After my last blog post When you [don’t] love your baby I was asked a question by a friend (who gave me permission to use this question):
“What specifically helped you through this time with Vincent – spiritually, emotional, mentally? What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?”
I thought these were great questions – but I really had to think about them. How did I actually do this? What did help me during this time? I have been reflecting on these questions all week and I have had some thoughts that I wanted to share. There are 3 things that I think helped me through those first 8 weeks.
The first thing that helped me through this time is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I cried out to God in silent prayer, wrote in my journal, or just asked for comfort. I honestly do not know how parents do the whole parenting thing without believing in a higher power. I feel like I need God’s help, peace, and guidance every single day. That being said, I would like to add that Jesus did not magically make the process easier. I would ask God, “why can’t I just set this baby down?!?!? Please Lord, just let him sleep for 30 minutes by himself!” or something of the like. I can tell you that at those moments Vincent did not automatically fall into a peaceful dream state and then I immediately calmed down and then had a perfect day after. Why? Because newborns act the way they do for a reason – they are learning how to function in this new world and it’s overwhelming. I think that my relationship with God gave me a solid foundation to stand on, I stood on my rock and this kept me grounded even on the hardest days. God DID send me comforts – Bryan would get home from class early so I could take a nap, a friend from church would text or bring over dinner, another new mom would stop by with her baby and I would have company, my parents would call with encouraging words. It might not have been the 8+ hours of sleep that I was hoping for, but God bore me up in different ways so I could keep going.
The second thing that got me through is my self talk. I have always had a strong inner dialogue with myself. For majority of my life this was third person. I don’t know if you have ever thought about how you speak to yourself, but typically when I speak to myself in the third person it is negative, “Why did you do that?!” “How could you make that mistake!” etc. Thankfully, one thing that I began before Vincent came was talking to myself in the first person and asserting truths when things were difficult. When I was feeling like the worst mom in the world because I didn’t want to hold my child anymore, I would speak to myself truthfully and logically (sometimes out loud) “You are tired, and that’s okay, but Vincent needs to be held right now and you can do that. Holding Vincent helps his brain develop, I am helping him feel protected and cared for. I am a good mom because I am doing exactly what Vincent needs right now.” I would also assert Biblical truths over myself and Vincent. You see, Satan (who is very real) plays tricks on our minds often. Unfortunately, he just has to plant a little seed of doubt, discouragement, question, or deception for our brains to latch on and let them grow out of control. He would slip in with thoughts of “You aren’t good at this” “You can’t keep going” “You shouldn’t have had a kid” and on and on. What I have learned is that we have extraordinary power over ourselves simply based off of what we think and what we listen to. When these thoughts would slip in, I would speak a truth to combat the lie.
Lie: “You aren’t good enough”
Truth: “Jesus died on a cross and said that I am worth the price, I am his daughter, I am good enough for Jesus and I need nothing else”
Lie: “You shouldn’t have had kids”
Truth: “God knit this child together in my womb. He created this life and chose me to be his mom. This was divinely appointed, not by chance. I am supposed to be Vincent’s mom”
Lie: “You can’t keep going”
Truth: “God will lift me up on eagle’s wings. He will support and sustain me. He is Jehovah Jireh – God who provides. I cannot do it on my own, but God will help me”
We have such power in what we say to ourselves and what God says about us. It’s amazing how quickly things turn around when we start focusing on God’s truth and do not let the lies enter into our thoughts. If you don’t have a relationship with God (or even if you do), I would encourage you to ask God a question, “What are lies I am currently telling myself?” and then if you discover any, “God, what do you say about these things?” I think it would be an interesting experiment. Even if you don’t feel like that would work, or you are opposed to a higher power, I would encourage you to start practicing positive self talk. No matter what, I think you will see a difference in the way you hold yourself, act, and respond when negativity comes your way.
Third, I am extremely stubborn and hate failure. And this really helped me persevere. Being stubborn and having a fear of failure is definitely something that I am not always proud of, but in this circumstance it worked to my advantage. You want to know why I was able to breastfeed for a year? Because I am stubborn and I set a goal – I was going to achieve it NO. MATTER. WHAT. I didn’t want to fail. You want to know why I woke up every two hours to feed Vincent for those first 8 weeks? Because I am stubborn, I wanted to continue to breastfeed, and I knew I had to keep going in order to be successful. When I felt void of emotions and that I wanted to shirk away from responsibility – I couldn’t because I am too stubborn to admit that I couldn’t do it so I just kept going. This is called perseverance and the experience of living through the newborn stage helped me realize how important perseverance is in life overall. They say the best things aren’t easy, and I would say motherhood and the newborn phase definitely fall into that category. I learned a lot about humility and asking for help with Vincent, which was good growth for me. But ultimately the will and drive to not give up and just keep going did help me get through a really hard time and continue to breast feed through it all.
The second part of the question, “What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?” this part is more difficult. Apparently, to outsiders it looked like I was fine. After I wrote the original piece my husband said, “I had no idea you were feeling that way.” In my head I thought,how could you NOT know that I was feeling that way?! I was a wreck and I looked like a disaster! But at the time, I didn’t express much of the lack of feeling because everything was SO OVERWHELMING. While I didn’t feel like I loved Vincent and felt void of many emotions, I was equally overwhelmed with the amount of change that occurred. I have been able to process these feelings in the year that has followed and I have been able to sort through the difficulties. At the time, I couldn’t express these feelings because I didn’t really fully grasp what was going on. I simply existed and got through the day. AND WE HAD GOOD DAYS! Here is proof
See! I am actually happy, that’s not a fake smile. I don’t mean to sound like everything was doom and gloom, it was just hard. I do remember happy times in those early days, too.
As I reflected on this time I realized that social media also played with my head. I had several friends that also had babies around the same time I did. They were posting pictures of these precious little bundles with captions like, “My everything!” “I love him/her so much!” “We are so in love with our little one!” etc. I would see these pictures and think, “I don’t feel that way!” but then immediately feel the need to post a picture with some sort of heartwarming caption because other people were doing it. Here’s the thing – I STILL don’t post pictures with captions like that. My captions are literal, sarcastic, sometimes (I think) funny, etc. The closest I got to “heartwarming” was when we were in the hospital and snapped this pic with the caption “Be still my heart” –
but looking back it is interesting that I felt I needed to SHOW and PROVE my love for my child via pics and captions on social media. Just because I don’t post things that way, does it mean I love my child any less? No, it means that type of characterization is not genuine to who I am as an individual. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be sappy just because I am a mom. So this time around I know that social media does not define my affections for my child and I don’t need to worry about how much or how little I post about him.
So those are my thoughts and responses. Mamas – what got you through the newborn phase??