I can't remember exactly where Anne Lamott writes about memories being like dreams, but that is where I find myself at this post right now: I have these pictures, blog posts, tiny baby clothes I've kept, hazy images of mothering and these now 9 and 7 year old kids as proof that those early days really existed.
I continue to engage in the class, “The Contemplative Practice of Motherhood” taught by two of my friends which started mid-January. This week Renee pre-recorded a meditation that I clicked on to listen to at multiple times over the week and listened with wavering interest. I was resistant to look back at those early days and months as a new mom, and that’s what the meditation was inviting me to do.
I'm certain that initially I felt expansive and strong knowing that I did the work to bring this new life into the world. I know that my love for my first baby swelled, joyful at becoming a mother because of her. But I also felt the depletion of iron, the aches and difficulty of walking, and the anxiety of unchartered territory looming ahead. Those were the days of unnamed postpartum depression, bone-numbing exhaustion, painful and bloody nursing sessions, and a screaming little 7 pounder who was only able to sleep in a rocker or swaddled on my chest.
I found God was a cry out loud in, "oh God, I can't take this anymore."
For my second baby, I know that I grew another heart within me to hold my love for her too. This second time around, those first few days felt steadier. I had anti-depressants, I learned to love coffee, and I had a few tools in my proverbial parenting toolkit. There was also a deep sense of my joy being made complete with the growth of our family from three to four. Steadiness.
Another one of my favorite quotes from Anne Lamott is :“We have all we need to come through. Against all odds, [...] no matter what messes we’ve made over time, no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which create breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day.”
There were so many long, dark nights in those early days as a mother, and I can quickly recall the churning feeling of anxiety in my stomach thinking back to when 5 pm. rolled around, bracing for a sleep-less night. But of course, God is leading me toward compassion for the mother I was then and filling-in the haze of dreamy-memories with His grace so that I can see past the desolation and the obligatory needs-met-check parent role. I can see how the Light filtered in with the family-by-choice love that surrounded me then, by meals that were dropped off and the mystery in these babies revealing themselves to me each and every day.