A few weeks ago I was commiserating with another young first time mom about how difficult these first few weeks are. Her husband had just returned to work and she was spending her first day at home as just mommy and baby. Having gone through the same just the week before, I told her it was okay to cry. She responded by saying that she’d cried more in the three weeks since her son’s birth than the rest of her life combined. Yeah. That sounds about right. “This is the best worst thing ever,” I told her.
From the outside, the first few weeks of motherhood look like the worst ever: sleepless nights, the challenges, frustrations and pain of learning to breastfeed, the projectile vomit and blow-out diapers, a fussy baby that you just can’t figure out how to calm, the aches and soreness of recovering from delivery or surgery. Oh, and the hormones. Lots of hormones. And while we know that it’s not actually the worst thing ever, especially when you are head-over-heals in love with this tiny person, it certainly is very, very difficult.
But while it’s difficult, I can feel God doing so much in my heart during these days. There is no room for selfishness or self-centeredness as a mom. Lucy needs me for everything. As tired as I might be, when she wakes tonight at 2am, I must feed her. When she’s fussy, I must comfort her; and when she won’t be comforted, I keep trying. Because I love her. And newborn love knows no limits.
So it’s no wonder new moms cry. Some days as much as our babies. While I thought my tears would be over all those external discomforts, it’s the interior ones that are the most painful. There are new mom tears because it’s harder than I thought it would be, because it doesn’t feel as natural as I think it should. Tears when I don’t know what I’m doing and the days seem oh-so-long. Tears when I want to give up but there is no choice but to keep going. But mostly, I cry because I love her so much. Because sometimes her belly hurts and I can’t fix it.. Because I don’t always know what she wants and how to make her happy. Because some days I worry that I’m not doing it right, not a good mother.
I feel a little like Eustace from the Chronicles of Narnia. After being turned into a dragon had to undergo a transformation – and a painful one at that – both inside and out. It wasn’t until he learned to see himself as he really was that he could begin to work at scraping off his scales. But even that wasn’t enough. He needed the power of Aslan to heal him completely. And so Aslan put him in water, which burned at first, but removed the scales and made him whole again.
Perhaps the tears of a new mom are kind of like that. We have to cry away our inclination to self-centeredness, our love of comfort, our fear of being imperfect and inadequate. We need to rid ourselves of all those things that get in the way of love and self-gift.
It is so very hard. But also so very wonderful. In fact, it really is the best.
The quiet at night is the perfect time to stare at her perfect features and breathe in deeply that new baby scent. When we finally got the hang of breastfeeding and started to see those cherub cheeks appear on her little face – priceless. And there is nothing more special than when she is calmed by my voice and presence because – even though I am it imperfectly, and am learning every day, and will have lots of bumps, and will learn that I ultimately depend utterly on God’s grace – I am her mom. And it is the best thing ever.
Copyright 2013 Megan Swaim