“Have you cried yet?” “Not yet.. but it’s coming. And I’m not sure if it will be a happy cry or a sad cry.” My mother asked me this question as we sat on the couch on our first day home after having baby #3.
I never thought of childbirth as traumatic, because I viewed trauma as bad and birth as good, in the simplest way. Something so good can’t leave me feeling traumatized – that’s reserved for those horrible moments that change us forever. Then my mother reminded me that trauma isn’t always bad. It isn’t always a negative event and birth is INDEED traumatic. Whether you have a perfectly smooth, medicated birth (like baby #1) or an accidentally non-medicated birth (baby #2 AND #3) because your coveted epidural didn’t work, both leave you on an emotional roller coaster that will produce tears.. at some point. Because it doesn’t matter how the baby gets here. At the end of it – you have a child, innocent and fully dependent on you. And that.. that is a traumatic realization.
3 days before I went into labor with baby #3, I was getting a massage (with a gift certificate I found – holla!) and trying to enjoy my last few hours alone. I found myself laying on the table praying and longing for God to give me peace about the timing of when this baby would be born. We had an induction date scheduled 1 week from that day, and I was starting to feel guilty about inducing a day early. Don’t get me wrong, both other kids were inductions. I have nothing against being induced and actually now, realize I loved it. I just wasn’t peaceful about this one and couldn’t figure out why.
So I prayed. I prayed God would give me courage to cancel if that’s what He wanted and patience to wait on his timing for baby #3 to enter the world. I prayed that I would stop trying to be in control and just trust Him. I prayed to be at peace with carrying longer than 40 weeks, no matter how long it took.. within reason. I still had some stipulations.
3 days later my water broke and there was not a single part of me that was ready.. except my freshly manicured toes. When I prayed for God’s timing, I meant AFTER my due date.. not 5 days early. I, of course, wanted to go into labor on my own, but maybe with some slow contractions that gave me time to get ready.. not water breaking as I laid down for bed. It was at that point, as my water broke, that I realized, “This baby is coming, ready or not.” With an induction, I always believed I had the option to back out, and give myself more time to wait. But with my water breaking, it was on. I was no longer in control (even though I actually never was), and mentally, I wasn’t ready. I was excited, then scared, then nervous, then excited, then hungry, then freaked out, then in pain. And less than 4 hours later, baby #3 would arrive. And life was changed.
His first week we were in and out of the hospital, at the dr and hospital every day for blood draws, and finally released for good at 9pm on Sunday night, right before he hit a week old. The following day, I was on my own. Husband was back at work and it was just me and a 1-week old, barely 17 month old, and fresh 4 year old. That was it. The time was here. Welcome to our new life.
That Monday night was when it happened. As my husband and I sat at the kitchen table, baby in hand, big kids watching tv. He asked how our day was.. and I lost it.
“I don’t know if I can love them all.”
Of course I love them all. But what if I couldn’t love them the way they needed to be loved, deserved to be loved, or yearned to be loved? That first day it was like a conveyer belt. I just went child to child. Change this ones diaper, wipe this ones butt, feed this one, put this one down for nap, wipe this ones tears, put this one in time out, feed someone again, change another diaper.. you get it. It was just a cycle of little moments of need with each child, but none of which were intentional. It was just job after job. As I watched the baby sleep and our older 2 watch tv, I wondered if ANY of them felt loved that day? Or did they feel like a check list? And what if I can’t figure out how to love all 3 the way they need it?
The thought that I would fail my kids in an area so pivotal – feeling loved – was enough to break the barrier. The reality of our new life was setting in, and I had to figure out balance…in between the diaper changes and 9,000 snacks.
Over the last month of our new normal, I’ve realized a few things:
- Kids are resilient. When I ask my 4-year old what his favorite part of the day was, it is always, and I mean always, whatever he is currently doing. Just today, after a fun-filled morning at the children’s museum, I asked what his favorite part was. “Getting food and eating it.” He was eating Dairy Queen chicken strips when I asked, so clearly that was better than the 3 hours at the children’s museum. #omg
- I can’t ever love my kids perfectly, no matter how hard I try. Perfect love only comes from the Father above, and I will never measure up. I will disappoint my kids, hurt their feelings (2 days ago, 4 year old crying, – “I don’t like when you yell at me” #momfail), and inevitably miss opportunities to love them well. But. That doesn’t mean I can’t try my hardest. I just have to rest in the fact that where I fail them, God will fill in the gaps, and that’s actually better than me anyway.
- I am a “grace advocate” if there ever was one. I say the word “grace” daily, but often never apply that to myself. So in this season of trying to figure it all out, I HAVE to live with the grace God intended for me. He doesn’t call me to be a perfect mom, He calls me to be MY kids mom. He calls me to lean on Him when I can’t do it alone, and by all means STOP TRYING to do it alone. So until further notice, this house will be filled with grace, for everyone.
So, what now?
I’ve got 3 kids and still can’t manage to get out of the house without being an hour early or 2 hours late.. I’ve got a LOT of figuring out left to do. But that first cry is done, and now it’s time to dig in, pray hard, and enjoy life. Stop waiting for perfection, for a kid to be “just a little older” or any other mantra we tell ourselves about when life will be in the “sweet spot.” This is the sweet spot. Every day can be sweet if you look for it. Now it’s time to soak it up, take the crazy with the peaceful, and love hard. And pray to God all 3 go to bed every night knowing mama ain’t perfect, but she sure does love me.. even when she gets a little crazy and yells 😉