This is post #2 in the series: Embracing Who You Are as a Stay at Home Mom.
I had a really hard time adapting to the 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. There was a quiet time routine in particular that I held a death grip on.
I’ve tried many ways to squeeze in that little piece of my old life however I could. I tried getting up before baby, but inevitably he always knew when I was awake. I tried squeezing it in during nap times, but the laundry or the dishes or some other distraction would call, or he would have a hard time sleeping that day. Anyway, it never felt the same as being able to roll out of bed peacefully in the morning, make my cup of Joe, and snuggle under a blanket to think, pray, or meditate.
As much as I tried to figure out a way to maintain my old comfortable routines, they never seem to fit, like pieces from the wrong puzzle. I was stuck.
One day recently, I opened a blank word document and typed out the heading, “My Motherhood Journey.” 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 conceive my firstborn. As I wrote, the longings, the desires, and the misconceptions (though I didn’t know they were misunderstandings at the time) all came tumbling back. After only a few paragraphs into my writing, raw emotions bubbled slowly to the surface. When I finally got to the part where I was whisked into the operating room for my c-section, I was hee-hee-hoo-ing all over again. These emotions pumped wildly through my veins, and I needed to stop and just breathe.
After I let myself breathe through the emotions, I pressed save and stepped away from the computer. Some days I would only write a few sentences and then need to stop. The crazy thing was that it felt like I was feeling the emotions for the first time, even though I had already gone through the event itself. 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 joy and gain, and the actual loss and pain. 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 Life
So, four years after the birth of my son, I honored and accepted the pain and loss of new motherhood. I wrote out the emotional and physical pain of childbirth; I wrote out the pain of the loss of freedom that followed – the loss of freedom was huge for me; 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 own transition story from pre-mom to new-mom? Well, you can do what I did – open a new document and just start typing. Or open a journal. I am a big proponent of journaling, and I do it a lot. I decided that for me, for this project, I needed to get my thoughts out faster. Write for yourself so you don’t feel the need to edit yourself. Go slow. And breathe and embrace the emotions that come up. Feel compassion for yourself. Accept and own it. You may even decide to pray to allow God to witness and do His healing work.
If you don’t want to write, ask a counselor or trusted friend if they would listen and allow you to dissect your story. Ask them to stick to asking good questions. Look for someone who will avoid analyzing or fixing you, trying to make you feel better, or pushing you back on a “positive” note. Pick your listener wisely.
Another idea is to go to a secluded spot and speak it out loud. Pray it to God. I advise speaking or writing it, rather than thinking it because writing and speaking keep us on track. Our thoughts are prone to go all over the place. We are also more prone to sink into shame.
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.