I have found motherhood to be one of life’s most profound and complicated callings. The deep overwhelming joy I felt the moment I first heard Elijah’s tiny cry, that floods my heart fresh with each tender moment I share with my boys, is like nothing I have ever known before. The fierce, protective love I have for my children I am sure could make me more-than-human if ever they needed me to be. The meaning and depth they have added to my life astonishes me every day. But make no mistake, motherhood with all of its precious and curious joys, might be the most difficult calling there is.
I know these things now, but four years ago I was a brand new mom, living with unaddressed grief and post partum hormones wild enough to make me believe I was on drugs. I was petrified to walk down the flight of stairs from our bedroom to the living room with Elijah in my arms. When I wasn’t holding, changing, feeding him, I stared at him in the bouncer on the table, wondering what in the world I was supposed to be doing. At night, he slept in a bassinet at the end of our bed with the baby monitor base at his feet and a receiver on my nightstand so I could be sure I would hear him when he woke. Maybe it was because I knew fresh how fragile life is. Maybe it was just the hormones or the lack of sleep, but I felt like I was slowly unraveling.
We watched others feel the frustrating effects of the recession during the latter part of 2008, but in 2009 it started hitting a little closer to home. At the same time, I came to the realization that what I really wanted, more than my career, was to be a stay-at-home mom. We were uncertain how we could sustain our lives in Carlinville on one income, and couldn’t imagine how we would balance travel and family. All of the signs in our life pointed very clearly towards a move back to Chicago, our families, and a more traditional ministry job. So we made a really difficult decision. In March 2009, we put our house on the market, resigned, and waited.
Because we felt so deeply that we were doing the right thing for us as a family, because our last transition was quick and wonderful and all buttoned up within the course of one month from beginning to end, I expected this transition to be the same. I expected our beautiful home, the one we had spent long hours and lots of dollars remodeling, to sell quickly and at our asking price. I expected Mike to find an incredible ministry job. Immediately. I expected that because we were doing what we felt God wanted us to do, the road would be easy.
But there are no formulas for happy endings. No magical prayers that speed things up in order to make life easier. God is not a genie in a bottle that grants our every wish. Sometimes, it seems, He allows us to understand some degree of suffering.
Everywhere I looked in my life I saw loss. Loss of life. Loss of our jobs and the finances and security that goes along with that. Loss of our first home. Loss of my identity as I struggled in the first weeks and months of motherhood. And all that loss made me lose perspective and hope.
I did not fall into a place of despair. It was something I crept into in moments of panic and unrealized expectations. In moments of sorrow and fear. In moments of confusion and exhaustion. It happened slowly, day-by-day, change-by-change, crisis-by-crisis, until one day the darkness was so overwhelming I became paralyzed by it. The day I started to believe the lie that someone else could be a better wife to Michael and a better mom to Elijah, that my family deserved something better than I could give them, was the day that I finally realized something was very, very wrong. I knew I couldn’t keep moving forward with the weight of all I was carrying, crushing my spirit and breaking my heart. The first phone call I made was to Mike. The second we made together to my OB.
“We really recommend that you come to the hospital to get checked out. Just as a precaution. You did the right thing, honey. We just want to make sure you’re ok.”
So we got in the car and drove to Springfield where I was checked into the emergency room. All the nurses were so calm and sweet and kind and kept repeating over and over and over again that I did the right thing. I did the right thing.
I wanted to scream at them that I wasn’t crazy. But instead I just cried and told my story, how we had lost so many things in the last year and a half. That I didn’t know up from down. That I felt lost and confused and really, really sad most of the time. That I was sure deep down I was really OK, but that I was also really scared of what we were going to do after our final day at work. I told them how much I loved my son, and how much I loved my husband and that maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad if just one thing outside of our little family were going right in my life. But of course it felt like nothing was.
They all smiled and nodded and wrote notes on their clipboards and I was discharged a few hours later. We went home emotionally spent and physically exhausted. The next day I made a phone call to a counselor in the area and admitted words that I have never enjoyed saying.
“I need help.”
I have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about today’s post, how I would write it, what I would say. This is one of those stories that I told myself repeatedly I’d never be brave enough to share, but with the support of my husband and a few really good friends, I realized that it was ok and that it was time. I have gotten to the point in my life that what people think of me matters much less than it did when I was a young, but there is however, one more thing that must be said to someone whose opinion matters the most to me when it comes to this particular point in the story . . .
Someday you’ll understand how unexpected and challenging life can be. How you can control some things, but not others, and that sometimes the effects of what you can and cannot control are both painful and confusing. Mommy and Daddy went through a really difficult season of life. It was really hard for Mommy to make sense of everything that was going on, and I needed help and perspective to get through the challenges we were facing.
What I want you to understand more than anything else, is that you were the greatest blessing we could have ever received in that season of our lives. You did not cause our problems. You did not add to them. You were our joy in the middle of other situations that hurt and confused us. I love you with my whole heart. I have loved you from the moment I found out I was carrying you, and I love you now. Nothing, nothing, nothing could ever change that.