To all the new moms:
This is a photo of me with my son when he was born. This is the first time I really held him and looked into the face I would come to know anywhere. This small boy made me a mother and I am eternally grateful and forever in love.
But I so remember what followed this photo, after this state of pure adoration staring at a baby who already stole my heart.
Suddenly, I felt disoriented and confused and unsure. I couldn't find my footing. My whole life had been turned on a dime and while I thought I was completely prepared and it was a welcomed and wanted change, it was harder than I ever would have guessed.
Having a new baby is disorienting in ways you can't understand until you're there and in it. The exhaustion and worry, the love so very strong you think your heart will burst, the realization that the world will never ever look the same. You see colors you never knew existed; flowers smell different; the sun is blinding and the night is so very dark. And with this heightened awareness through the eyes of your newborn, there is also worry like you've never felt, as your senses are alerted to danger in places you never saw it before.
The first weeks seem like an endless cycle of feeding and changing and dozing only to wake to a crying baby. The sleeping in chairs or the fast showers. The pain your body feels as it heals and the fact that in many ways, it feels like it doesn't completely belong to you again, even though the baby isn't in your belly anymore; he or she is now in your arms. The guilt and worry, on repeat about so many things. The hormonal shifts. The crying for no reason and for a million reasons at once. It's all disorienting and quite honestly, it can be terrifying.
But as it is all of that, it's wonderful or at least you can see the wonder as it blooms. It's exhausting but exhilarating. It's amazing but alarming. The love almost hurts. It really does.
Mothering is one big oxymoron, every day, all day. Your children bring you the most joy but also the most frustration. So much joy. So much frustration. Most days, the joy triumphs....
Through my son and then through my daughter, I've learned who I really am and who I want to be for them and for me. I have learned so much from these small children. The lessons they show me in the everyday about life and about myself ... I never would have imagined.
For me, mothering has been a way to find my identity while I mother my greatest earthly blessings. I've seen God in their faces and while being their mother has been my greatest gift, it hasn't been easy. But it's been so worth it.
To the new mothers tonight and to my cousin in particular, with a sweet new baby at home, this is one of the greatest adventures you're on. And like any adventure worth taking, there are rivers to cross and then mountains to climb. But wow. When you get to the top of the mountain, the view is breathtaking. Truly. It will take your breathe away. And it's a cycle. Up and down, rivers to cross and mountains to climb, over and over again.
So as you begin the night watch, know that I'm sending so much love and luck your way. I know you're an amazing mom already. You're a warrior and we are your tribe.
Kara knows that mothering is a way to find identity, and she writes on her own blog, Mothering the Divide, about the divide it is to mother children, spirit, and the sacred. Come, join her tribe on Facebook.