We've only been home from Africa for four months. It feels like a lot longer. Like ages have passed since we were in another country, another culture, immersed in the diversity and taking on the biggest change of our lives.
I'm trading my sorrow
I have to tell you, that I am eating a rather large helping of humble pie lately. I have a big spoon and I'm heaping it in by the gallons. Daily. I used to think "look at that mom over there...control your child for goodness sake" or "If that were me, I'd have that kid towing the line in a flash", or even worse and much more often "why is she whining? She got what she wanted! She's got her baby - now stop complaining". I admit it. I was that person.
I'm trading my shame
I am ashamed to admit to you that parenting has been my biggest struggle. My biggest fear come to life. That I would be no good at it, or that somehow it would not be all I had imagined. It's not what I imagined. It's not what I thought. It's so hard I could weep. Actually, I do. Everyday is a new day, yes - and everyday is a new challenge.
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord
Once I read a comic that stuck with me. A Dilb#ert comic strip where Ratbert, the new office "temp", sets up a desk for himself inside a cardboard box in the hallway because he wants to be permanent in the office so badly. He tells Dilbert that since he knows he'll be there for a long time (cough), he needs something that can be his own. Have you ever been a temp? Then you know how apropos the word "temp" is. Dilbert sagely faces the reader and the caption reads "Warning! Sharp learning curve ahead!". Poor Ratbert.
I'm trading my sickness
That's how I feel. Like I wish someone had hog tied me and wrangled me to the floor back in May and said "WARNING, Christie! SHARP (very, very sharp) learning curve ahead!" But no one did. It was all smiles, well wishes, isn't it great, isn't it wonderful, what a wonderful time, it's the best time of your life, and all that jazz. I wouldn't change the outcome - I would have just mentally tried to prepare myself a little bit better for the reality and the utter levity of the situation.
So, quit reading now if you're already getting irked at me and want to shout "get over yourself - you've got the baby, now shut up already!" It's about to get tangled. And beware lest you find yourself eating humble pie like me. It's nasty, nasty stuff and there is no watering it down or chasing it with some guilt-free sugar coated variety of "sorry, I was wrong".
I'm trading my pain
Quint is a wonderful boy. He's sweet and funny, charming and smart as a tack. He's engaging and snuggly and he has his own mind. He's opinionated, he's cute - he's a delightful baby. Who wouldn't be happy all the time?
It comes as a shock to me at least, that I would struggle so much to live each day to its fullest. To enjoy the moments. When people say to me "enjoy this age - it's the BEST!" I literally want to scream back "then YOU enjoy it! Because I would love to go to the bathroom or read two lines of a book, or finish putting clothes on, or bathe for crying out loud, or makeup - what the heck is that? - or how about finish one freaking meal while it's still even quasi warm, or get one thought out of my head and into the world before I have my pants pulled down and off by a well meaning but screaming child as he is latched on to my leg for 10 of his 12 waking hours, or see a movie (what the frig is even playing?) or comb my hair (don't even ask!) or wear something other than a nightgown all day, or balance our checkbook (God help us) or read my Bible (Lord forgive me!) or have a conversation with my husband that does not begin or end with "so then the baby..." or sleep one night without worrying about crib death at 11 months (does that ever end?) or enjoy one of 30 breakable things in my home that are now crammed unceremoniously into small and unreachable by little hands, places.
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord
I need to be honest - this is not called a "full-time job" for nothing. I'm not even kidding you. I worked corporate for years before this stay at home gig - and I can say hands down, that was the easiest job (whatever it was...insert company here) that I ever had compared to this. We could have a quiet day over here at La Casa B and it would still rank as the hardest thing I've ever done. This is not for wimps. It's not for the weak. You can't get away with half hearted parenting for more than about...oh say, 15 minutes. Do you wanna know why? Because they will eat you alive. You have to be engaged constantly. Otherwise, you end up with a child pulling the television over (are they seriously that strong? Give me a freaking break!) or climbing out the dog door (true story). You have to be on your game all the time. Can you imagine? Even nap time is a race to get done as much as humanely possible before you hear the alarm - and by alarm of course, I mean "whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"
I'm pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned
So speaking honestly with the deep hope for no condemnation, I am sad. I am not as good at this as I hoped to be. Maybe I am my own biggest critic - but this is breathtakingly hard. I love Q beyond measure - but that doesn't change the difficulty of the day to day struggles of learning to be someones mother. He's very strong willed, but it's beyond that. It's not even about him. It's about me. People say it will come naturally - and many of the elements do indeed. But friends, new moms to be, know this - it does not ALL come naturally. Some of it is hard earned, sweat induced, tear filled, patience tested, iron will "learn as you go" parenting. It simply is.
Struck down but not destroyed
I have to compare this to getting married. I love AB more than words. There aren't enough ways to express my love and genuine admiration for him. Having said that, I remember being young and very in love and thinking that the world was our oyster. That we would NEVER become one of those tired old married couples and that we would never take each other for granted. (heh...snicker...) Anton reminded me of an embarrassing gift we gave our relatives for Christmas one year - "Love" cards - oh gawd, we're still cringing. 100 ways to tell the person you love that you "love" them. Or something like that. After we got married, I distinctly remember sitting in the honeymoon cabin of the cruise ship we were on and thinking "so this is it, huh? All that planning...all that waiting...all that work...for three hours of wedding and it's over. And now it's life as usual - everything returns to the mundane and now it's more complicated because I'm responsible emotionally to another person." Yikes! Where did those thought creep in? I can tell you where. Because NOBODY tells the bride "listen, marriage is infinitely hard and full of craziness and moments where you think you'll keel over - but you should still do it". No one says that! No one ever will. I was surrounded by little well wishers who said "ooh" and "aaah" and "isn't this wonderful" and "it's so romantic" and "ooh the gown is gorgeous and the invitations are lovely...ooh ahhh ooggle". Heaven help us all if people start spitting the truth.
I'm blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure
Likewise, becoming a parent in whatever form, is surrounded by oohs and aaahs and well wishers and those who regale tales of delightful parenting moments and relish passing along their tricks of the trade while you stand numb and dazed holding your bundle of joy. Let's face it, if they showed up, grabbed you by the arm and said "just you hang on sister because this life ride is about to get cracked out...and you think you're busy now? HA! Don't make me laugh. You don't know tired, busy, hungry, deprived, annoyed, tested, or mentally worn down to your noggin nub until now! And honey, pass the chaos, hold the sanity! You're about to get dealt the biggest blow to your ego in YEARS. You are no longer...well, anything. Except diaper doter, bottle feeder, nose wiper, vomit catcher, toy cleaner, slobber saver, tear dryer, crib sheet changer, and "I can name that cartoon tune in 3 notes" all around hand holder. So suck it up! Because you can wipe that happy little crappy smile off your face and start dancing to the music of "this is your life" everyday, all over again. Now you have a nice one.
And His joy's gonna be my strength
No one is gonna say that people. Because if they did, we'd RUN, not walk in the direction of "free spirit forever" bumper stickers, movie hopping on Saturday nights, and midnight sushi bars. We'd never sign the contract. We'd need to see proof that this gig was more than...well...the above. So no one is out there saying "this crap is HARD".
It's frowned on. Even shushed. I might be losing offended readers even now. But isn't that sad? Let me tell you - in my distraught frame of mind, I have opened up to several close friends and you know what? I'm comforted to find that once you begin sliding your hand up in the air and saying "hi, my name is Christie...and this new mom gig is freaking hard", you find that you are not alone. That MANY women are struggling with motherhood. That so many are facing the same uphill battle every day that you face. That even right down to the scenarios - we are a sisterhood even in our weakest moments. We have the same stories, the same struggles, the same fears, the same weaknesses. What a comfort to me in my hour of need. (I love you and you know who you are friends...)
Though the sorrow may last for the night
So, I have been broken like a wild horse these past months - and I haven't known what to say to all of you. Haven't known how to tell you that I'm having a hard time. I've tried a couple times and then I feel so guilty for not being able to whistle a happy tune for you. All the love in the world for my little man cannot change the fact that sometimes I just need to breathe. Sometimes, I just need to use the restroom. I'm not joking. Do you know I'm actually crying when I type that? That's not frailty - that's reality. That's me being vulnerable to you. Sometimes I just need to have five minutes to think about myself. And learning how to do that, and when to do that, and what hat to wear at what time of day has been my sharp learning curve.
Considering so many women have told me of the exact same struggles, I can't imagine that most of us have not faced or thought these same things. All things considered, if you are facing new motherhood - I in no way wish to discourage you - but I hope you will take from this the benefit of having been "hog-tied" to this post and forced to hear "sharp learning curve ahead". It's not about loving the child - that's not even in the equation. It's about you. You think after all these years, you can deal with it - whatever it is. You'll cross that bridge when you get there. Friends, take a note from my utter open wound here...now is the time to begin to understand that your entire life will get flipped upside down. Think of everything you do now - and flip it over. You can't come away from that untouched. It's just natural that you would "feel" something.
His joy comes in the morning
Motherhood Saints out there - whoever you are - that have never felt this way, that have never really struggled as I have, or felt completely lost in parenting, or struggled to get up and do it again each day - bless you. You are so fortunate.
Struggling mothers - and I mean this from my deepest place - bless your heart. Love that baby, but take care of yourself as best you can. Find ways to keep your sanity and do your best not to pummel the lady who stops to tell you to "enjoy this age...it's the best!!" with that Pollyanna smile and high pitched voice. She means well. But let's face it - it's not the best age (insert age here)...they've forgotten. God has blessed mothers with the ability to slowly forget the bad and latch on to the precious. That's ok - it's for you too and it'll happen with time. But while you're in it...Lord, it seems overwhelming.
I'm trading my shame. I'm laying it down. I'm gonna take the Joy of my Lord. I can't think of anything else to do. I've arrived at that little place we all hate to go to..."Witts End".
If you're still here...and still reading this, then thank you for that - truly. I'm not sure what else I've got to say for a bit. I'm sure I'll find something, but it just might be tidbits here and there until I can find a way to trade my sorrow over. I guess I'm nothing if not relentlessly honest over here at Bushel and a Peck.
I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord
(* it's a song...and a great one at that...)