found to be encouraging and helpful in our journey through motherhood. We had them designed and put together as a easy printable for you or for a gift to someone who may need them. Make sure to swing by our page that shares more about our On the Job Meditations for Moms. I hope and pray that they can be a blessing to you or someone you love.
If you have walked through this season, I’d love for you to comment and share any tips that helped you through the long days. It’s so helpful to other moms to see and hear that others have walked through the same things and survived! I’d love for this to be a place to share your wisdom!