I’ve been a mom a little over a year now, such a long, exhausting and beautiful year. Calvin is fifteen months and life after birth has been quite interesting. Between the sleepless nights and long playful afternoons, motherhood has definitely gotten the best of me. It’s nothing that I imagined but definitely is not what most people made it out to be “ the end of my life”. I recall this past year being the beginning of my new life. One that I would choose over and over again.
When we brought Calvin home for the first time Ruben and I were scared and we had no idea what life would look like for us now that Calvin was here. We were clueless when it came to baby basics like folding a stroller or the fact that you can simply use the car seat in a cab without carrying the base everywhere. Ha! I still laugh at that. The big and small things about parenting transform you, they lead you to make hard decisions and also many sacrifices.
Entering motherhood has changed the way I see myself and everything around me. It has set my eyes on things more important and has been a breath of fresh air in every way. Children have a way of teaching you to be present no matter how distracted you are, they challenge and grow you in ways that you never saw yourself growing. People ask me all the time ” how has motherhood changed you?” and as I say said goodbye to 2018, I’ve reflected on some things that have grown me and things I’ve learned this past year, these are just a few of them.
Words of Affirmation
I’ve never been someone who felt loved by words, it’s the love language all the way at the bottom of my list. Before being a mom, I was an “acts of service” and “quality time person”, but now words mean so much to me. If you don’t know this already, motherhood comes with lots of insecurities. I think the last time I felt this insecure was when I became a wife. I wasn’t prepared for how emotionally, mentally and physically being a mom takes a toll on you. It seems like all you ever get is criticism. “You’re not doing this”, “ you look tired all the time”, “ you didn’t breastfeed?”, “wow, he’s in daycare?, I would never leave my kid in daycare”. All of these words have discouraged me, but I’ve also had people encourage me in this season. I realized how grateful I am for words now. They have a way with lifting you up, especially in a season where I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. This is one of the reasons I started blogging, I want to encourage other moms and others that could relate to me in whatever season they are in.
It’s real, very real and very scary for moms. As your body tries to recover after birth, your mind and emotions also try to do the same. According to doctors, Postpartum Depression happens days or weeks after a mom gives birth. It can be due to the hormonal drop you experience after birth but also due to lack of sleep, worry, anxiety, and even lack of social interaction. I can honestly say that my postpartum depression happened right after giving birth. As I shared before Calvin was premature and therefore I only got a few minutes to hold him before they took him away to the NICU. I spent two days in the hospital trying to pump but had very low supply and I spent two weeks going back and forth to the hospital to see Calvin there since he couldn’t come home with us. I cried a lot, my mood would change often and I was mentally exhausted.
When we finally brought him home I think it hit me harder. I couldn’t handle the lack of sleep, Calvin crying, being alone and feeling like I was failing as a mom by not breastfeeding. A lot of days I would call Ruben crying to come home from work because I didn’t want to be with Calvin. If he would cry for hours, I would go to my room and also cry. I told a friend months after, that during those months I felt like I understood why very often moms are inclined to hurt their babies and it’s scary. When I felt scared of myself I would cry out to God to help me be calm and give me the wisdom to care for Calvin. I was thankful that my family and friends helped us a lot. My mom would sleep over to help me with him so I could sleep, friends would come over to visit and bring food and Ruben did all the night shifts, I really learned to depend on people in this season but most importantly in God. He really kept me sane and covered my mind and thoughts in days when I felt at my lowest.
The Supermom Mentality
This “supermom mentality” is what I think moms develop after giving birth. It’s the ability to believe that you can conquer anything or smack the hell out of someone who hurts your kid. ( but I got Jesus… so he holds me down) I feel like when you become a mom you feel like you can do anything! It’s like a supernatural strength that you grow and it comes from knowing that you have someone to care for. I don’t have time to complain about what needs to get done, I just have to do it. If I need to go out and have no one to watch Calvin, I still have to go even with the stroller, diaper bag, and a tantrum baby. If you’re a city mom, you know that’s not easy. However, this mentality is why I work full-time, attend grad school, volunteer in ministry with youth, and blog. I feel like I can do it all, but I can’t. I think I’m learning to have balance, it’s great that I’ve developed this sense of strength but it can be difficult trying to do it all. This mentally also means knowing it’s okay if I can’t do everything. I can be a super mom doing what I can and the rest leaving it in God’s hands trusting that He will do what I can’t.
This one has been the hardest one. As someone who was involved in church so much, not being in the community for the first three months after birth really disconnected me from God more than I already was. I was so exhausted and angry that things were so hard at the beginning with Calvin that reading my word and praying was the last thing I wanted to do. I’ve struggled to make time for God and my spiritual growth this past year and this is the most important piece of my life. Having Calvin has shaken the way I see Jesus and his love for me. I understand it more and value His love but I also see the weight of my responsibility as a mom. If I’m not growing in Jesus, I cannot reflect Jesus to my son. Ultimately if I’m not growing I’m dying spiritually, so it’s easier for me to act on my flesh. Which means I’ll be impatient with Calvin or yell at Ruben for failing at something small, which I’ve seen myself do a lot this past year. I need Jesus more than ever now and I desire to grow more in Him more than anything.
I’ve always struggled with my appearance, after giving birth my body started changing. I definitely put on more weight. I’m constantly changing my outfits and I only wear high-waisted jeans to avoid the stomach pouch that I hate so much. A lot of moms struggle with their body after birth. We all echo the same questions, “what will my body look like after?”, “how can I get rid of stretch marks?”, “will my boobs sag? “, ” will my spouse still find me attractive?”. All of these are real questions and insecurities, I feel all of them. I’m learning every day to embrace my body and be proud of it. Some days I can feel really beautiful, other times not so much. This is what encourages me ” I gave birth to a whole baby!” that’s one hell of a power! If you’re reading this and you can relate, I want to challenge you to cover yourself in truth and affirmation. You are beautiful and honorable. Yes, your body will change, it won’t be the same again and that’s okay, embrace it. I want to increase my confidence through self-care and eating better for this new year. What goals do you have for your self-care? Body? Mind?
Going back to work felt so strange after Calvin. The night before I went back to work I rocked him to sleep and cried. I was worried about leaving him and who would take care of him, I felt guilty about not staying home with him and transitioning back into the real world was difficult. Adjusting was so emotional that two months after going back full time to work, I went part-time. As a first-time mom, I just didn’t know how to be apart from Calvin, all I thought about was him and it was even worse when he was finally at daycare. I think this transition is so hard because so many factors play a role in it. You might have paid maternity leave or you may not and only have a few weeks with your newborn. If you’re nursing, you’ll be pumping at work and also trying to keep up with your workload, which can become exhausting. Maybe you won’t have a family member to watch your newborn and that will make it hard for you to trust someone else.
For me it was both, my family was too far and after a while of pumping at work, I couldn’t keep up with my workload and pumping and my supplies kept dropping which means my milk supply was at its lowest. Being a working mom is bittersweet though. I get to be outside my home and talk to adults ( which is something you get very little of when you’re a stay at home mom in the city during the winter) You also get to miss your kids and spend time with yourself. As a mom you need that often, I think that’s how I survived this first year. Work gave me freedom in some way and it allowed me to care for Calvin in a healthy way that meant I needed to trust God more with my son.
I’ve been really grateful for all the friends I’ve had in this season. I remember moms sharing with me about many of their friends slowly spending less and less time around after they became moms and this can be real for many mothers. Motherhood is lonely sometimes, especially if your closest friends aren’t moms. The truth is life happens and you’re in a different season as them. That’s something we can’t change. In this season, in all honesty, my attitude is this “ if I haven’t seen you in months or heard from you, no hard feelings but I’m not looking for you.” Yup, it sounds salty but I’m just not in a place to seek after friendships that aren’t around. I can’t pick up and go as I please like before, now I have to wait for Ruben to get home or find someone to watch Calvin. Invites to hangouts?, I barely get those and I’ve come to be okay with it. It’s about being grateful for those that are around and understanding that things change. God has a way of providing people in your life when you need them.
I haven’t lacked friendships nor in people watching Calvin so I can go to school or go on dates with hubby. He has placed specific people to serve me without feeling like I needed to give something back. I have so much going on that mentally I just don’t have the energy to pursue friendships right now like I once did. Perhaps it’s just a season but I’m learning to value friendships more and desire ones that value my family and build me up.
Loving Your Partner
Keeping up with your marriage is just as important as caring for your children. It needs to be nurtured and loved. Trust me, nothing about doing that is easy with a baby. After Calvin all I wanted to do was rest, bedtime meant time for sleep. For a while, my husband felt like we were co-parenting or just roommates. Yup, that bad. I slowly realized that it was unloving of me to not make time to love and date my husband. Children should not change the way you love your spouse, in fact, it should increase your desire to serve, love and create spaces for you both to spend time together. I can truly say that I have grown a deeper love for my husband after having Calvin. He is one heck of a father and husband, and I’m grateful to have someone who fathers my son so well. Those late nights when Calvin is crying his eyes out, he’s the one getting up just so I can sleep enough to go to work the next day. I have to constantly remind myself that my husband and I are one together and he also desires to be desired and affirmed.
I hope to continue caring for my marriage, going on more dates, affirming my husband with gratitude and of course killing the “ I’m tired “ excuse to avoid sex. Sex is a beautiful thing within marriage, God desired for us to be intimate in this way. I truly believe that it’s important for you both to continue pursuing each other and displaying gratitude for each other. Thanking your husband for waking up earlier to stay with the baby and letting you sleep in is something to acknowledge and be thankful for, not brushed off by saying ” well, you’re just doing what you should be doing because you’re a dad now” (which I’ve thought so many times). We were able to survive this by acknowledging that we both were clueless and we needed each other to survive a lot of the struggles of parenting.
I have so much to say about life after Calvin but I’m thankful I got to grow in each one of these areas and also learn things about myself. I pray that they would speak to you and also prepare you if you’re a mom to be or a new mom. If you’re a new mom, how has that been for you? Leave a comment, I’d love to know.
Transparent city mama