There's this season in motherhood that is the hardest. Not because of a particular stage that the children are going through. No, because of a stage that the mother is going through. It's that first year of a child's life. Or even more narrowly: the first 4 to 6 months.
The child is so needy. So all consuming. So tiring. So new.
That newness shifts everything in a new mother (especially the first time around).
Prior to that infant leaving the perfect cradle within you, your life has rhythm. A rhythm you chose. A checklist for you to accomplish. A regularity. A purpose. You have control.
But from that first contraction rocking the life within, a new mom is swallowed by the chaotic reality that our control was just an illusion.
A newborn breaks open all sense of self-efficiency.
A newborn brings low what once was haughty.
All the "I will never do that when I have kids," is challenged as a new person enters.
I've often said that I am perhaps the only newborn photographer who hates the newborn stage and this is why: the newborn stage is the most vulnerable for the mother.
New mother, your role has just shifted from something that you could measure the accomplishment for by the end of the day. To a qualitative role where nothing is ever measured and everything you have done all day is un-done by the end of the day.
The child you have longed for is changing everything about your life that you have loved. Sleep. Quiet evenings with your husband. The clean house. The warm meal served on time. Basically the ability to do anything you want right when you want or need is stolen from you.
New mom, you are out of control. You are out of the illusion that you ever have any control.
And that is a crazy-vulnerable place to be.
So much advice out there floats to you. You read it in books. You read when your child should nap. When you should nap. That you should or shoudn't rock. Your friends ask if the baby is sleeping yet. Your husband wonders aloud if the fussy baby isn't still hungry 10 minutes after you feed them. You wonder about your milk being enough. You wonder if formula would make them sleep.
You taste the curse. The curse that child bearing will bring pain. Oh, you're beyond shocked to find that the worst pain of all is not labor (no, that is just the beginning), but the worst pain is mother-guilt.
New Mom, it doesn't have to be this way. The mother-guilt can be surrendered.
There will never be a checklist for motherhood. There will never be a regularity. You are working with a person, and just when you think you figure that person out something will change. They will drop a nap. Or they will outgrow the fussy stage. Or they will start waking from tooth pain.
You can't measure your worth as a mother by a checklist of what your children can and cannot do. Or on how the schedule of the day progresses. Or on the number of crossed out items on your to-do list at the end of the day. Those things will only increase that mother-guilt.
No, new mom, there is only one way to conquer that mother-guilt.
You have to own that mother-guilt, pick it up with open hands, and offer it up to the Lord Jesus Christ. In that awe-ful moment, you're going to be surprised as the mother-guilt that has defined you peals out of your hands and floats away. It was never your definition.
New mom, you are not defined by what you don't do for or with your child (or your husband, or your home), nor are you defined by what you do accomplish. Underneath all those labels you've given yourself is your true name:
That is who you are, new mom. The precious most beloved daughter of Christ.
Love Him because He has loved and named you in His death and resurrection. Listen to what He is calling you to do. Do the next thing. Let go of all the failures. Give Him the glory for all your feeble successes. Treat the non-essential areas of parenting (nap times and lengths, pacifiers, baby wearing) as scientific process: keep trying things until you know what works for you and your baby.
Admit you are not in control (you never have been) and rejoice in that as you feel all your mistakes piling up in front of your little one. God can use even your mistakes to weave a beautiful thing for your child.
No matter what else you hear, hear this: You are the Beloved.
Own your true name and lay aside the guilt. Jesus died because he loved you so that you could live in freedom from condemnation. Live free, Beloved.