For the New Mom, Who May or May Not Be Doing the Hardest Job in the World


I'm no longer a young mom.

Well, sure, it's all relative: I'm only 33 years old and the fresh tattoo on my shoulder doesn't exactly scream "matronly". But I've been at this gig for 6 years now and as every mother knows, we can age at the speed of light in that amount of time. Three kids in, and in many ways I've put this plane on autopilot.

You should have seen me in my prime, man. I was a vegan-eating, homemade laundry detergent-making, story time attending, crafting, structured playing, veritable queen y'all. Now I more or less slide around on the spectrum between "{ahem very} free range mom" and "all out schlep". How the mighty have fallen, but hey- my boys are happy, generally kind, and mostly pretty safe. They're a little bit crazier than I imagined but I kinda like my kids how I like my salmon. Wild caught, please and thanks.

When I first had Taavi (my third, if you're new), it was relatively easy to slide him into the pocket of our family life. And I almost mean that literally, because I wore him on my person the majority of the time. There is no real schedule for a third baby, at least not in this house, and he happily napped on the go and nursed on demand and was generally a delight. He, like his biological brother, suffered from reflux and had atrocious sleep patterns, but I was too busy keeping my head above water to let myself feel the weight of it.

But he is nearly 8 months old now and rarely naps for more than 20 minutes if he's not upright in a sling. He still wakes multiple times a night, seeking warm relief for his burning throat. He adores his brothers and his daddy but much of the time he just needs me, me, me.

Don't get me wrong, he's a remarkably happy baby. But the need is starting to drain me like a sink, because I thought life should be easier by now. I thought at this point I could be counting on two solid naps a day and an early bedtime at night. I say I have no qualms about waking to feed an infant in the night, but 3 or 4 times for 8 months and I've started qualming. I've qualmed hard.

I've done a major elimination diet for the past ten days and my milk supply tanked scarily for awhile. Taavi's been biting while nursing and my reactions have scared him into a nursing strike in the past 24 hours. Additionally, I've taken on some extra side jobs that I'm trying to squeeze into the cracks and crevices of my day when really there are none. After six years of parenting, it's usually hard to faze me but to tell you the truth this month has been stressful. I'm feeling more emotions to name, need more hours in the day, and mostly just really need more sleep at night. But I want to tell you this: it is nothing, NOTHING, compared to adjusting to motherhood for the first time.

I'm in the thick of this frustration these days, and it has me thinking about you.

You, you first time mama. You, the one who feels completely overwhelmed by the insatiable demands of the tiniest thing you've ever loved. You, the one who is fighting tooth and nail to make breastfeeding work for you and your babe. You, the one so sleep deprived you find yourself in delirious tears every day. You, the one with postpartum depression who can barely get out of bed in the morning. You, the one with the colicky baby who seems to never stop crying. You, the one feeling like you will never be enough for this. You, who wonder if you've lost yourself and if you'll ever feel like a whole person again.

I'm thinking about you, mama. I'm thinking about how you're going through one of the most intrinsically intense practices that life will ever ask of you. You've gone from complete independence to being a servant of another 24 hours a day. And you love your baby with a fierceness you never dreamed of, but you're dying to self in the most demanding and immediate of ways. It's the coal and the diamond all over again, and good God, you are going to be beautiful.

Some people say motherhood is the hardest job in the world. Some people make fun of that sentiment. I say it's true and it's false. We're not performing brain surgery or breaking maximum security codes here; we're not governing a nation or strategizing to save lives in combat. But motherhood is uniquely hard in that there is no other "job" in the world with such constant interpersonal need demanded of an individual. You are needed mind, soul, and body by another human being at all times (at least for awhile- hopefully you have good maternity leave). Your emotions and your self-control will be tested beyond what nearly any other circumstance requires.

There are harder jobs in the world, yes. But I can't think of any that take someone's autonomy so completely as early motherhood. Nor can I think of any that carry such high stakes in a single human's life: there is so much pressure to get it right, to not screw this person up. And so much guilt when we inevitably fall short. Because we always will.

But there is good news to hear, you precious new mamas out there.

It will get easier.

Time passes, babies grow, your body and soul and spirit will adjust phenomenally. Your capacity will increase and you will likely be ready to do it all again before long. There really will come a day when your present reality is just a memory, and you yourself can commiserate with a desperate young mom about how hard it is to pick up your cross and sacrifice yourself for the one you love. You will tell her that it is worth it, just like I'm telling you. You will tell her that women are miraculous creatures with unmatched inner strength, just like I'm telling you.

You will tell her that she can do this, that she is enough, just like I'm telling you.

You are enough, mama. You are so much more than enough and you are doing something incredibly hard. You are coal becoming diamond, and you are beautiful.

**If you are a first time mom in the trenches, wave your hand in the comments. I would love to pray for you over the next few days!**

{photos by the talented Libby Miller}

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)