Oh, motherhood. My days certainly look a lot different now than they used to!
I’m starting to type this post with one hand as I sit nursing sweet Sophie, but I pause often to stroke her fuzzy head and kiss her hand that always seems to wander up to rest on my throat. I love these moments with her. Before I know it, my daughter is going to be walking, and talking, and then wanting to do things all by herself! So it’s extra special that she needs me so much right now. It is also hard. I’m learning more every day just how gloriously, breathtakingly beautiful AND how achingly hard motherhood can be. That is the precious nature of it. And I’m so honored to be on this journey.
Motherhood is one of those crazy dichotomous experiences in life: where you feel so NEW to this whole thing that you barely recognize yourself…but at the same time, you watch yourself growing second-by-second into exactly who you were supposed to become all along.
It’s like the craziest makeover.
Sometimes it feels like that part of the TV show “What Not To Wear,” where they’ve done your hair and your makeup and everything, all with your back to the mirror, and then they spin your chair around with a dramatic flourish! …And you’re shocked and in awe and filled with excitement at this new reality you’re now living in!
My daughter turned 5 months old – five MONTHS OLD! – last Friday. And while I feel the weight of how much transformation has happened in Sophie’s growth, I’m also feeling the heavy shift of change in my identity. I haven’t always been a mother, of course…but I’ve always felt it was a part of me and a part of who I wanted to become. Some days, it just blows me away that it’s my reality now!
But motherhood, I’m learning, is a sanctifying experience. It breaks me and stretches me and grows me more every. single. day. It pushes me again and again past the point of exhaustion and weariness and self-sacrifice. But it still restores me daily with joy and laughter and hope and heavy love, and brings me a whole new sense of purpose that I never quite expected!
Some things have come so naturally. The holding, the rocking, the reassuring, the singing her to sleep. So much that I do during any given day is just automatic. It’s in my spirit to care for her the way I do. But…
Some things have taken some learning and some trial-and-error. Like getting to know Sophie’s specific needs. Like working through various sleep schedule books and finally just learning about my own daughter and how to read her well. My sense of confidence in reading Sophie’s needs has gone from zero to pretty darn confident. We’re finally settled into a comfortable routine these days, and it was a hard journey to get here but it’s wonderful. I’ve learned to let the words “my daughter” roll off my tongue naturally – as if she’s always existed and been a part of us. Many people, I’m discovering – people I know and even strangers – have all these different opinions as to what is right and what I “should” and “shouldn’t” do! I’d say everyone is well-meaning, but part of being a parent is learning to weigh all the options, and prayerfully moving forward with what is right for us and for our family. I’ve been blessed with such a hardworking, thoughtful husband…and I’ve had to relearn how to thank him and encourage him in this season of new parenthood. I never want to take him for granted as we navigate this new reality as the three of us.
And some things have just plain been hard. Like nursing (it was honestly quite rough at first but now it’s a daily no-brainer). And other things that have been much harder than I’d anticipated. Like seemingly silly things like maintaining a clean, clutter-free home. That’s what really helps me feel less anxious but it can’t always happen with a baby in the house so I deal with overwhelm in that area. And there have been tricky things like learning what it means to have a job where I’m on call 24/7!! It doesn’t matter that I’m chopping veggies or finishing an email or that I’ve only shaved one leg. If Sophie needs me, I’m there. The self-sacrificial part of motherhood is so hard, yet I know it’s so so good for me, ultimately. And whenever I scoop her up in my arms, I’m filled with a sense of joy and purpose in helping my sweet girl.
I never thought or planned that I’d be one whose Instagram feed is full of baby photos…I always thought, well, of course I’ll post about everything else, too – with only a few photos here and there of Sophie! But then again, I never thought or planned that my heart would fill with such love and pride, to the point of it aching! I can’t help but capture Sophie in the day-to-day, and savor and share her sweet spirit. My Instagram feed is meant to reflect what my life truly looks like, so… I’d say you’re getting an accurate feel for what my days are full of. 🙂
Motherhood – it really feels like a crazy makeover some days.
It’s like you’ve been given a new identity – like a spy in a movie who is handed a fake ID and a new name. You know deep down inside that you are the same person, but you have a new job, and it’s 24/7, and it starts today, now. You go to the hospital, you labor and give birth, and you finally meet your long-wished-for child! Yes, there are months of anticipation leading up to this, but it still is such a sudden change. Instead of your baby being a part of you – the massive stomach, the kicks, the heartburn, the slower steps – you have a child. And they’re their very own person! One who gets buckled into a carseat behind you, and cries for you, and learns to look for you across the room. Isn’t it amazing how early we can see that our kids are a whole separate person from us? Sophie surprises me daily with her reactions and how she processes situations with her own personality.
It blows my mind that I am both the same person I always was, and a completely new person at the same time! As Elizabeth Stone puts it, “[Motherhood] is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” My heart, simply put, can’t ever again be the pre-Sophie heart it used to be.
I’m the same person, but I’m totally different. And it can get overwhelming at times (of course!). I’m needed – really needed – by another little human being. I’m needed daily, hourly, and by the minute much of the time. Sophie searches to make eye contact with me, she needs my hugs and cuddles, she gets her sustenance from me, and she looks to her mama to soothe her to rest at night. That’s a lot. I’m learning that it’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed – to be hit with the weightiness of parenthood and this new 24/7, I-wanna-do-it-with-excellence job. Let’s just say it’s an intense endeavor. 🙂
But I’m learning still yet that my identity doesn’t settle into only motherhood as its final resting place. Who I am comes from Someone who is greater than me, who is greater than my little one, and who paid the ultimate price to give me a new identity. My identity is a swirling mix of roles and titles, sure: from daughter to sister to friend and teacher and blogger and wife and, most recently, mama…but all of these are wrapped up into one big box with a stamp on it: Redeemed. Jesus is where I find my true calling and my true worth. It’s probably best that I learn this sooner rather than later. I can strive all I want to be the best mother I can be, but I will fall short. I will mess up. I will sin. I will probably snap at my daughter someday. I will at times put my needs before hers (as much as it pains me to type this). Because we all fall short. I heard it once described as all of us needing to swim from California to Hawaii. Maybe some are better swimmers than others, sure, so they seem like they aren’t drowning yet, but at the end of the day, none of us can get there on our own.
Thankfully, I serve a Savior who scoops me up time and again. My worth is (thank goodness) not reliant on my performance or my perfection as a mom. I’m struck by a couple quotes from a pastor I heard preach recently: first, the fact that “The value of something is based on what someone is willing to pay for it.” What price did God pay for me? And what, then, does that say about my value? God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. (So it says wonderful things, friend, about the value of every single human life.) And I am also reminded that “I do not have to earn God’s approval. He has already chosen to approve of me, based on what His Son has done for me.” God’s approval – and my worth – does not depend on a clean-swept floor, or a smiling baby, or on me having my act together.
My true identity, all motherhood makeovers aside, rests in the fact that I am saved and I am loved by a God who understands parental love FAR better than any human can. He is our Abba, our Heavenly Father, and His love is the ultimate self-sacrificial display of care and of rescue.
Thank goodness I have an example and a gift like that to lean on, huh? Because on the days when I’m covered in spit-up, and my daughter is crying as I change her soiled outfit for the third time by noon, I’m dealing with my own dizziness, and I have no idea what’s for supper…I sure need something – Someone – eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful to lean on.
Motherhood is an intense, crazy, beautiful makeover. It daily reworks my mind, my love, my attitude, my strength, my sleep schedule 😉 and my joy!
My days sure look a lot different now than they used to. My body has changed and adjusted. My laundry is full of a lot more pink, and countless tiny socks. And my heart has changed the most. My heart has been given a makeover that it will never bounce back from. My new role does shift my identity in a real, raw, amazing way.
I’ve realized one thing for sure — my life and my heart will never be the same. And I’m so okay with that. 🙂