Four days after my son was born, I bawled like a baby as I heard the little cry start again. It was 3 am, I was utterly exhausted, and this was the fourth time I had tried to lay my new son down and slip into bed. Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep with him draped across my chest…something I vowed to never do…something the pediatrician who had checked him out in the hospital had told me to never, ever do. As I slipped into sleep I cried again, feeling like a failure as a mom.
I’d always wanted to be a mother. I was pretty sure that, when the time came, I would know exactly what I was doing and that motherhood would come naturally to me. I was so wrong.
Sure, I had those amazing feelings of love you always hear about. Changing dirty diapers didn’t make me cringe a bit. Once the struggle of the first tough month was over, I even enjoyed nursing. What I wasn’t prepared for were the feelings of inadequacy and uselessness. My filthy house, dirty dishes stacked high, and inability to get one decent meal on the table made me feel completely incapable as a house wife. The fact that my son was not a “typical” newborn (as I thought he should be) made me feel out-of-control. My exhausted frustration at my son when he would scream for hours every night from colic made me feel like a terrible mom. Most of all, though, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything all day. I struggled with feeling a sense of purpose.
I knew that taking care of my son was my purpose for this season of life, but there was a disconnect between knowing that and feeling it in my heart. I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and purposeful, but most days I felt like I was just treading water. The problem was that, deep down, I wasn’t just a milk-producing, diaper changing, baby holding robot…there was a very real and individual person just dying to be let out! The challenge in any change of seasons is finding the balance between who you are as a person and the tasks God has put before you for today.
For me, finding this balance meant two things. The first was that I had to change. I had to let go of my need for control and desire to do things the “right” way and instead be flexible and learn to be the mom my son needed…not the mom I wanted to be. Anytime God refines us, the process is far from easy and painless. There were days that I despised the new mom posting on Facebook asking for ideas of things to do because her baby was so easy and she was bored. Yet, I have come to realize that God gave me Miles with all of his out-of-the-boxness so that He could mold me and force me to let go of my controlling tendencies. He gave me a very real little individual so that He could change my individual self.
Finding the balance for me also meant fusing who I was as a person with the role of mother. Again, this isn’t an easy process. I have come to believe that, in any season or role we find ourselves in, our personality should still shine and show through. I don’t parent the same as any other mom because I am not any other mom. I am a tea-drinking, outdoor-loving, greenthumb-wannabe who loves traveling and good food. Consequently, my son spends a lot of time outdoors, is well acquainted with garden tools, has traveled more than most people will in a lifetime, and will eat just about anything…including spicy food or strong-flavored ethnic cuisine. He is his own person, but his daily life is the way it is mostly because of who I am as a person. God placed Miles in my care because He knew that the mama I am is the mama Miles needed.
As I approach my two-year anniversary of being a mother, I’ve gotten into a better groove. I have a system down for at least keeping the house manageably clean. We do eat a home-cooked meal most nights, even if it was something I stuck in the freezer two weeks ago and just dumped in the crockpot that morning. I already have long lists of freezer meals to assemble and preparations to make for whenever Baby Baker #2 decides to enter our home, knowing very keenly how needed those will be. I feel very purposeful as I order our home, chase my toddler around, and reach out to other moms in our community.
I am not the same person I was before my son was born. And yet, I am more than just a mother. I am Caitlin Baker, wife, mom, homemaker, and very real person…something that brings me very great joy.