I know quite a few people who are either pregnant or have just recently birthed a sweet little cherub and reading their facebook statuses has gotten me thinking about my own experiences with pregnancy and newborns.  I think I can sum it up by saying that while it was an amazing experience that I treasure, I would also like to avoid going down that road ever ever again. 

Now I sound like a cold-hearted woman.  But before you mumble any judgements – or worse, condemnations – under your breath, let me explain:

My eldest was part of our plan.  Meaning, we wanted to try to get pregnant.  I went off my birth control.  I started the process of charting and tracking my temperature.  Oh yes.  I remember talking with my OB/GYN and she asked to see my chart.  She smirked a bit and made a comment about how the, errr, “frequency” of our , errrr, “joining”, was not necessary.  I just smiled broadly whilst my darling husband crawled under the table in unadulterated mortification.  Yes, we knew that as long as we were charting, we knew when my fertile days were so every day wasn’t necessary.  It was nice though.  [A heartfelt apology to my parents and to my in-laws, who I know read this and may now be crawling under their own tables in horror]

But yes, our firstborn was “planned”, as much as you can plan a miracle, that is.  I mean, do you realize how many factors have to be aligned for fertilization to occur?  Factors that you have absolutely NO control over?  It’s a lot.  And that’s my humble scientific analysis.  A lot.

When our precious firstborn arrived, it was wonderful.  He was so tiny, sweet, and delicate.  I was terrified to even change his diaper, fearing I would break off one of his legs in the process.  Thank goodness my darling husband was up to the task.  But we were blissfully happy as we gazed upon this little life that God had created through us.  And then we left the hospital. 

The first night we were home, as we laid him in his crib that we had painstakingly chosen, I sobbed uncontrollably.  It was ugly.  I just knew the moment I stepped out of eyesight and earshot, he would stop breathing.  I was panicked and wondered if I could call the hospital and hire a nurse to sit by his crib to make sure he was still alive while I slept soundly, unencumbered by sheer terror.  Alas, that was not going to happen. 

The first two months of his life were a blur.  I survived on a few hours of sleep at a time, and for a lover of sleep, this was a very difficult transition.  More than difficult.  I was like a surly drunk, completely irrational, bleary-eyed, hormonal, and felt like I had been hit by a truck for most of my waking moments.  And oh yes, did I mention I was recovering from a C-seciton?  Not only is that major surgery, major ABDOMINAL surgery (one of the worst kinds!), but you’re also required to care for a newborn while you recover.  It’s lunacy.  I remember one delightful night, round about 2am, when my sweet cherub had awakened to request a light meal.  I obliged, how could I not?  I shuffled in, picked him up, sat in my rocking chair and settled in.  He took three sucks and fell asleep.  Oh no my friend.  Mommy is UP.  You WILL eat because if you do not, I know I will be back in here in about 15 minutes.  I smooshed his cheeks.  Still asleep.  I tickled his legs.  Nothing.  I flicked the bottom of his feet.  Nada. I stripped him down to his diaper.  Okay, his eyes fluttered open.  Perfect.  Let’s do this.  Five sucks.  Asleep again.  This dance went on for a while until I sat there sobbing and shrieking, “WHAT?  What do you WANT??  Do you want to sleep or eat because you’re KILLING me here!!”  As I sat sobbing like crazy woman, by the grace of God, my husband heard, and swooped in to rescue me.  This was not the first, nor was it the last, midnight loss of sanity as a new mom. 

Our second born, Little Miss Diva Thang, was NOT in our plans.  Let’s compare the experiences of both pregnancy tests shall we?  For our eldest, we rejoiced over that second blue line.  We hooted and hollered.  We danced about.  We made out.  It was awesome.  For our darling daughter, I took a test procured from a backwoods New York pharmacy and general store, and it was officially taken at a New York state rest stop bathroom.  Fancy.  The normally required three minute wait was cut short to about three seconds when the stick practically screamed at me, “Hey lady, you’re PREGNANT!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”.  As I exited said rest stop bathroom, clutching that stick and trying to stifle my sobs, I received many an awkward glance from passersby.  My adorable, and apparently extremely fertile, husband was waiting for me with our 7 month old.  I chucked that little white stick at him and demanded, “Well, what are we going to do now??”.  It was magical.

Let me tell you, caring for an infant while pregnant is oodles of fun.  I actually had to call my brother to come over on his lunch break so he could feed Cole.  The smell of his baby food was making me puke.  Again, magical.  It was fun to plan a 1st birthday party with a swollen stomach too.  I look at pictures from that day and think, “How in the world….?!?!”

After Caroline’s birth, the proverbial fecal matter hit the fan.  I had a toddler demanding my attention during the day, attempting to balance feeding Caroline 8 million times and Cole’s need for me as well, then a newborn’s demands all through the night.  This is where life got really ugly.  I recall another night, probably around that same time in those wee morning hours, where Caroline had been fed, but wouldn’t settle back down to sleep.  I was so exhausted, could barely stay upright, and she just. kept. crying.  I melted into a puddle on the floor of her room, laying her on blanket in front of me.  And I sobbed.  This sobbing is turning out to be a theme of my mothering, isn’t it?  That night was so horrible, so hopeless and dark.  Caroline was about 4 weeks old and I was at my wit’s end.  I was so far into a dark place, that all I could do was think that if I can physically hurt myself, at least this awful feeling might go away.  I dug my nails into my face, and scraped down the sides of my face, trying to break the skin.  I didn’t even know what I was doing at the time, I just wanted some relief from what I was feeling.  Here’s where I went wrong – and this is to new moms and soon-to-be-moms – I did NOT tell anyone how bad things were for me.  It was as if telling people would be an admission of my failure as a mother.  It was too shameful. 

There were nights when I fantasized about going down into the kitchen, getting a knife, and cutting my arms.  There were nights when I thought about hurting Caroline.  Because she wouldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know what else to do for her.

So at my six week checkup, I made the smartest decision of my life.  When my doctor asked how things were going, I told my her that life was horrible.  And no, my sweet darling girl brought me little to no joy.  And she should have.  And that made me feel like the lowest of the low.  But I admitted it.  And you know what?  My OB didn’t pass judgement as I broke down in the exam room.  She didn’t say, “But why aren’t you happy to have this beautiful baby?  What’s wrong with you?”.  Nope.  She hugged me as I cried.  She offered understanding.  She made me answer some questions from a postpartum analysis sheet.  I answered “yes” to everything.  So we knew something had to be done.  I was given anti-depressants, and “ordered” to go to counseling.  Friends, again, it was the best decision of my life. 

Because when you’re in that deep, dark place, where you cannot see any light, where even fun plans bring you no joy or anticipation, asking for help is the best thing to do.  It’s the smartest thing to do.  And it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or a failure.  It means you’re smart enough to know you can’t do it by yourself and you need help.  And that, is the definition of strength.

I can now look back on those days with the realization that though it was a difficult period in my life, it served to grow my character, my spirit, and my faith.  That was the beginning of some major growing up.  Since then, I have found myself always reflecting on who I am, where I am, and what’s important.  What are my goals?  Am I truly happy?  What can I do to improve my weaknesses and nurture my strengths?  If you’re not willing to look at yourself honestly, you will become stagnant.  And that means stinky, people.  And others around will know it.  Because you will stink.  In a metaphorical way.  But stink just the same.  So don’t be stinky.  Once you realize that you are always a student of life, that you’re never done learning and growing, and that you indeed do NOT know everything, THEN, you can truly be free and grow. 

But seriously, can you blame me that I’m pretty much done with babies?  Thank you.  For now, I will love on the mommies of newborns, and I will love on the babies…..and then I will give them back.  But I never want to forget those days of darkness, because I know I am not the first, nor will I be the last to experience them.  And I want women to know that they’re not alone, and I want to help in whatever way I can.  And Iwant to remember that mothers of newborns are a HUGE population that NEEDS to be ministered to.  Do you hear me, sisters in faith?  Let us always remember those days and reach out to the newbies.  I wish I had someone who did that for me.