I remember catching sight of this silhouette some afternoon while making dinner, and smiling. I wanted to take a picture of it.
Then I tried to find my camera.
It was a week and a half later that I finally captured the image. (The piles, the piles! I think my brain is buried under one of them.)
Catching us outlined on the refrigerator door seemed so right to me, so fitting. It is the best self-portrait I could think of at this time in my life.
Motherhood has been such a strange journey for me. It almost always takes me by surprise to have other mothers ask me for advice- my brain is still stuck in ‘young mom’. I sort of do a mental double-take: “me? Are you talking to me?” And then I sort of giggle at myself and realize that here I am, with five children, and a boy of seven- I’ve got a few years under my belt now. But the fact is, I married young, I had children very early in our marriage, and I had no clue what it really meant to be a mama when I started. Oh, I had babysat a lot- and I had regularly cared for a family of four children- so the care of children was not a difficult thing. But the true work of mothering- the late nights, the early mornings, the pain, the prayers, the discipling, the disciplining, the kissing of booboos- this was unknown territory for me.
I found the balance between who I was as a person and who I was as a mama nearly incompatible when I started. I couldn’t see how I could still be myself and be a good mama at the same time. I couldn’t see how I could bring my creativity and deep abiding passion for life and zest into my work as a mama. For the longest time I couldn’t see being a mama as a job at all…it was something that I sort of crammed in around the edges of life. Frustration courted me on every side then…I was trying to do too much. I realize that now…it’s easy to see now. But then? I liked banging my head aside a wall for no good reason. Gracious, if I am anything, I am stupidly stubborn.
Lorelei arrived. She was all sweetness and light, and oh, how I fell in love. Hard. I was finishing up my degree at university at the time. Right after graduation, postpartum depression sucked me under. My husband says that I slept for about six weeks straight, and I don’t doubt him. I remember the drowning feeling, not being hungry, only waking to nurse Lorelei and then fade back into oblivion. When I finally ‘came to’- it was a different world. A darker world. The simplest of decisions troubled me- what to eat, what to wear, which shoes to put on. It’s almost like learning to walk again, stumbling through the bedrooms, weakly finding your way down the hallway, muddling your way around the living room- everything looks familiar, but you feel like you have a veil over your face. I wish I had found treatment then! (Before I forget, Elizabeth linked to a much-needed discussion on the subject of post-partum depression and faith…please go over there and read if you think you might be struggling with PPD! She also has a great list of important things when it comes to PPD and taking care of oneself. And this is a good description of the thought process of struggling with depression.Please, don’t feel like you are alone in this!) David arrived a year later.
I spent the next year and a half fighting for life, you might say; the strange thing is, I found my life when I almost lost it- during a miscarriage that went horribly wrong. That was two years ago now. I still struggle with depression and perfectionism off and on- it is a rare mama that doesn’t, I suspect- but neither has me in a desperate stranglehold. When I look back across my mothering journey over the years, I realize just how far I’ve come.
These last few months have not been easy with James working the second shift- they’ve been the most intense months I’ve experienced in many a year- but they’ve been good. I don’t know how to explain it, exactly. And I did say to my husband just last night that if motherhood is sanctification, good gracious, has this been a most intense period of sanctification, of constantly dying to self- but it has been good. I think part of it is that I have am glad that I have borne this trial well- or at least as well as I could- and that I am coming to the end of it actually thriving instead of just surviving. I consider this all grace- truly the Lord’s doing- and I have no idea how I got here. It was a heart’s prayer, for good and certain. It blows my mind (in a good way). I never thought the day would come when I would feel truly comfortable in my skin as a mama- that I could balance all the many demands on my time, on my emotions, on my sanity, when I could balance a nursing baby while preparing dinner and catch a photo of the reflection, to boot. I cherish this feeling. I will remember it when things get harder again, as they are wont to do, because we do live in a broken world and rare is the moment we are not in the fray of battle.
All this to say- I am singing a new song and am glad of it- I could practically trill with the birds outside the window. I write all this to give you hope. It may seem so awfully dark wherever you are right now. But if you are patient, dear one- the light will stream through the window and you’ll find yourself smiling too.