Being a mum is a blessing. That needs to be said before I proceed because being a mum is also hard and at times it has thrown my previous expectations of motherhood to one side. However, in the unexpected moments I am learning to expect great things from God. He has been faithful even when I have found it hard to keep going. With the blessing of becoming a mum and the faithfulness of God as my foundation, I share some of the unexpected things I've discovered so far on this journey of motherhood.
1.This life change was even bigger than I anticipated. Everyone tells you that nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent. This is true. The ante-natal class covered a lot about pregnancy and labour, but when the little bundle arrived it becomes a whole new ball game. It's not just learning how to look after a little human from scratch, but it's taking on this new role as a mum and figuring out what this looks like moment to moment. For me, this included struggling with anxiety and periods of depression and finding my identity in Jesus all over again as I became a mum, with everything that role entails.
2. The pressure to do certain things and the fear of all that could go wrong. I put pressure on myself to be a perfect wife, mum and homemaker based on my perception of what everyone else was doing. Many mums I know would be out and about going to different groups, doing fun activities and having a lovely time at different places with different people - complete with smiles, the perfect Instagram filter and a freshly baked cake.
People encouraged me to meet up with other mums who were going through the same thing. I took my five-week-old to the children's centre because of the expectation that I would meet other mums. I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted and in the spirit of trying to be social, I felt like the new mum on the block and I couldn't bring myself to forge interactions. I worried about my son crying and me not being able to figure out what was wrong. I stressed about breastfeeding and I was extremely protective over nap times which made going anywhere too far near enough impossible.
In those moments when I felt isolated, I am thankful that God brought people to my door to help practically, offer a listening ear and to let me be me – no pressure.
3. It's OK not to be OK. This took me over eight months after my son was born to realise this. I thought it was normal to feel low and irritable in this new seasons of life. Everyone does get low from time to time, but I noticed that my moods were getting more frequent, more prolonged and more irrational in many ways. I was struggling with my mental health for several reasons and lots of contributing factors added up to me visiting the GP and explain how I was feeling. In my ignorance, I didn't know much about mental illness and definitely didn't think it would affect me. But it did and it was another unexpected thing to contend with. I am in the process of getting the support and help I need and it has opened my eyes to mental illness more than ever before. I am hoping that I will be able to come alongside and support other new parents in the future who are going through a similar experience.
4. Screens are both a help and a hindrance. Googling everything has been helpful especially in the middle of the night when I am trying to find out why my little one won't sleep. It's a tricky balance because at the same time, searching the internet for parenting advice and support has contributed to my worry. Watching my son not quite reach that milestone when the baby of a similar age who is already doing cartwheels, handstands and speaking five languages greets me with a wave at every group. Diagnosing potential illnesses that he may or may not have (Google Docs does not mean 'doctor'). There are so many things that could be wrong. Then there is the realisation that there is no right way to parent, when I thrive on instructions. There is no universal manual because there is no universal child.
5. Jesus is using motherhood to mature me in my faith. I thought I was a patient and kind person before I had a baby. I felt confident in my faith. Things were going my way most days because I didn't really have to think too far outside of my bubble. I wasn't trying to be intentionally selfish but the day could be filled with things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, people that I wanted to see around my schedule. Having a baby changed all of that. My patience is stretched, especially when I'm overtired. My faith has been shaken through desperate pleas and prayers that seem to go unanswered.
Motherhood is a daily reminder to lay my plans down and trust God in every moment for his strength and peace. I find myself drawing closer to Jesus as I come to him completely drained and empty. He is gentle and kind and I have a greater longing to spend time in his Word and in prayer.
I have found that it is in the moments of struggle that I am reminded of who I am dependent on for my very life. In a place of humility and total surrender to him, God can do amazing things. If the struggle is what it takes for me to grow in my relationship with Jesus, then I need to prepare myself for more challenges because I want to continue to walk in his ways and to trust him in all things.
It's a truly beautiful time of watching my son grow and learn about the world around him. It's also one of the hardest seasons of life so far. There is a tension there but I think it is the same with following Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus means to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. That's tough. Yet, the reward and the journey of becoming more like Jesus is beautiful and the challenges are just momentary compared to an eternity with our Saviour.