the sweetness of the trenches
This last week was a tough, in the trenches, barely making it out alive week. And I was going to blog about how exhausted I am (I am really tired yo!) and how much I want to run away screaming and how getting mastitis completely tipped the already fragile sanity meter to levels of complete CRAY CRAY not seen around these parts in a while. Fo' reals it got pretty pathetic.
I stopped nursing Abishai and although I think it was the best decision for me and us I was so struggling. I nursed the girls for almost a year each and even though it was rough we hung in and made it work. I shared with friends who were quick to point out that I was making the right decision and that my sanity and emotional well being were more important than nursing my babe in the long run. If anyone else had been in the same position I would have said the same things. I would affirm their ability to parent with their God given gut and reminded them that there are lots of babies who do not turn into serial killers despite being given formula. I would have affirmed and encouraged anyone else but I could not muster the strength to allow myself that same peace and acceptance without the cloud of failure hanging and looming and stealing joy. I was taking on all this pressure to do and be something I am not. So, I was going to blog about all of that and how much I was ready to throw in the towel but because I have an amazing community around me I can now say we made it through and I am reminded yet again that in the moment of "I cannot do this one more minute" God whispers, "you are right....YOU can't.... but I am here and you have amazing community."
Many times in the middle of the night while I was awake in pain and trying to coax a fussy baby to sleep it occurred to me that we are not meant to raise kids the way we do (or attempt to) in America. No other culture expects one woman to stay home caring for everything in her home and with the children alone. It is not natural or normal and leads to isolation at best or complete breakdowns in my case. The last time I did this newborn gig I was in Africa surrounded by women who stopped in every day, whether I wanted visitors or not and while there were some exhausting things about that, I knew I was not alone. There was always someone to hold the baby when I needed to pee or hang laundry. There were always women to talk to, albeit in my second language, and share daily life. But numerous times this last week I felt alone and desperate. And that makes me feel like a failure.
But here is the thing: I know I am not alone. And I know this because I am blessed to share life with so many amazing women and mothers. Even though shame whispers that I should pretend everything is fine all the time I can chose differently. I can choose to be real. There is a silent pressure to post a perfect picture on facebook confirming that life is always polished and beat down any feelings that don't jive. But shame eats away at me and us. It preaches the lie that everyone else is obsessed with our failings as we seem to be. But just when I can't do it one more second a friend sends me an encouraging email, another friend stops over with flowers and a latte, I spend way too long on the phone with a friend who gives needed perspective, and my mom drives down and holds the baby all day. But my first inclination was to hide and smile and nod and just lie. I almost didn't let a friend stop by because I had been crying and hadn't showered and looked...well, like a hot mess. I almost cancelled a birthday henna and Indian food eatin' outing because I was sick and feeling sorry for myself but I knew I needed to let people in. Into all of it. We all need to invite others in because it reminds us to be compassionate, grateful, forgiving, accepting, encouraging, and loving. It also means we cannot live the lie of a perfect life and that is so freeing and refreshing. Everyone else is a mess too after all. It is good to have a tribe of my people and I know I could not do this Mama gig without them. Without you. And God reminds me that while difficult this is one of the most rewarding and awesome journeys of my life thus far. And if I'm trying to just survive it I miss the sweetness of a chaotic but blessed life.
I'm trying to embrace all of motherhood, not just the parts I see as valuable because I know I am short sighted and often fail to see what is meant for His glory and not my own. The quiet moments in the middle of the night rocking a baby, my response the third time Evy spills her milk in one day, the endless opportunities I have a day to engage my kids instead of hush them. If I am honest I so badly want to be out there "doing" more while right now He has called me to this. All of this.
I struggle so much with feeling that 'me' gets lost in this all. And I know I still need to feed the parts of me that are energized by other things and exercising God given gifts I finally feel free to admit and embrace. And finding that balance has been eluding me as of late. But just because I don't have it figured out (and probably never will) God still calls me to be thankful through the storm. Even when that storm seems quiet, unassuming, and internal battle of choosing joy everyday. When I want to run away screaming or join the witness protection program just so I can get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep I am called to praise and worship, and be thankful. Living in gratitude. And that is what my soul needs. And to remember I am not expected to do this by myself. That the Holy Spirit is within me and God has given me amazing friends and family that bring lattes, hold babies, and take time out to get henna and scarf Indian food and listen and pray and just be in the beautiful mess of my life.