December 7, 2016

Surrendering to Motherhood: a Second Chance for our Souls.

DaveMama EJ

I opened the blinds every morning and closed them in the evening.

This was the only indicator I had for the beginning of a new day and the end of it. Everything else in between was a blur, now that I was a new mother. Between breastfeeding, diaper changes, soothing his cries and changing soiled clothing multiple times a day, I was spent.

The little things I had taken for granted before baby—such as eating and showers—took so much effort now.

Each morning, I’d get up and open the blinds to face these challenges:

Everything hurt. My head hurt, my back hurt, my stitches made it impossible to sit without wincing in pain, and my chest resembled Dolly Parton’s—plus lumps and leakage! Healing hurt so much.

I didn’t have time. I don’t know what kind of warped time machine I entered, but the days just blurred together. There was no time for anything but the baby—and if I did have a hour or two for myself, I had to decide between three options: eating, sleeping or showering.

Household tasks were overwhelming. When the baby slept, I’d attempt to tackle the to do list—laundry, dishes, bottles, and an extra 20 minutes to figure out how to clean the Medela plastic horn-looking-things.

I was under-stimulated and tired all the time.

Breastfeeding around the clock hurt so badly. It was mentally exhausting and physically draining. Fear of permanently losing your nipples is a real thing.

The crying. My baby had crying spells for what felt like hours—but in reality were spurts of 15-20 minutes—for reasons unbeknownst to me. I chalked it up to “bad mothering” on my part, which depressed me.

Having guests over would irritate me. Neighbors, friends and family stopped by, but the pressure to entertain them was an arduous task. I felt that I was expected to smile, wear clothing (yes, I had given up on shirts—shirts mean more laundry for a breastfeeding mom) and nod attentively to all their tips and counseling.

My foggy brain couldn’t seem to keep up with all of the racing thoughts. “How did I possibly miss the fine print? What kind of cruel people hide this kind of thing?”

The result was information overload. I was bombarded with articles, advice, research and dozens of opinions each day.

It went something like this:

“Everything is toxic.”
“My baby should not be nursing on demand but feeding schedules are evil.”
“I was not to let him cry for an instant, but picking him up every time would spoil him.”
“Co-sleeping with my baby was natural and the most humane way to sleep, yet I could squish him if I rolled over.”
“He must wear a hat at all times or he’ll get pneumonia.” 

And on it went.

I found myself in a constant state of panic and fear. On rare nights when my baby slept soundly for a long stretch, I was up every 30 minutes to check on his breathing.

I’d fall asleep for what seemed like five minutes, before it was time to open the blinds and do it all over again.

Night after night, I would quietly curse the stupid alarm that woke me.

Night after night, I would bury my face in my hands and fantasize over a full night of sleep.

Night after night, my son challenged me, tried me and rocked me to the core.

Night after night, I wondered how this pain could possibly be “so worth it”—as the passersby on the street said so effortlessly.

It took me two months of these thoughts and feelings before I realized that I was not losing my mind. I was saying goodbye to my old identity and expectations while growing into my new role as a mother. I was healing, taking care of myself, producing food for my baby, while keeping him alive and well. And I was doing it alone.

I was so close to my moment of surrender and didn’t know it. The inevitable humbling moment when you have no choice but to face your new reality and say, “I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have any. This is hard.”

My son had been crying inconsolably. I picked him up and rocked him, tried to nurse, gently bounced, walked around, swaddled him, checked his diaper—but nothing seemed to work. My thoughts raced as his cries pierced through the walls. I put him down as I burst into tears. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. I just don’t know what you need. I don’t know what to do!” I wept and sobbed and allowed myself to fall apart as I hung over his bassinet. “I’m just so tired. Why is what I am doing not good enough!?”

He screamed over my incoherent sobs and looked just as helpless as I did. I picked him up and held his tiny body close to my chest. We cried and we cried. I didn’t rock or shush him. I didn’t try to stop his cries. My own tears soaked the soft little patch of hair on his head.

“I love you” I whispered when I finally caught my breath. “I am so afraid that I am doing this all wrong but I’m not going to give up.” He started to settle down. I remember how perfectly his little head fit between my neck and shoulder. A few minutes later we fell into a deep sleep.


That evening, I stared at myself in the mirror and decided to make amends.

I made amends with my new appearance because it was temporary.

I made peace with my sleep deprived state because I knew it would pass.

I let my emotions flow and stopped feeling badly for doing so.

I accepted all of the uncertainty in my life related to my career, body image, social life and my parenting style.

For once, I understood that I needed to cut myself some slack. I needed to dig deep to find that humble part of me that did not need answers or validation from everyone. I was a new mother. My role was to learn through trial and error how to have a relationship with this tiny little person who was learning to do the same with me. I learned to empathize with my baby and not blame myself for every cry I could not console. After all, this was a brand new world to him and it would take some getting used to.

Miraculously, around this time I also found a Moms Group. My baby was two months old, and I had made it out of the trenches. The daily challenges were still present but there was a newness about it.

Was it time? Was it experience? Was it the Moms Group?

Perhaps all of the above. Or perhaps it was the radical paradigm shift I experienced the day I surrendered to my baby’s emotions and my own. It was on that day that I felt more connected to him than the day he was born. Our bond had solidified. I understood him. I learned that babies are emotional beings that feel and express themselves in the only way they can. It was the most amazing piece of wisdom that I had acquired in years: how to have empathy for even the tiniest beings.

It was only a few months later that I embarked on a mission to help other women, like myself, navigate the early joys and challenges of motherhood. I look back at those times that I struggled incessantly and feel an enormous sense of gratitude.

English philosopher Francis Bacon said, “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”

I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because there is not an end. The tunnel is made of all the light and dark experiences we encounter. Our perspectives, beliefs and expectations are what determine how dark or light it will feel.



What it’s really like Having a Baby—the Ecstasy & Despair.


Author: Kelly Arias

Image: Flickr/eren {sea+prairie}; Author’s Own

Apprentice Editor: Cori Carlo//Editor: Catherine Monkman



Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kelly Arias