Four weeks ago today, I met my daughter Zadie for the first time. Four weeks ago, I became a mother. Of course I’m tempted to say this has been the most difficult four weeks of my life…but that sounds melodramatic, and also, I can think of much more difficult seasons, when I was in emotional turmoil over something or other, and thankfully I’m not in emotional turmoil as I start growing into my new role as a mother.
Don’t get me wrong–about 90% of this transition time has completely sucked, and of course there’s all the hormones and emotions. In some ways, it’s like getting married again–the welcoming of someone into every space of your life, and having to get used to them there, no matter how much you wanted them in the first place. The getting to know a person, their preferences and peculiarities and the dance between their needs and yours. The uncovering of your immaturity and selfishness at every turn.
But on top of all that, taking care of a newborn is so much stinkin’ work. I told my sister the other day it feels like I’m at boot camp, just endless discomfort, work and sleep deprivation, and I keep having the feeling of wanting to go home. I’m the youngest child, hence not exactly the nurturing type. Breastfeeding tests my patience multiple times every day. I think sometimes the hardest thing is the shame I feel at not being nurturing enough, or patient enough, for not loving every second of taking care of my beautiful, healthy baby.
Every year on New Year’s Day Robert and I reflect on the previous year together, from best moments and worst moments to best and worst books and movies. And we look forward to the year ahead, often choosing a word that we want to define that year. Three days before Zadie was born, I chose my word for 2016: JOY. I knew that change and transition has always been incredibly hard for me, even when it’s good change, and I wanted to choose joy over stress or anxiety or self-pity as I entered this new season of motherhood. I wanted to delight in my baby and in staying home with her and in being here in Colorado. And yet, joy is very low on the list of emotions I’ve felt these past 4 weeks. Self-pity is actually pretty high on the list. Frustration, too. I’ve definitely had moments of heart-swelling love for Zadie, and lots of moments of heart-swelling love and gratitude for Robert, who has been an amazing partner in all of this, but it’s been hard for me to truly delight in this season. Was that too much to ask of myself, at least this early, considering the hormones, the sleep deprivation, the physical recovery from childbirth?
I keep thinking about this poem I’ve seen over the years:
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
I dreamt of this year being full of joy; the reality of motherhood is that it is a life of service. My prayer, then, for this year is that as I live out the actions of being a mother, I will find my service to be joy.