Before I had a baby, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to talk about how hard motherhood is. I had heard so many other women tell me that motherhood was the most difficult/wonderful thing they had ever done, but quite honestly I was discouraged by those stories because they made me dread, rather than anticipate, what was to come for our little family. But now that I’ve been doing this motherhood thing for about six long and incredibly short weeks I can safely say that motherhood is every bit as hard as others told me it would be but for reasons I never anticipated.
You see, I knew that taking care of a baby was going to be challenging. I had babysat for years and had enough experience around babies that I wasn’t totally naive about how consuming childcare can be. But it’s not the baby care that’s so challenging. No, it’s the fact that caring for a little one and giving yourself to your infant exposes you and every single one of your selfish desires and there is no place to hide. Being a momma and loving our little girl has brought me face to face with just how selfish I really am, even though I never thought of myself as an overly selfish person to begin with.
Over the past number of weeks I heard that little voice in my head saying, “What about ME?” about a thousand times. When Ainsley is awake from her nap 30 minutes ahead of schedule and is crying for her bottle just as I’m getting out of the shower, dripping wet. Or when I’m starving and sit down to finally eat dinner, but Little Miss wants to be bounced and swayed and cuddled. Or when I’m laying in bed, desperate for a couple of consecutive hours of sleep but the paci fell out of her mouth and she needs to be soothed back to sleep for the tenth time that night.
When I write these things down, they seem incredibly trite. I mean, what’s the big deal on missing out of a little sleep, being a little hungry, or not having the time to blow dry your hair or put on a little makeup? But I think I seriously underestimated how much I cherished those basic things in life: sleep, food, exercise, a hot shower.
At church yesterday, Easter Sunday, I was feeling like the ugliest version of myself. I had on a pretty dress and my hair was curled and our family looked photo-ready. (See evidence above) But inside, my heart was anything but pretty. Ainsley had spent the better part of the night crying inconsolably and being incredibly fussy, leading us to believe that she had an ear infection. After a middle of the night call to the pediatrician, they suggested we go downtown to the children’s ER since all things related to your kiddo are bound to happen on a Sunday, aren’t they?! We trekked to the ER at 4 am, sleepy and weary and a little worried only to find out that Ainsley was just fine and most likely just going through a developmental leap leading to increased fussiness.
On the way home I felt relieved but more than a little agitated. I was grumbling to myself about how tired I was, how little sleep I had gotten, how much we were going to have to pay for our trip to the ER, etc. My pre-baby self was throwing a fit inside about not getting what I wanted. In short, I was acting a lot like Ainsley. Totally acceptable when you’re a 6 week old baby, a lot uglier when you’re a 27-year-old momma of a newborn.
So when I sat down at church and sang those songs about the sacrifice our Savior made for us two thousand years ago, the ultimate sacrifice, it put my little tantrum into perspective. I thought about how diligently we, and many others, prayed for this sweet little baby of ours and how I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks complaining about the very blessing I wanted so desperately.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been so thankful for Ainsley and for our new life as a family of three, but it hasn’t been without significant growing pains. The very real and very difficult process of dying to yourself and your desires often gets lost in the sea of stories about how blissful new motherhood is. And it is blissful, most certainly, when your little one sleeps on your chest all curled up or starts to show signs of their very first smile. But it’s also difficult, and that’s okay, too.
So, if you’re a new momma, or about to become one, I want to let you know that it’s okay to struggle a bit, to miss your old life, and to struggle with your selfish desires. As my own mom affirmed to me yesterday, the transformation into motherhood is a process and something that takes a little time. Expecting that transformation to occur completely the minute you have your baby is holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. So let’s all vow to give ourselves a little grace in the process, shall we? I know that I, for one, have never needed more grace than I do now that I’m a mom!