If you were a new mom, about to give birth to your first child, and SOMEHOW I was granted one wish that I could wish over you, you know what I'd choose? I wouldn't choose an easy baby. I wouldn't choose a pain-less labor. I wouldn't choose for your baby to sleep through the night at one week. I would wish that you'd have the grace to re-visit the emotions of your birth experience and make sure you came to right conclusions.
Before I went into labor with my first daughter, I wrote out verse cards. Yep, verse cards. And do you know why I wrote out verse cards? Because I knew labor was going to be hard, and I had a plan to manage the pain. I pictured myself pulling through the intensity with the Word of God, circling the nurse's station in the hospital while meditating on verses about this being a 'light and momentary trouble that produces a glory that far outweighs' the pain of birthing a human being. I think I imagined my soul being transformed through the physical difficulty.
Unfortunately, Ava's birth didn't really go down like that. At all. I never picked up those verse cards during labor. I actually found them quite helpful to get through the grueling first months of being a mom when the only thing keeping my eyes open was the toe-curling, excruciating pain of breast-feeding for the first time (lactation consultants out there, breast-feeding DOES hurt. Even if you're doing it right.).
So instead of becoming enlightened through the pain, I found myself after 24 hours in a hospital room, strapped to too many machines, trying to scoot my way off the bed while the wires kept me strapped to it, crying out, "Help! Please! HELP! Someone PLEASE HELP ME! Please, give me a C-Section. I can't DO THIS. I CAN'T! Jesus! JESUS! HELP ME! JESUS, HELP ME! I CANNOT DO THIS! JESUS HELP ME!" The sweet nurse attending me kept quietly saying, "He is helping you; you can do this; He is helping you."
Well, Ava was eventually born. I pushed her out in into the world in some of the worst, and yet, yes, most crazily-amazing moments of my life. But as I was laying in my bed two nights later in the maternity ward, when my hormones started to plummet, I couldn't sleep. All I could picture was this insane, traumatic experience that had just happened to me. When I closed my eyes, flashbacks of the labor and birth would fly through my mind. All I could do was cry and think, "What in the HECK was that?!? What HAPPENED to me?? And what is happening to me NOW???" Lanolin, colostrum, a needy and crying baby, swaddling, hormonal nosedives...none of this had ever happened to me, and I was panicking.
We went home. I was scared to death. When we pulled up in front of our house, all I could do was sob. I held little Ava in our living room and thought, "Oh God, how am I going to DO this??? I can't. I can't care for this needy little person."
In the next day or so that followed, I couldn't quite sleep or rest. I'd have this buzzy feeling in my mind and the flash backs to labor would come again. I would just cry...ALOT. A whole lot.
The next months up until Ava was a year old were pretty difficult for me. I had no idea how to be responsible for someone else. It was overwhelming. But I think it would've been more than overwhelming- it would've been unbearable- if God hadn't given me the grace to sit down with my husband during that first week and just hardcore PROCESS what had just happened to me.
So, new moms, if I had that one wish for you, I would so want you to find someone who will not try to fix you, or change the way you feel, but who will be comfortable with just listening to you go over the crazy whirlwind of however your baby was born into the world and what was happening to you since then. There's really no way to prepare and becoming a mom is stunning in its 'not-what-I-expected-ness.'
For me, I had to cry, and cry hard. I cried about the trauma that I had gone through in transition and delivery. I cried for how insane labor had been for me. I cried for how hard it was to care for a newborn. I cried for how scared and exhausted I was. I cried about how I felt I had failed in my birthing experience.
I pictured myself transcending the hardness of labor, remember? And yet I found myself losing it, and, in my mind, basically 'freaking out.' And 'freaking out' was NOT part of my plan for how I would manage the pain. So when all was said and done, I had to revisit those moments of losing it. I felt SO ashamed about them. I felt embarassed. I had to talk those memories over, re-process with SOMEONE ELSE what had happened, and then force my mind to come to a different conclusion: feeling overwhelmed in the middle of transition during labor did not equal failure. Crying, throwing up, or saying emotional things did not equal failure. In fact, the conclusion I eventually came to with my husband's help was that my experience was the exact opposite of failure. It was a huge success! In the face of overwhelming circumstances, I gathered myself and finished the labor: Ava was born! I didn't give up. I didn't lay down and die (hehe). I did what I had to do. And feeling overwhelmed by an overwhelming task did not mean at all that I had failed.
Those are the kinds of things I had to process through and challenge my own conclusions on, in that first week. It might be different for you. You certainly had a different birth story than I did, didn't you? So you probably don't feel all the same things I did. Heck, you might even be one of those 'I felt light cramps for 20 minutes and then did one push and the baby popped out and has been the easiest little lovebug ever since!' types of people. But I can wager that you would be incredibly benefitted by re-processing what happened to you and what you're experiencing now. Is it your goodness or your performance that caused you to have the particular birth story that you do? Are you the one most in control, the most responsible one for what happens to you?
The conclusions that you draw about the birth of your child, whatever they may be, can follow you for the rest of your life. I could have thought forever that I wasn't good enough when I gave birth to my daughter. I could have agreed that being human and becoming overwhelmed meant I was a failure and I can't handle hard things. So that's why I would wish for you that you could draw right conclusions about yourself and what you went through and are currently going through. I'd want you to be granted the healing gift of honestly processing the beginning of your motherhood journey. And coming to conclusions that are accurate and correct.