This week Nora Beth will be 12 weeks old. And next week she’ll hit the 3-month mark. I’ll start referring to her age in months rather than weeks. She’s basically a teenager.
In an effort to not walk into the season of sleepless haziness and helpless newborn parasitism, without information, I spent the last few months of my pregnancy poring over blog posts and consuming articles about how difficult being a new mother is. About how you abandon yourself and your identity. About how every moment is a struggle and the days stretch on endlessly. About the pain of breastfeeding. The monotony of diaper changes and 3 hour chunks of scheduling. All of the articles and posts ended with similar summations: “But having your baby is a joy.” I prepared myself for the very worst – dullness, drudgery, pain – armed with the subtle nuance that joy may appear in the creases of the fatigue. I stripped away – WE have stripped away – so much goodness in my preparation, so that I wouldn’t be blindsided by the struggle.
But. But I wish we would rewrite every single one of those posts. Retool all of our thinking and preparation and overall mindset. It is a joy. A delight. A fulfillment. A miracle. A calling. Foremost it is soaked in goodness. And, secondarily, it is also hard. I wish we would change that “but” conjunction to an “and,” and flip the entire sentence structure. The conjunction needs to be a small footnote, not the defining characteristic. Motherhood is sweet and sloppy – in a beautiful chaos. It is all consuming – in the best sense. It is reckless and without boundaries – in a thrilling whirlwind. It is so so so good. And it is hard. And that isn’t a negative thing.
When Nora Beth was placed in my arms, I did abandon my identity. And I am so glad I did. I’m not just Caroline who writes silly stories, cooks in a crockpot, bakes the same cookie recipe over and over again, works out consistently, loves the Lord and reads too much celebrity gossip. Now, I am Caroline who is Nora Beth’s mother. Who gave birth to a gorgeous little chunk of light. Who understands selflessness in a way I only thought I did 3 months ago. Who would give up anything to protect her family. Who is strong and mighty and proud. Who finds her greatest fulfillment in the most mundane. AND who writes silly stories, cooks in a crockpot, bakes the same cookie recipe over and over again, works out consistently (admittedly not as much as before), loves the Lord and reads too much celebrity gossip. My identity hasn’t been shoved into a crumpled cardboard box in some far, forgotten corner of a rarely used closet. My identity is enhanced and emboldened by the fact that now, finally, I am who I was made to be and doing the thing that I was created to do.
And it is hard. It is hard to embrace a new normal of functioning higher than my previously-thought highest capacity. Particularly on less sleep than ever before. But it isn’t that hard. Really, it isn’t that hard. The days are still 24 hours long, and now I have the opportunity to be part of more of those hours than I was before. Sometimes stumbling through them, but always present.
It is hard to comprehend that I can love 12 pounds of fleshy rolls and smiles and cries and babbles and sweetness with all of my being. It is hard (oh so hard) to believe that God loves me so deeply and believes in me SO fully that He gave me – us – this girl to raise and care for and give life to. It is hard to accept the blessing and the burden. Our most remarkable, boundless blessing is also our greatest burden. The weight of discerning for her, guiding her, protecting her, allowing her to experience pain and rejection and hope and grace, it’s a burden.
But I refuse to experience parenthood as a burden that happens to also feel like a blessing… a blessing first wrapped in a large, bulky burden. That in spite of the burden, there is a blessing there. No, I will strive to always experience my path as a parent as a blessing so large that it renders itself unwieldy and burdensome… the richness of the blessing so full and thick and weighty, that it is a burden to steward it to the capacity it requires. These nearly 12 weeks of motherhood have been ripe with such a tangible blessing AND my favorite burden. And I am so glad that I am the one who gets to carry both.