Being a mom has changed me. I think all moms feel that way, but at this point, 14 months after Zoe's birth, it feels really real. I've realized that being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.
To all the non-moms out there, I hope this post doesn't scare you off. I have absolutely zero regrets about "settling down" and starting a family "early". And if God grants us 5 more children I will openly welcome those gifts. But gosh, is it hard.
My pregnancy wasn't too bad. The birth itself wasn't too bad. The sleepless nights though--I understand why that's a form of torture. Landon and I were recently talking about those first few months and how they felt so long, like we wouldn't make it through. It sure did feel like that at the time.
Since then, things have ebbed and flowed. There have been relatively quiet times where Zoe is content and I seem to get my old life back and it's awesome. That is, until she starts teething or gets sick and needs us ALL THE TIME and I realize things will never be the same. That acceptance took me a long time and was something I fought because I really really thought I'd be able to keep myself and motherhood separate and it would be wonderful. Thank goodness I figured the truth out, that that's nearly impossible but that's okay, especially since I was called to motherhood as part of my vocation and as much as I resisted for so long, God was patient with me until I figured out motherhood is such of big part of what makes me truly me.
Things were relatively quiet for a while until December; Zoe was starting to walk holding onto things, she was becoming so much more interactive and learning lots of new words. It was great! But early in the month, we went away for one night as a family and she had a seizure. It was hands down the scariest few moments of my life. I didn't know what to do (um, check to see if she has a pulse and is breathing!), I couldn't remember how to pray, I didn't even want to be near her in case she was about to die because at that moment in the middle of the night I really thought we were going to lose her as dramatic as that sounds. I've seen a lot comparisons lately that say having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body and I get that now.
Thank goodness this was our first serious medical issue we had encountered since she was born, nearly 13 months later. And thank goodness it was most likely due to a fever and not any underlying issues. But sitting in that ER with Landon while my baby girl was so sick and being poked and prodded by everyone was enough to do me in. All I could think was there is no way I could go through this again, with Zoe, with Landon, with any other children we might have. As you might be able to tell, up until recently I had never had to go to an emergency room or had any sort of health emergency. I totally understand now that this was NOT a life or death situation but for someone as sheltered as myself in sure did feel like it at the time.
A few days later she developed a rash. Hand foot and mouth. And then lucky me, I got it too. Meanwhile the timing couldn't have been worse. Landon was so busy at work and our parents could only help so much. It was the first time I was really sick at home in charge of a sick toddler. It felt impossible and as always, all I could think was 'how the heck could I do this with 2 kids? with 3? with 5?!'
We got through it though. When I realized it was okay to have selfish prayers of 'Jesus, there's no way I can do this without you. I need your help NOW' and the weekend came all was well again. In hindsight the virus barely seemed to affect Zoe besides that initial fever. I'm sure it sounds trite to those who have been through much worse but that week was the hardest week I've had in a long, long time.
Since then, I've become more anxious about being home with Zoe all day. Landon helps out so, so much when he's home in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening that I feel like I won't make it when he's gone. Zoe's walking now and let me tell you, if you don't have a child that is mobile yet you don't know what you're in for. She is go go go go GOOOOO all the time when I just need to sit down or have 2 minutes to myself to regroup. It's exhausting. It's hard to see past this season of life where one day in the future, I might actually have the energy again to stay up and work on a project or read. I'm ready for bed long before Zoe is most days. But then you have to decide if getting up early and/or staying up late to have alone time or time with your husband is worth the lack of sleep. Usually I think it is and then I regret it all day the next day.
(You might be seeing a common thread that I am one of those people that, no matter how much caffeine I consume, does NOT function well on lack of sleep.)
The innate selflessness of motherhood has changed me. I am miles upon miles away from perfect (I definitely will sit scrolling through Twitter while she clearly wants me to get on the floor and play with her and I could still learn how to be way more selfless with other loved ones) but when you're a mom you have no alternative. Even if we were in a position where Zoe could be in daycare, I'm sure I'd miss her so much that I'd want to get up with her and stay up with her morning and night even if I was exhausted and had zero time to myself. That girl is part of me. When it's just me, and Landon's at work, I'm the sole one responsible for her health and happiness. There's very little room for selfishness and as an only child who has come and go as she pleased her whole life, doing whatever I want whenever I want to, it's been a hard and long change. I still don't think I've fully accepted that change in my life yet.
It makes me sad when I read or hear about how women don't want to be mothers or really, they don't think they could ever be mothers. I'm here to say if I can do it, you can do it too. It's hard. Every family has their own individual challenges as I'm learning but I firmly believe for the majority of women, this is our calling. This is where we thrive even if it takes a long time to learn the ropes. This is where I've felt the most fulfillment out of anything I've ever done in my life. I don't think there's anything narcissistic about it because I'm not raising a mini-me. I'm raising a tiny human (who I still think barely resembles me!) with my husband who is totally her own person and whose interests we will nurture to the best of our ability.
I'll continue this difficult path of motherhood for as long as I'm called because I have no doubt in my mind that's what I was born to do. I'm no natural--I don't think many women are. But I'm learning it's one of those scenarios where if you do the work (and you have to, there's no choice!) it will be so, so worth it to walk this path with your family and with God.