Authenticity is my most valued characteristic, and the one my perceptive personality picks up on most. It’s one of the reasons that Public Relations, the career path I originally selected, didn’t work out. I cannot handle fakery.
Motherhood has brought out an honest streak in me that won’t keep quiet. I am blessed with some really authentic friends, and they did their best to prepare me for motherhood. Truly, nothing anyone says can actually prepare you for it! I knew about baby blues and post-partum depression. I knew that nursing was a learning process and that it might hurt. I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep. My baby blues came in the form of anxiety each evening, anticipating the long night, and later, the long day without Chris. Nursing, for me, has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I know why people give up. But here’s the thing: I also anticipated intense feelings of love and adoration and pride and a natural inclination to “mother” Susanna, and none of that came. For many days, I felt that I could only keep her alive because if I didn’t, they’d arrest me. Chris and I would put her down for an evening nap and fantasize about our life before Susanna (yes, we absolutely still remember it). When I cried with anxiety, I’d also get angry that I was experiencing so many negative emotions. It’s difficult to connect to a tiny baby. We didn’t stare into each others’ eyes for hours. Her noises alarmed me at first – I didn’t find anything cute about them, especially when she was sleeping.
Here’s the really honest part: It took nearly a month for any of those feelings to develop. Just a couple days ago, I was holding Susanna, and I looked at her and I felt differently than I had since the day we met. I am starting to actually like her, and love her genuinely (I believe what I had was a form of love, but it was a bit dutiful), and – hallelujah! – getting to know her.
Here is what I would tell a mom-to-be. Motherhood, especially new motherhood, is hard. It isn’t rainbows and roses, and sometimes it’s thorns and dirt. It will test you, exhaust you, and throw you for a loop while you’re still spiraling out of the last one. While your body is recovering from the trauma of birth, you have to live on little sleep and battle anxiety, nerves and the unrelenting appetite of a being totally dependent on you. Some people like this feeling. I hate it. In my mind, the only One who can enjoy caring for beings who depend entirely on Him is God, who provides perfectly. But He does provide perfectly! And that’s what has made the last month bearable for me: He sustains. With His Word, with His people, and with peace that surpasses understanding, I’ve been sustained. And the science of it, too, He designed perfectly. I’m talking about happy hormones. The fact that my body produces exactly what I need to give Susanna what she needs, both in terms of nutrition and willingness to care for her, is amazing to me.