It was an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon in October when I took the dog for a walk for the first time in weeks.
It felt like coming up for air. Every house, every yard, every crack in the sidewalk was exactly the same. But I was different. The dog yanked his leash and dragged my postpartum body along with him. The sun was so bright and beautiful as I fought overwhelming feelings of responsibility, fear, and nostalgia for my old life.
Are these feelings ‘normal’ for a new mom? Probably, but I still felt really guilty for having them.
A few weeks earlier, I gave birth to our first baby, Patrick. I felt worn out, but not from late night feedings. Patrick didn’t nap much during the day. That meant I was sitting on the couch or rocking him all day. I wore the same sweatpants covered in breastmilk and lanolin stains (still do!). We also had a rough start with breastfeeding. I was constantly worried he wasn’t getting enough to eat.
Looking back, all of these things are totally 100% normal. But I was scared. I didn’t regret having a child, but I felt a tangible longing for my old life and my old identity. I wanted both—to be a mom, AND to be myself.
I read somewhere that at birth, both a baby and a mother are born. Just as a child isn’t comfortable walking before he learns to crawl, it’s not unrealistic for me to feel out of my skin as a new mother. I’ve spent the last 33 years NOT being a mother in any sense of the word. It’ll take time to hit my stride in this new identity that comes with the biggest responsibility I’ll ever have.
There’s a very real, permeating Instagram culture where we only show the highlight reel of our lives. We all know that. Well, now that I’m home with Patrick, I catch the morning shows, and Today is my favorite. Dylan, one of the anchors, just had her second baby. She called into the show the first week she was home from the hospital and gushed. I mean GUSHED over how everything this time had fallen into place, that she’s in heaven, basically that she’s floating on a cloud with her newborn baby, Ollie. On one hand I thought, Give. Me. A. Break. There’s no way I believe her. But another quiet voice whispered, See, something is wrong with you for struggling with this Mom thing.
Fast forward to this past Friday. Dylan called in again. Dylan looked very tired. She said something along the lines of, “Yeah, we’re past the honeymoon phase from the first time I called in.” She explained how she and the baby weren’t sleeping much. That life was still great, but they were worn out.
During my walk on that warm day in October, I felt like I was taken by the shoulders and told, “You’re a new mom, but you’re still a child of God.” I pictured curling up in God’s arms, not needing to be or do anything besides live in that identity, whatever season of life I’m in. Do I need to understand or figure out exactly what being a child of God looks like in every capacity? I don’t think so. The simple truth of it is enough to bring me peace.
My experience—the personal feelings, challenges, and aptitudes—won’t be the same as another new mom’s. But it can help to remember we’re all ‘newborns,’ and children of God, and rest in the amazing grace that comes with believing it.