I know Mother’s Day is a struggle for many women. That’s not something I can empathize with; the Lord has called Josh and me to walk a different path. Motherhood took me by surprise. I would never compare my struggles with that of someone who has experienced infertility, miscarriage, adoption, or the death of a child. Still, when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I didn’t take the news well.
When we got pregnant with Emmeline, we had just moved to Nashville, were living with my in-laws, and were only 50 percent employed. (I had a job; Josh was looking for work. Did you know Theology degrees aren’t super marketable?) We had only been married a year, and I had visions of us being newlyweds for a while longer and enjoying the freedom that came with not being responsible for any human being beside myself. The Lord immediately provided a job for Josh and a good apartment, but while I could acknowledge the blessings in my head, I didn’t feel happy about any of it. I get very depressed while I’m pregnant. Two kids later (and free of all pregnancy/baby hormones), I’m ok saying that out loud. At the time, I had no idea what was happening to me, but I felt angry, sad, anxious, and every other bad feeling–constantly. I wanted to be happy and enjoy my first pregnancy, but I couldn’t. I also didn’t have any friends, since we were new to Nashville, so I was homesick. I missed my family–but especially my mom–a lot.
I was also working my first full-time 8-5 job. I had a very kind, sympathetic boss, but customer service isn’t something I enjoy nor am good at. At one point (about 7 months into my pregnancy) I showed up at Rob’s office in tears and cried, “I’m just so tired of everyone being mean to me all the time!” He found me projects to do off the phone for the rest of the day. I’m still thankful for that. Man, did I need the break.
And then on top of that I struggled with a lot of insecurity about becoming a mother so young. Innocent comments like, “You’re how old? That’s so young!” were not meant to be mean, but they bothered me. I worried (bear in mind: crazy depressed pregnant lady hormones) that I was becoming old before my time. Other people my age were staying out late or tanning in their itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikinis, and I had swollen ankles and stretch marks. I felt like I’d never be able to identify with people my age and I’d never be able to make friends. For years I tried to avoid telling people my age because I was worried they wouldn’t like me. Of course, putting it in writing makes it seem ridiculous, but it bothered me for a long time.
Then Emmeline was born. My beautiful, perfect, bright orange, jaundiced little carrot baby. I never knew I was capable of feeling such incredible love for someone. It gave me a new appreciation for Christ’s love. I never wanted to put her down. But my depression also got worse.
If you’re ever around me after I’ve had a baby, let me warn you–when I get postpartum depression, I never want to harm my baby, but I hate the rest of the world with a fiery passion. All of a sudden it feels like the whole world is trying to take away my precious little newborn. (After Gareth was born I actively disliked Emmeline for several weeks.) I need supportive, loving family and friends around me, but I don’t want them around me. This ought to give you a new appreciation for my long-suffering husband.
On my first Mother’s Day, Emmeline was 3 days old. I hugged my mother goodbye that morning and then spent the rest of the day desperately trying to get a very sleepy, jaundiced baby to wake up and eat something. That Tuesday she was admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with jaundice levels of 25 (for reference–when jaundice reaches level 29 it causes permanent brain damage. God protected our sweet, strong-willed baby girl.)
As much as I’d like for Mother’s Day to be a special day where I get served breakfast in bed and receive adorable handmade gifts from my precocious children, that never happens. Josh and I fight. I yell at the kids. We get to church late and with very unholy attitudes. I forget to call my mom. Because parenting isn’t easy. As my mom reminded me, “Children are a blessing, but not an unqualified one.” I’m thankful for my babies and for the trials of pregnancy and parenting. I don’t always enjoy it, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.