Three days postpartum, I held our squishy little newborn in my arms as she wailed and I fumbled my way around a nursing bra to give her what she wanted. Cameron sat next to me in the bed, equally shell-shocked in his own way, and after a few minutes Shiloh settled in and I tried to relax. That is, “relax” as much as a person can when a new tiny human is not-so-comfortably sucking all her nourishment from your body, and there are stitches in your private parts, and your stomach is stretched and saggy, and you’re sporting those notorious postpartum undergarments and still bleeding from labor—yes, I had been inducted into the Sisterhood of the Mesh Panties, and all told, I felt like a hot mess.
In that moment, I felt the full weight of my fluctuating hormones as they took a sharp plunge into a horrible low. Shiloh wasn’t crying anymore, but big tears welled up in my eyes as I turned to Cameron and decided to blurt out the all-encompassing horrible thought running through my head:
“We’re never going to be able to go anywhere or do fun things anymore. Everything is different, and how are we ever going to have time for the two of us, and maybe it was a bad idea after all to have a baby right now!”
This was me, the one who’d practically grown up excited to be a mom someday, who got married and longed so deeply to grow our family, who was so excited to find out nine months into our marriage that we’d be doing just that. There had never been a moment I doubted the motherly calling God had written so deeply on my heart—until then, sitting in bed cradling our precious daughter as everything felt so completely too much.
Thankfully, God gives good gifts—not only babies, but a husband and parents and in-laws and siblings and friends who surrounded me and us with love and practical help during those first tumultuous weeks. As I sat in bed experiencing my most jarring postpartum low, my sweet husband spoke all the truth and comfort and love that my heart needed to hear—words that didn’t take away the physical pain or the difficulty of caring for a newborn, but that reminded me of the important truth that it would be okay.
We’re now 12 weeks into our parenting journey. It doesn’t even feel right to say we have a newborn anymore—she’s been such a huge part of our lives for what feels like so long. And with three months’ worth of hindsight, here is what I would tell my postpartum self:
1. You will love.
You do love, already—you are giving all of yourself to this little one, to feed and to care for and to nourish. This is a labor of love. The emotion, the feeling, is one that will grow…quietly and unassumingly, you will find that the baby to whom you are giving so much has captured every bit of your heart in unimaginable ways. Just by virtue of being, she has your affection—whether she’s crying or smiling or anything in between. Don’t feel guilty over the beginning love that feeds and clothes and cares for but struggles to feel (you’re practically a postpartum zombie that first week anyway); time will heal your body and give your emotions the space to straighten themselves out. As your little one grows, so will your love.
2. Your losses are dwarfed by your gain.
It would be crazy (and just plain wrong) to think that bringing home a baby won’t change things. Just like in marriage, there are practical changes to your lifestyle that mean the end of some things and the beginning of others. And just like in marriage, you’ll discover a sort of addition by subtraction—new joys, new loves, new adventures that are only possible by shedding your old way of life. It’s true that your sleep will take a hit and date night might need to wait a couple weeks. But guess what? You’ll leave the house again. You’ll go on dates again. You’ll adjust to a little less sleep, and eventually you’ll sleep through the night again too (I say this in faith, not from experience as of the twelve week mark!). You’ll get really, really good at loading and unloading the carseat, breastfeeding in public, and rolling with the fussy times on the go. You’ll have fun doing this mom thing, and you won’t want to go back.
3. You are inadequate, but God is not.
Where you rope ends, grace stretches infinitely farther. This is, I think, one of the primary lessons of motherhood, and it starts from the very beginning—right in the throes of those postpartum mood swings. It’s not that this baby makes you more needy; it’s that this baby exposes and highlights the need you’ve always had for the One who sustains. When you find yourself wide-eyed and sleep deprived and desperate, take refuge underneath His adequacy. Remember that you are a child and He a parent; your unearned and unwavering love for your little one is only a reflection of His love for you. What a beautiful thing to bring him our inadequacy and find that He enters in and makes us enough!
And so you are enough, postpartum mama with the crying baby and the reeling emotions. Things will not always be this way—these challenges will fade and new ones will come, and you will still be clinging to grace and growing in love.
Be easy on yourself, mama. Beauty is coming, and beauty is already here.