This is post #2 in the series: How to Find Your Way as a Stay at Home Mom.
I had a really hard time adapting to my new mama role. I wanted to somehow go back to how my life was before, or somehow integrate routines and habits from the old life into the new. I particularly missed my morning routine: getting up to a hot cup of coffee and spending quiet time with God. I couldn’t let it go easy. I held onto it with a death grip.
There were other pieces of my old life I missed. I missed sitting through a sermon in church. I missed going out with my girlfriends without feeling weighted down with luggage that made me feel like I was going on a week long trip. I missed coming and going as I pleased. And I missed the freedom from feeling constantly tethered to a tiny human being.
As much as I tried to figure out a way to fit my old comfortable routines, habits, and activities into my new life, they never seemed to fit, like pieces from the wrong puzzle. I was stuck.
Getting Unstuck through Writing
One day, I opened a blank word document and typed out the heading, “My Motherhood Story.” I did this on the prompting of little nudges from God to “start writing.” I didn’t know why or what about, but I knew that obedience meant sitting down at the computer once or twice a week to let my thoughts flow. I knew immediately that I needed to process my motherhood story. Even though I had shared my struggles with close friends, I knew writing my story out would do something different.
I decided to start at the beginning: why I wanted children in the first place, and how I came to bear my firstborn. As I wrote, my longings, frustrations, and the misconceptions I held about motherhood all came tumbling out. Raw emotion bubbled up to the surface. When I remembered what it felt like to be whisked into the operating room for my c-section, I was hee-hee-hoo-ing all over again. I stopped writing to just breathe. I pressed save and stepped away from the computer.
Some days I would only write a few sentences and then need to stop. I was surprised to feel as if I were feeling these emotions for the first time. That’s when I realized how much bringing a child into the world is trauma.
In Greek, it means “wound.” The wounding is apparent in our bodies as we birth our children. But the wounding happens more subtly in our souls. Our bodies soon heal, but if we don’t emotionally and thoughtfully process this dramatic life change, then we may get stuck. We will stay wounded.
I don’t want to minimize or undermine the deep joy that follows and often causes us to forget our traumatic experience. I simply mean here to turn the coin over to see the back side of what just happened to us. Our culture tends to pressure us to focus on the joy of the child and to minimize or deny the real and severely painful loss that we moms experience, even in the joy of new life. I’m here to say: one does not negate the other. We must embrace both: the true joys, and the true losses. If we focus on one and try to shove down the other, we won’t truly be able to adjust to our new role and move on freely.
Embracing my Actual Mom Life
So, four years after becoming a mom, I began to honor and accept the pain and loss of new motherhood. I wrote about the emotional and physical pain of childbirth; the pain of the loss of freedom that followed; the loss of sleep; the loss of feeling competent and confident; the loss of privacy. I felt the pain, and I breathed through it, just as if I were in labor all over again. Although this time, I was birthing myself. I was letting the old me with her expectations die, and I was welcoming my actual life into my world.
Amazingly, I began to let go of trying to figure out how to fit my old life into my new life. I began to see ways to accommodate my needs without having to jimmy rig in old habits. I began to enjoy my life as a stay at home mom instead of always wishing I could go back or fly away.
What About Your Story?
So how can you process your story of becoming mom? It doesn’t necessarily need to be through writing. As someone who loves writing and journaling, it was the best way for me. Perhaps you might talk to a counselor or trusted friend. Maybe you pray through it out loud. No matter the method, the key is in processing and owning your story, all of it, the good, bad, and the ugly. Be honest both about the joy, the trauma, and the loss. Breathe through and embrace the emotions that you haven’t yet fully faced. Instead of feeling guilty about those feelings, extend compassion to yourself.
Do you have any other ideas for how to process your story well? How have you done that? I’d love to hear more ideas about how to work through this difficult adjustment into parenthood. Please join the conversation in the comments below.