Shortly after I first discovered I was pregnant, I did what any millennial woman would do: I hopped on Pinterest, started a new board (titled “Hey Baby”, in case you were wondering), and started pinning anything and everything I could find related to new motherhood.
To say I was overwhelmed with information would be an understatement, but what stuck with me all through my pregnancy and to this day, were the hundreds of articles about how to “Survive”. How to Survive the Newborn Phase. How to Survive the First Year. Surviving the Threenager (aka how to not kill your toddler). These women were sharing their stories of trial, but rarely shared their triumphs. The articles often contained little advice and were more just horror stories about how bad new motherhood would be.
Well, for me, this was crushing. Since as long as I could remember, the thing I most wanted to be was a mother. I was especially looking forward to the newborn phase. I didn’t want to have to just “survive” it, I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to thrive in living out the vocation that God had called me to. Was that even possible? I was suddenly filled with self-doubt. The barrage of negativity had tainted my experience as a mother before my baby had even arrived. I was petrified that no matter how prepared I was, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the constant needs of my baby. I felt inadequate as a mother before I had even given birth.
Well then an amazing thing happened. My baby arrived. And yes, the birth was hard—especially after the doctors made a last minute decision to refuse the epidural I had planned—but it was also so miraculous. After after those painful 20 hours in the hospital, she was finally here.
And all the scary things that I had read about in those articles started to happen. She was up all night. We struggled with nursing. I worried about her constantly. I understood exactly where the mothers of those articles were coming from. But I tried to think through how to “thrive” instead of “survive”.
I began to pray daily for God to equip me. Through His leading, I made a conscious decision not to let my emotions be determined by society’s negative expectations of new motherhood. I purposefully focused on the good, the pure, the precious. Every time she woke up at night I tried to remind myself, “I’m so happy she is awake because it means she is alive and I am here to care for her.” And when breastfeeding was painful, I reminded myself that God had equipped me to sustain her life. I prayed that it would get better. I sought help and reached for a support system in my husband and our families. And eventually it did get better.
Now, do not get me wrong, I am not at all trying to say that new motherhood is easy, especially for those struggling with postpartum depression. I know you can’t always “positive thought” your way out of the challenges of parenthood. And I encourage you to seek help from your doctors, ask for support from your loved ones, and pray unceasingly. And remember in all trials that God has equipped you to raise this child and will help you share the burden when it threatens to overwhelm you.
God has called you to do a difficult, amazing, and supremely important task. The devil wants to surround you with negativity and fear. He wants you to feel isolated and inadequate. He wants society to minimize the importance of the role you play. But the only way to combat the persistent negativity is through Christ and the ultimate joy that comes with fulfilling his calling for you.
Maybe you are a working mother, or maybe your vocation is to stay at home, but either way society has likely made you feel guilty for your decision. But the truth is that God calls and equips mothers in all paths of life and the Mama guilt is just the devil trying to corrupt the good work you are doing.
C.S. Lewis has been quoted saying “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” No matter what motherhood looks like for you, you have been called to physically and spiritually care for the hands and feet of God. And when it is painful and overwhelming, Christ is there to help you carry the burden.
1 Thessalonians 5 calls us to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.” Pray for your children and for your ability to raise them to know Him and do His will. Be joyful and grateful when the devil tempts you towards anger and frustration.
I know it’s easier said than done when your baby is screeching the whole way home (not crying, screeching. You Mamas know the difference.). Or when they have literally just soaked themselves and you with spit up (seriously, how can little bodies create so. much. fluid?). Or when your back aches from buying/bagging/unloading the groceries only to find out that your little darling has had a blowout in the carrier. That you’re wearing. At the store. (Sorry, just speaking from experience here.)
But, in all seriousness, I challenge you next time a crisis arrives to send God a quick prayer of thanks for your child’s life and health and for your ability to care for them. And then live out your vocation by handling the crisis like the strong, well-equipped, and beautiful child of God that you are.