Oregon winter is here in all of its foggy beauty and Mr. D makes breakfast early while watching Merek and planning his history lessons.
I sleep in because we are just crawling out from under a month of teething/head colds.
I use my coping mechanism for exhaustion I learned in Slate Falls.
Basically I cut out everything except for important survival stuff like eating, doing dishes, and going to work. And, for this season, we add changing diapers and making sure the baby gets a bath. I try not to worry that the Christmas decoration are not up and certainly don’t dwell too much on emotional questions like “Does anyone even like me?” or “Why did my husband forget to buy me coffee? Does he love me?”
When exhausted, mental space should be purely devoted to the basic and concrete. I am loved by God. I am worthy. I don’t need to do everything. Anything else should be shelved for a time when your brain is not foggy with lack of sleep. I learned this early in my life in the North and it saved me from the burn out I saw in fellow nurses. You don’t try to “fix” anything or anyone in this stage. You don’t entertain questions about faith or humanity. You don’t try to change the world. That all can wait.
If you live a broad life and embrace new experiences you will probably end up obtaining a lot of the life lessons and tools that are needed in future careers, marriage, or motherhood without reading books or taking classes or attending seminars. And I’m not talking cooking, cleaning, and keeping organized. Things like conflict resolution, sacrifice, independence, and your emotional/spiritual health—all important in every season of life.
I have found this too be true the last two years in many ways.
Conversely, so many things I learned in this season would have been helpful when I was single, if time was more fluid and less linear, but alas.
We got through those stretching newborn weeks, endured over 2 months of awful nursing issues, weeks of recovering from his tongue tie release, and then oh bliss, a few precious weeks of “Wow, having a kid is easy peasy”, before he started waking up every few hours, gnawing on his fist, drooling like a St Bernard, and generally being dramatic about whole thing. Clearly not something he got from me, right?
Despite being tired and not having an easy first few months, I have fought to not just ingest all the stereotypes about mothering.
I had learned in single-hood and in early marriage that sort of thing was crippling for me instead of helpful, as it is for some people.
I value authenticity, but find speaking cliches over my life, good or bad, tend to do more harm than good. So while phrases like “Better enjoy your sleep, once baby comes you will never sleep again”, “You will never feel so inadequate at anything”, or even the popular “Motherhood is the more rewarding thing you will every do”, are ALL very close to the truth, they are not the whole truth.
Mothering is not like anything I have done yet, but just like every new stage, I bring myself. I have experienced personal growth and change, absolutely, but surprisingly I found I define the title of motherhood in my life, motherhood does not define me.
My worst days as a nurse and my worse days as a wife have been when I tried to shove myself into the role, instead of letting who I am, the PERSON God has created me to be, define how I live it out.
Turns out those are the worst days for me as a mother as well.
Every story is different. I hear new moms say, “Nothing prepared me for this”, while speaking about early motherhood.
We are all the same in that we are overwhelmed. Oh my, so very overwhelmed at times.
However, my choices and experiences in the past 10 years DID prepare me for this, if I can just recognize it.
I know stereotypes constrict and bind me into trying to fit into roles that hurt me.
I know how to handle night upon night without sleep.
I also carry my depression “toolbox”, which recognizes that this stage of motherhood I have a lack of sleep, more tendency for isolation, and lots of cloudy days where walking is hard. I have trouble finishing a cup of tea without being interrupted. Because of the past, I know this means I need to be very careful.
While on call as a nurse I have had many days, although not as constant as now, where the amount of time and energy I had to give to others took the place of sleeping, eating, and having “me time”. I learned then how retain my personhood while there wasn’t much time for myself.
I know that relationships need intentional feeding at times like that or they just slide into the background.
Travel taught me that the world is always bigger than your little problems, right this moment. It keeps me from feeling stuck in the everyday, when the diaper pail is too full.
Nursing school taught me to being content with never truly completing a list.
There were rich life experiences that prepared me for motherhood
Yet, this new adventure also brings new lessons for new stages to come.
Like, how, even though I know my depression triggers, do I combat it now when I can’t sleep, have a sick baby who shouldn’t be out walking in the cold, and can’t seem get my house clean no matter how hard I try?
How do I retain my “personhood” when every day is like a busy on-call day and finding time for devotions, reading, writing, and being outdoors takes energy I don’t have right now?
How can I fight inward isolation when I the culture that I find myself is harder for me to understand than any of the others I have lived in?
I have lessons to learn in all of those.
In ten years I hope I can look back and see that what I learned through this adventure now, prepared me for whatever adventure that stage holds.