The Tears of New Motherhood

Each time I think back to the moments of my son’s birth, these lines of poetry (which I studied in high school) come to mind:

My father groaned! my mother wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt

(The real poem, “Infant Sorrow,” by William Blake, transposes the mother and father, but I remember the mother as the one weeping.)

IMG_0772See how I wept? I tried to hold them back, but as soon as little Sam exited the premises, the tears gushed.

I had what could be considered an “easy” labor and delivery, with an epidural that worked like ecstasy. But towards the end, I felt the tears on tap.

When he arrived “helpless, naked, piping loud,” these signs of life undid me. Finally, it was over. He was alive, he was healthy, and I could relax. Later, when I lay back watching my family gush over the baby, my eyes watered again. I felt a sense of love and pride thinking, “We made that!”

IMG_0797Was there any better feeling in the world?

Those early tears were for relief and joy, but as two weeks have worn on, other tears—of frustration, bewilderment, and sometimes resentment (when I’m running on vapors of sleep)—have followed. After a few days, I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. (You should never trust your instincts when running on three nonconsecutive hours of sleep or less.)

In the first days, visitors and callers broke up the monotony, distracted from the sense of helplessness I otherwise felt when alone with baby Sam for several hours. A friend emailed to say she made it through the first two weeks just fine, but when the commotion died down, postpartum depression set in. The D-word. A word I was once well acquainted with. But I’m not D these days, unless D stands for (sleep) deprived.

My tears (which are becoming less and less), and the periodic panic that “I’ll never find time to write or finish my book or blog again” are just par for this course, especially for a new mother who took almost thirty years to decide on this course.

IMG_0230 Amidst all the crying, feeding, sleep deprivation, and diaper changing, there are moments of every day I find myself just gazing at this new baby—our little miracle. It helps to look down at my son, even during one of the eight to twelve daily breastfeeding sessions (this alone is a full-time job!), and remember that the creative power of God that brought this precious, heart-stealing baby into being, is the same power that animates me, both physically and mentally. It is the same power that animates these other dreams I have–the dreams of writing and publishing that sprouted long before my dream of a baby. I must trust God that he will teach me how to live this new life. He will bring peace out of this (sometimes) chaos. One day, he will help me marry these two wonderful parts of my life. And one day I will again sleep through the night. Until I do, I won’t worry too much about the tears of new motherhood.