“Often our expectations of how life should unfold get in the way of meeting things as they actually are… When we meet the unexpected with love, rather than opposition, we open the way for a more soulful path through life. In yielding my resistance I already find great healing. In softening my internal rules about what should happen, I discover such an invitation to grace.”
– Christine Valters Paintner, from the Abbey of the Arts email newsletter
Dear new baby mama,
Oh, I know. The weight of expectations weighs heavy on your shoulders these days. You manage to somehow walk straight in public, but I see it – not the weight of others’ expectations (although, to be sure, everyone seems to have an opinion on how you should approach your new role.)
No, it’s the weight of your own expectations that are dragging you down.
When your belly still led the way each day, its swelling size a permanent reminder of what was coming so soon, you imagined this time now, the newborn phase, bathed in a gentle golden glow of love and affection and a well-organised changing station.
You knew of course, even then, that your expectations were high, overly idyllic. You’ve had enough friends give birth in the last couple of years to be aware of the messy reality. But somehow that didn’t stop those expectations from forming a vice like grip on your life, and even now holding on to viciously whisper, you’re not enough.
Oh honey. Stop for a moment and hear the words you yourself have passionately told each of those mama-friends who walked this path before you: You Are Enough.
I know, some moments it’s just overwhelming. It feels physically painful when she screams. You get so frustrated when she cries and you don’t know why. You hate spending the day smelling of leaked milk and pee. You miss the spontaneity and inspiration of life before her.
That heap of expectations are not all bad. You want the best for your little girl, for this one-size-bigger family here. But the truth is you miss the best when you’re chasing after daydreams. The best is now, in this moment.
So let go of the expectations. Unclench each tightly wound fist and give them up.
And while we’re at it, hand over the guilt too. The guilt that you shouldn’t be struggling, that it makes you a bad mother.
Yes, it could be much worse. You’re both healthy. She sleeps well. She’s gaining weight like a superstar. You’ve actually made it to church every week for the last six!
It doesn’t negate the hard. The fact that it’s going so well in many ways, doesn’t mean it’s not a huge adjustment, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Oh mama, give yourself a break. It’s ok to voice aloud those struggles with this big life shift. It’s ok to say it’s not what you expected. It’s ok to say sometimes you just really need a break.
It doesn’t make you any worse a mama to your precious little one. I know you love her more than you can express in words. I know that intense feeling of protection you have for her in every moment. I know you would not give her up for anything, would not unwalk this path for all the world.
Those things can all be true at the same time. It is hard. And it is good. And you’re enough.
So, deep breath. Shake the last of the expectations off your weary shoulders. Don’t be tempted to take them back up. And the guilt – kick it far from you. You don’t need it now.
There’s beauty here to find amongst the mess and the tired. You are birthing new life. You thought that ended the moment she emerged from your body, but it goes on. Each day, each moment, you yourself are being reborn, remade into someone stronger, someone braver, someone spilling over with new found grace.
With so much love and understanding,
p.s. For the love of all that is good and true, go take a nap.