When are you gonna start dating?
When are you gonna get married?
When are you gonna get pregnant?
When are you gonna have the baby?
When are you gonna….
It never stops. Our entire culture is addicted to the next stage and equally obsesses over the one before it. Social media itself has taken off with apps designed to make you look back on “the good ol’ days” or quizzes that show you where you’ll be in so many years. I’ve even seen some that predict the day you will die.
DIE. Really, though?
The idea of living in the “now” seems hippy-ish, doesn’t it? I mean, just say it aloud.
Living in the “now.”
It makes you feel like you’re transcendent. Like you know something someone else doesn’t. Like you want to drink a warm beverage. With foam. And cinnamon. If you’re into that sort of thing.
So if it feels so cozy, this simple phrase… why so slippery? We scramble to grasp the concept, tightening our grip on its ever-waning frame. We download meditative songs or buy leather journals. We breathe and count to ten. We talk about it with friends and nod our heads and affirm ourselves that yes, we are now-livers. Commercials show free-spirits, unbound by life’s cares, living in the “now” (and you can ‘live in the now’ by buying such and such product!). But staying centered is a fight. It doesn’t just…come. Our minds run away.
What are we running away from?
When our daughter was born I forced myself to say “my baby, my baby.” It’s not what I actually wanted to say, mind you. But I told myself that’s what I would say when she was born, so that if she ever asked what the first words out of my mouth were after labor, I could say “my baby.”
I watched a lot of birthing videos before I had her. A lot. And the majority, if not all, of them ended with the mother crying and finally holding her child and sobbing/laughing out, “my baby, my baby!” I was touched. I wanted that euphoric experience.
My labor was rough. Really rough. I got stuck in traffic. Twice. Let’s leave it there.
When she finally emerged from my body, I thought to myself, “THANK GOD IT’S OVER.” But my lips formed different words. My baby, my baby. I was thinking of years later, if and when she would ask me about it.
Did you catch that?
I was thinking about years later. But I was friggin’ about to hold the human that had lived inside of me for nine months and I wasn’t even present.
What the mess even?!
The postpartum thing was intense. I was loopy. And sad. Very, very sad. Yes, it was hormones. Yes, it was emotional. Yes, it was spiritual. All I know was that I was sad. Very sad.
She was tiny and perfect and innocent. And she had the widest, most begging eyes. And I did not like her.
My husband would hold her and cry at her beauty. My mother was beside herself, crying at finally holding the tiny fingers of her legacy.
I was just crying.
I wanted my body back. I wanted to be back a few years before. Before pregnancy. Before marriage. Before… this moment.
I hated myself for it.
You see, I believe I was given a gift. Like every baby is a gift, so was mine.
I knew I was pregnant with her before I even did the pregnancy test. I knew what she looked like before she was born. I had prayed for her to exist. Here she was. And now… I didn’t even like her.
Darkness has a favorite game it likes to play. It’s called your mind. The phrase “it’s a mind game” tickles him. It’s his expertise.
So take a mother who has lost two children and finally gets to hold a promise, in the flesh, and what does he do? He plays with her mind.
Her name is Steady Faith Mulvahill.
What a joke. Steady? What about any of this is steady? Nothing. You’re unraveling.
Beautiful? Are you kidding me? She’s the cause of your pain. She is making you miserable every second. She’s exhausting. You can’t like her, let alone love her. What have you done?
I’m a mother. This is a blessing!
Nice. Write that on a Hallmark. You’ve been had. And now, you’re stuck. No more freedom, no more joy. You will suffer every day of your life. And for what? So you can be in the ‘mom’s club’? You don’t even belong. You don’t love your child, remember? You’re a horrible, selfish, weak and incapable ‘mother’. Look at you. You’re falling apart. You can’t feed her. She’s getting sick. And it’s all because of you. Your milk isn’t enough. You failed. You are a failure. Remember the labor? It was so hard. Think about it. I’ll help you never forget. How are you going to fix this? You have no clue. Ha! What a joke. You can’t do this. I can show you how you’ll fail. Let’s think about it.
Prayers don’t have to be wordy. They don’t even have to be spoken aloud. Sometimes, they’re just sobs. Snot, sobs, and gagging breaths. They’re heard.
The best advice I received in that time came from the most unlikely source. She was a woman I had only met once. She stabbed me with a needle. No, that’s not a poetic phrase. She literally stabbed me with a needle. To do my blood-work, of course 🙂
Her name was Amy Loupe Jones. Names are important. I love digging out name meanings. Let’s go on a tangent together, shall we?
Jones: God is gracious.
Um, yes. If you know this woman, the meanings above just totally make sense.
She came into my bedroom with fierce power and gracious tenderness, looked me in the eyes and made it clear:
I can do this. I’m not a failure. I am enough.
My four-day-old baby hadn’t had a diaper, wet nor messy, all day. All day. I wanted to get her to latch correctly, but it hurt so badly! I didn’t want to keep using the nipple shield. I was thinking about months from now, that she would only suckle with the shield and then the many benefits of natural breastfeeding would dissipate and I would dry up and my breasts would shrivel into little grapes and my baby would need chemical injections and turn into the Hulk but not a superhero just a weird green baby thing and oh my word I’m going crazy who imagines these things and what if…
“What we’re going to do is just focus on getting milk into baby,” she said.
But I’m worried that…
“Milk into baby.”
Okay. I gathered in all the chaotic, firing synapses in my mind and forced them all down a funnel: get the milk from my engorged, painful breast, into that tiny little mouth that had stronger suction power than a black hole.
But I had a mission. I wouldn’t let my mind go forward to the “what if.” I didn’t let it lag backwards to the “if only.” I just focused on the current. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t always work perfectly. But I tried.
My baby peed. Glorious, tiny, wet diapers! And then she pooped. Who knew crap could make you so happy?!
I’m doing it. She’s living. And sleeping. And eating. Milk is in the baby, people!!
I used Amy’s simple phrase to get me through the next month. I would wake up from restless increments of sleep, and Darkness would taunt me.
You have nothing left.
You can’t do this. It’s too hard.
Just because you’ve conquered a mountain doesn’t mean the journey is over. Unless you want to die at the top of that mountain.
My next journey included embracing my season.
That first week I had been learning not to focus on the future or the past, but to be in the present five minutes. Now, I was to discover whether I would embrace my present state itself. My season.
There’s a popular song taken from the writings of a very wise man. The chorus says:
To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
For a long time, I had been fighting the seasons of my life. As vain as shaking one’s fist at the rising sun, my struggle did nothing but to stir up frustration in my heart.
I remember one night getting up, yet again, to feed her. Every muscle in my body was so sore. I held her tiny frame, fighting back bitterness as I placed my aching breast into her hungry mouth. I began my nightly ritual of pouring the ointment of self-pity onto my wounds as I cradled her.
I’ll never get to just do whatever I want again. I don’t want this. I want my life back. My body hurts. I’ll never get to sleep eight hours again. I’m ruined.
I had scenarios running through my mind… I could pack a bag and just… leave. Brian, my husband, could figure it out. Formula’s not so bad. Lots of kids are on it. Single parenting is a thing. My mom did it. She’ll be fine. I can start over. Do what I want.
Then it hit me. Yes. I actually could do all of that. I could run away from my present state, but I would never be able to run away from my identity.
I am a mother.
There are good mothers, there are non-present mothers, there are mothers all over the spectrum. But they are mothers.
I may not get to choose to cease being Mom, but I can choose what kind of mother I will be. And that’s what Darkness was trying so hard to hide from me. He wanted me to spend all of my focus on the past or the fearful future. But he did not want me to realize the power I had over the Now and the resulting hope of that decision.
It was in that moment that everything shifted. Light began to gleam more steadily, breaking through the cloud that Darkness had worked so hard to build over my head.
I saw her. Oh, God, I saw her.
I saw her eyes. No, not her eyes. It was inside her eyes… I saw her soul. She was staring back at me, ever so frail, yet unbreakable. Endless. She was a person, and she was in a season too. And it wouldn’t always be this hard.
There are times in life that you want to forget. Especially the painful ones. Somehow, though, these memories aren’t ones I wish to forget. Because, as difficult and as messy as it was, this time changed me forever.
Thank You, God, I whisper.
Josmery loves conversations that expose the heart, half-caf coffee, the arts and sunshine. She also loves to talk curly hair tips with random strangers, because why not?