We tried to get pregnant for seven years with each of our babies.
And truthfully, after a year or two or five, people often forget you’re trying to conceive or they think you’ve given up. If anyone does ask, it’s almost always a “You STILL haven’t had a baby?” Or the dreaded, “Ohhhhh, I’m so sorry” awkward conversation.
Imagine the thrill that comes when you do get pregnant with your first child and you become unforgotten and in fact, celebrated. Ten glorious months of not having to lift anything heavier than a piece of pizza, ten months of getting Taco Bell bean burritos delivered on demand to your front porch by friends and family, and ten month of back rubs whenever you ask. Every little twinge that hurts you merits someone’s undivided attention and your much coveted naps are treated like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket as your bedroom door is guarded by your husband who won’t even wake you if Ed McMahon shows up on the porch.
But hold on. The minute- and I mean the SECOND that Little Heavenly Slice is placed into your arms, you lose your identity.
You become more invisible than you’ve ever been.
Identity theft is alive and well in motherhood. Lucky for us, the tiny robbers are super cute and while they do steal our money and our names, they also steal our hearts. From the moment you go home from the hospital, you’re referred to as Mommy. People who rubbed your belly with affection at church every week from the first appearance of a bump literally don’t even look you in the face as they go straight to your arms, asking ten thousand questions, but only about the baby.
Is he sleeping well?
Is she nursing ok?
Where did she get so much pretty hair?
Doesn’t she look like her daddy?
Did he get circumcised?
Is he happy?
How does she nap?
How often does he have to be changed?
How does the dog like her?
The DOG? You’re asking about the DOG? Meanwhile, you’re over here going, “REMEMBER ME? I played Bunco with you a month ago. Remember, I got stuck in your recliner and couldn’t get my giant butt out and you hoisted me up and we both almost fell and then I peed my pants? I am losing my mind, I can’t find a single pair of underwear in my house, and I haven’t brushed my teeth in three days so if you have so many questions, why don’t you come over and let me take a shower and you can see for yourself? Oh, and WHERE ARE MY BEAN BURRITOS AND WHY DID YOU STOP DELIVERING THEM TO ME?”
Don’t get me wrong.
There is so much pride for a new mom in the moments of giving answers to the questions. We get to brag on their fast weight gain, what a champion eater she is, and what a good sleeper you were given. But the truth is, after this huge climate change happens in your life, you begin to realize…
Not only am I always going to be someone’s mother, but I may never be me again.
I remember after I had my first child and my husband went back to work after our week together as a new family of three, I felt lost like I had never felt before. We lived in the same house as before the baby, but it was like I was having to learn how to live in it again with a brand new roommate. It felt like my life had become one big awkward school dance and I didn’t know what to do with my hands.
Could I nap when she napped or should I fold clothes?
Was something I was eating or not eating making my milk supply so crappy?
Did I spend enough time skin to skin with her today?
Oh gosh… WE FORGOT TO DO TUMMY TIME. I knew I shouldn’t have showered again today. Showering made me forget tummy time and now she will never be able to hold her head up. Great.
How long has that Panera Bread been there? Six months? WHERE IS MY LIFE GOING?
Hot meals, out the window.
Nice clothes, replaced by permanently stained local auto parts store t-shirts and yoga pants.
Everything became so different.
Fast forward twelve years and add another child.
Of course, I got my bearings. I learned the baby will be ok on a blanket for ten minutes while I put on makeup. I learned that if you hear water sloshing, you should attend to that. But otherwise, it’s ok to sit down and read a book every once in a while (gasp) WHILE THE BABY IS AWAKE. I learned that I don’t have to entertain him every hour on the hour and it’s ok to take a shower and put a movie on if they’re in their padded cell (playpen) for a little bit. (In all my years of ministry, I haven’t counseled a single human being yet who blames their mom letting them watch cartoons for a little while every day for their abandonment issues.)
But there’s still some areas I haven’t gotten my mojo back, even after all these years.
I still find me introducing myself as “Abi’s mom” or “Walker’s mom” and skipping my name altogether. It rolls off my tongue as effortlessly as my name itself. And while being their mother is the honor of my life, I try to pause every once in a while and remind myself that my name is Jill. Sometimes, I forget that I’m a grown up and I can do what I want (included, but not limited to: eating ice cream for dinner), and I don’t have to be home all seven nights every week. I can go out to dinner with girlfriends sometimes because I want to and in fact, this makes me a better mom. I don’t have to collapse on the couch in a tired disastrous mess every night, but I can steal a ten minute nap in my car on my lunch break or even order pizza to give me more time to sit down that night for a change. I can tell the kids, “If my door is shut, do not knock on it unless there is a fire or someone is legitimately bleeding from the head” and can read a magazine or spend fifteen minutes crying on my bed over the end of a Lifetime movie I recorded and watched in tiny segments for a month.
I had to learn that the reality is not that the world rotates around my children, but it really does rotate around me as their mom and the woman of my household. And in order for my little planets to stay in their healthy orbits, I have to know who I am.
Before I was formed in my own mother’s womb, my name was Jill.
God saw that I would love coffee, despise celery, and have a phobia of butterflies landing on me.
He saw I would need a sister, I would have an affinity for Mexican food and super fun coffee cups.
He created me to need to write my words down and make lists for everything.
He chose some best friends for me and set them aside for me to enjoy life with.
He wanted me to have a relationship with Him that was for He and I alone.
See, mommas, our children increase our value. They do not determine our value.
And the moment we start thinking our worth or our value comes from our ability to mother children is the moment we forget that we are loved because of Whose we are, not whowe are.
It’s a cold, rainy day in North Alabama as I write these words.
I have written this chapter with my children in front of a TV, and yes, I bribed them into letting me have this hour and a half to write these very therapeutic words from my heart. Partly because I am writing a book for you to enjoy with your cup of coffee, hoping some of these words will bring peace to you and remind you that you are seen. You are known. You are loved.
But I have to be honest. A big part of today’s writing was for me to pause a second and remember my name.
He calls me His.
The Name above all Names sees me. Right where I am.
And after I go brew a fresh cup of coffee in a second, I am going to watch the rain and be happy that I have been given so many beautiful names. Jill, Mom, Momma, Babe, Bug…
Somehow, today, that’s enough.