It’s been one year. A year that I will never forget. A year that is leaving deep imprints on my soul.
Moving into motherhood, I knew I had nothing figured out. I knew I was clueless and that it was going to be hard and that I was going to need friends and family to come alongside us on the journey. I remember questioning the basics: Do I really know how to change a diaper? Am I supposed to burp her if she falls asleep or just let her be? Do I heat the bottle up in the microwave or on the stovetop or under water? Does any of this matter?
I knew my life would turn into a series of naps and that my body would hurt and my heart would ache and swell in ways I had not experienced before. I knew that I knew nothing.
And then, Summer was born. They placed her on my chest after 3 days of labor and I remember her cry. I remember being in shock that my body actually delivered a baby. I felt proud of myself and beautiful – two things I had rarely felt before.
We moved into our recovery room around 11PM and Ryan was exhausted – he had not eaten in 2 days and had coached me for 18 hours (at least). All of this on the heels of full workdays.
In compliance with the medical staff, I was back and forth from the restroom and Summer was crying that fresh newborn cry from her hospital bassinet. The little cry that feels piercingly loud to only the parents.
We were all so tired. Including Summer.
We were all going through life changing adjustments. Including Summer.
We were all facing physical recovery. Including Summer.
I came out of the hospital bathroom to Summer screaming – a situation that would be on repeat for months to come. Ryan’s face was aglow by his cell phone and He was holding her in one hand and the hospital blanket in the other, bending over the phone trying to read. “I just can’t figure it out,” he said with a defeated and tired tone that hung in the air. I walked over to see how I could help – He was looking up “how to swaddle baby” on google.
She was violently squirming and crying, making it nearly impossible to swaddle her tightly. The nurse was back and forth. This nurse was much like many women I’ve met in Colorado – direct and to the point. Lacking the southern charm and hospitality my heart typically expects. She gave directions and rattled off information. I nodded and looked toward Ryan who had passed out on the window seat.
I tried to sleep, but could not console Summer. The nurse was back and forth to check on her insisting that our vitals were fine. She could tell I was struggling. Ryan was asleep (somehow through Summer’s ceaseless crying ordeal). On her way out, she turned around and said in a matter of fact tone, “we don’t have a nursery, but if you can’t calm her down in an hour click your button and I’ll come take her for 1 hour so you can get at least an hour of sleep.” I obliged. An hour after attempting and failing, I pressed that red, glowing button, sending out an SOS that brought me the rest I so desperately needed.
Exactly 1 hour later the nurse returned with my bundle of baby. “She likes the swing” she said her raspy voice, “you should probably get one.”
The next morning light flooded our room and I felt a readiness to take on my new mama life. My mom arrived (I have never been more grateful for her presence). My friends visited. We FaceTimed family. Summer still cried for most of the day. We were a family of 3 – and we continually oscillated between wonder, amazement, and “oh shit, what have we done.”
And so continued my life for the next several months. Our life. Our life was never the same and never will be the same again.
The first 5 nights we were home, Summer cried hysterically from midnight until 5AM straight. My mom – a saint – would peak her head in around 2AM and again around 4:30AM to check on me and see if she could help in any way. She helped me formulate what questions to ask the doctor and the lactation consultant. On the fourth night, she took Summer and sat in my rocking chair and showed me 2 tricks that will stick with me for life.
My mom helped me troubleshoot and clean my house and do my laundry. She went to the store and bought diapers. She bought gas drops that bought me 30 minutes of silence at a time – life saving stuff, I tell you. She bought “the earthy stuff” and “the normal stuff” every time she went out to buy diapers, wipes, cream, soap, etc., commenting, “I want you to use what you feel comfortable with so I got both.” Not once did she force herself on us or try and get us to do parenting her way – she gave us freedom to learn and grow and figure it out and offered her advice and help when we asked.
When we came home from the hospital my house was spotless, new items had been purchased for my home, candles were lit, the fire was going, and Christmas music was playing. It was the most beautiful homecoming I have ever experienced. Ever.
My mom taught me so much within a span of three weeks – the grace and selflessness with which she loved us changed me and set me up for survival when the storm ensued in this first year of Summer’s life.
As we said goodbye to my family after that Holiday season my eyes welled up with tears. I knew I was embarking on a journey that was going to be impossible. I felt God warning me of that. We departed from the home in which my family was staying and embraced with big hugs, saying goodbye. It’d be months before I’d see my daddy again. On our way home we had to pull over several times because Summer was crying so hard she had stopped breathing. With snow up to our shins we would pull her out, burp her, give her gas drops, pray, and put her back in the car seat.
Much of my journey from there I’ve already shared in Peace in a Colicky storm: My Story
But, what I want to admit to the world is this: I’m unfit for motherhood.
A role as sacred and difficult as mothering, despite the disposition of the child, is impossible to do well without the grace and hand of God on my life. The level of selflessness required is not something that comes naturally.
“For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Yes, there is a primal place within a woman that will lift a car to save her child. This primal place causes the meekest of women to curse at anyone who attempts to harm their baby. There is within us an innate desire to try and calm and soothe our crying child. Our bodies naturally produce more milk as we hear our baby cry. The term “mama bear” is a real deal.
This primal instinct is the story of most moms. Mom’s who suffer with the bio-chemical impact of Postpartum Depression know this primal place can lay dormant in a way that bruises one’s character and challenges one’s identity.
I suffered with Postpartum Depression. My body stopped releasing bonding hormones and endured other hormonal deficits that caused this primal place in me to die for a while.
To love an inconsolable, passionate, strong-willed baby and lack such primal instincts showed me the depravity of my flesh and the need I had for Jesus like nothing else could (definition of flesh is me without God, my earthly self, click here for Biblical definition of flesh). As this primal place lay dormant, my spirit became more exposed and I was challenged to meet with the Lord in a new and very tangible way. I wanted to want to console. I wanted to want to nurse her. I wanted to want to hold her. I wanted to want to laugh. I wanted to want to enjoy our new life as a family.
But, no matter how hard I tried, I did not want these things.
I had to learn to humble myself and ask for help from my community and family. I had to say yes to therapy and medication. I had to learn that soul care looked different now and I had to find a new rhythm.
I had to become okay with the fact that my flesh is unsuited for motherhood so that I could allow God’s spirit to fill me, guide me, and heal me. Summer deserves the best mom. A better mama than I could ever be apart from God. By realizing that my flesh is unfit for such a task, I was able to invite God to soften my heart and take the lead. My reliance on Him in this season moved me to a place of intimacy with Holy Spirit that I have never had before.
Can we all just agree that nobody wants to get up at 2AM to solve the crying baby mystery? Nobody honestly wants to sleep in a rocking chair instead of a bed. Nobody, deep down, wants to share their cookie or their chips (at least not all of the time). Nobody naturally wants to clean poop off of another human’s bottom. Nobody inherently wants to smile and give kisses after their baby bites their nipple. We do not innately want to jump out of bed smiling and jolly after 5 hours of broken sleep.
Can we agree that we do not naturally want to forfeit a lunch date with a friend because our baby needs a nap? We do not innately want to listen to the same kid song on repeat. The clean freaks among us do not want our floors to look like Babies R’ Us (and Petco, depending on your family make-up) exploded.
We live in this tension of “I should want to do this, but I do not want to,” and that is okay. Because our flesh does not naturally lay itself down. Sure, there are moments when primal instinct may kick in…but, ultimately, our flesh will resist giving-up comfort. Even and especially when our flesh is deprived of sleep and our baby is inconsolable.
A God-designed, redeemed, mothering, heart can be repressed by our flesh if we do not acknowledge that we need Him. We do not have to fake it – we can be honest that we need God to touch us and we need His Spirit to fill us in order to be mothers. It’s okay to admit that we don’t want to share our banana and that we were mad at our baby for waking us up 73 times last night. Only through Him are we made suitable for this sacred role.
Admitting that we are weak and selfish does not mean we love our kids any less! It just means that we are going to model well what it looks like to live honestly and lay our lives down. It means we are going to make great space for His Glory to shine through.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
Motherhood is an exceptional position before God. We get to guide, nurture, love and tend His most precious creations. We get to show these tiny people how Heaven can break into earth through their little hands. Not a baby version of Heaven, but the real Heaven.
You see, most things have come easy for me in my 28 years. I was born into a well-off, white, educated family. I was taught the overt and covert rules for manners among various classes of people. I went to cotillion. I always had a meal on the table and parents at home who cared. I went to an amazing college. I had incredible friends and attended a church that God is using to change the world. I live in one of the most beautiful states in our nation and brush shoulders with adventure on a regular basis. I’ve always had a 4.0. I’ve always had a boyfriend. I’ve always had a car. I’ve always had clothes. And, as a strong-willed person, I typically found ways to be excellent at whatever I did: piano, dieting, exercise, school…even to my own detriment.
So, I’m thankful that this year was impossible. I’m glad I learned that my flesh is unfit for motherhood. The way my life had been going led me to believe I was “fit” for anything. I could take on whatever job I wanted, if I wanted it badly enough. I could lose as much weight as I wanted, if I wanted it badly enough. I could perform any piece I wanted, if I wanted it badly enough. And while there is still an invitation for me to work hard and aim for excellence, I’ve learned in this process that it is actually beautiful and godly to not be naturally good at something. It’s freeing to realize that my flesh is unfit for a task and that I have no choice but to rely fully on God to accomplish what has been set before me.
“‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me”
2 Corinthians 12:9
God does not call us to the possible. He calls us to do the things we would not be able to do without Him. The most sacred jobs I’m given are the ones that are impossible for me to do. God is good, and He is faithful to come alongside us in weakness. He may show up as a pillar of fire in my nursery, He may show up as a supernatural burst of energy, or He may show up in my neighbor bringing me a warm meal after days of sleeplessness.
We each have our own “impossible.” What is difficult for me may not be difficult for you and vice versa, but that’s how God shows up among us.
To many, this all may seem like elemental revelation. And, to be honest, the part of me that has walked with Jesus for 11 years knew these things…but becoming a mother caused these truths to journey from my head to my heart.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13
When I say I’m unfit for motherhood, I mean that I am walking the reality that without Him I can do nothing – where I am weak He is strong – and the spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.
My flesh is unfit for motherhood, but through God’s kindness and grace – He has redeemed my heart and makes me suitable for this sacred role of mothering.
December 15, 2016
Summer Marie Hudson,
Today you are one year old. You have changed my life in the best of ways. You are joyful, passionate, loving, and fiercely independent. Your thirst for adventure amazes me and your joy challenges me every day. You were named after your Great Aunt Marie who went home to be with Jesus this past September. She was one of the most outgoing, friendly, and kind people I have ever met. You are already creating a similar legacy.
You will hear one day that you cried a lot as a baby. It’s true, you were a difficult baby. Your daddy and I think that it was the result of the big passion, energy and joy trapped in your tiny body. God ultimately used these challenges for good. Today you are the most joyful person I know. God has given you so many gifts – a loving family, a courageous spirit, a love for His creation, curiosity, the sweetest smile, and beauty.
This year I sang “You are my Sunshine” and “This Little Light of Mine” over you almost each day. Our favorite book we read daily was “I love You Night and Day.”
If there’s one thing I want you to know it is that I love you to my core. I love you more than I knew I could love a person. I want you to know, I had to learn to surrender to God in new ways to properly mother you. I had to admit that I could not do it on my own and that this was not going to come naturally. I’m so honored God trusts me to be your mommy.
I want you to know that it is okay when things do not come easily and when things feel impossible, because those moments are reminders that you are unable to do it without God’s help. If it seems to come naturally to everyone else, whether it be studying or playing sports or learning a new language or instrument, or finding a husband, or being a wife, or mothering, that’s okay.
The struggles you face, my dear Summershine, are God’s invitations to walk more intimately with Him. As you surrender, He can shine brighter than your flesh ever could – and His love can move powerfully through you. The places of your greatest struggle will be your greatest places of impact as you lean into friendship with Him in the midst of it. His Holy Spirit will be your helper as you relent and invite Him in.
Happy First Birthday, my sweet Summershine. I love you with every fiber of my being. May you always and forever know that God will continuously equip you for the journey to which you are called. Struggles in life are simply reminders that you cannot do it without God’s help. God calls the surrendered to do the impossible, so just say yes and trust Him to lead you.
“God has not called you to do the things that you can do. He has called you to do the things you can never be able to do in a million years. You are not able to do what God has called you to do. Only He can do it. But He has called you to live in His faithfulness. He has called you to live in His consistency. He will come and do all that needs to be done…” -Graham Cooke