Monthly Archives: January 2016

Dear New Mom

When I had my first baby, I didn’t feel like I was “supposed” to.

I never understood when other parents said, “I wish they could stay little forever!” or “Awwww…I miss that!” or “Looking at newborns makes me want another!”

I never understood “missing” the baby-ness, because the memories surrounding the births of my first two children were NOT pleasant.  

Fear and darkness.  That’s what I remember most.

Every time the sun set, my heart would start to pound.  Mentally, I was completely exhausted; but physically I could not settle down.    Eventually the anxiety snowballed–causing me to get less sleep, which caused even more anxiety. At my most severe, I was getting less than two hours of sleep for several nights in a row…

It’s hard to describe anxiety and depression for someone who has never experienced it. But I wrote about the battle between the two “voices” in my head here.

On one hand, I knew I was dealing with a fairly common hormone issue and just needed time to adjust.  I knew–rationally–that I’d probably be okay with time.

But I FELT like I’d never been happy before and never, ever would be happy again.

I FELT like sadness and despair and terror were suffocating me and that I wouldn’t make it out the other side.

I FELT like I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake by deciding to have my baby…

…and that’s why I’m writing to you, new mama.

I’m writing because no one ever told me that I might have to fight against my “feelings,” until they started feeling the way other moms seemed to feel without trying.

I’m writing in case you’re a mom, like me, who doesn’t feel like you “should.”

—–

You’ll hear it more than once, I promise:

“Pregnancy is full of aches and challenges–but it’s all worth it THE MOMENT you lay eyes on that baby for the first time!”

They really don’t mean to cause unrealistic expectations. In fact, that’s exactly what happens after childbirth for many mothers. The doctor lays a baby on her chest, and she immediately feels a rush of warmth and joy.

So, it’s logical to assume that’s how it works for everyone.

“I’d never felt a love so strong before. We’d waited so long; it was a sweet reward… That day was the best of my life!”

But for me–honestly–I wasn’t overwhelmed with “lovey feelings” right away.

I didn’t cry with joy.

I didn’t stare at her with wonder and refuse to let her go…

Oh, sure, I would have protected her fiercely if anything threatened her safety. But I would classify my feelings closer to “duty” than to “infatuation.”

…and that was even BEFORE the world-changing insomnia and panic-attacks set in.

By the time I went a few nights without sleep, it was a fight to keep myself from believing the lying, hopeless voice.

And the more Veteran Mommies shared their sweet memories and told me to “cherish” my own experience, the more confused (and cheated!) I felt.

Why was my story so much different than theirs?  Where was MY fairy-tale?

Looking back, I can say with certainty that the 1-2 months following the births of my first two babies were the worst experiences of my entire life.

Seriously.

I didn’t feel at all like I “should.”

So, I’m writing in case you are in the same boat (or will be someday), because I want you to know that feelings aren’t as important as…well, not as important as they feel.

Mama, being sad and scared (and even thinking you’ve made a mistake) doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

In fact, let me tell you a shocking truth:  when you’re still doing the feeding and rocking and nurturing when you don’t feel like it, that’s actually the definition of love.  Meeting the needs of another–regardless of how you feel–is an amazing, selfless, and praise-worthy thing to do.

If you’re caring for baby with a sense of “duty”–because you know it’s the right thing to do–then that’s actually more impressive than doing it when it’s fun or easy.

I have such respect for the Mamas who do the Mama-ing, when the pay-off doesn’t happen right away.

—-

New Mama, always remember that Love isn’t just how you feel.

Love is what you do.

So, with that in mind, there are two things I’m praying for you right now:

#1.  I’m praying that God will make your feelings match your spirit, so you don’t have to argue with yourself over the confusing noise of depression.     Father–it’s hard enough learning to care for a new baby when our emotions are fairly stable…let alone when we can’t trust them at all.  So line up our thoughts and feelings with the Spirit you’ve given us.  Plant our feelings, like breadcrumbs, until they lead us to your Truth.

#2   But IF God sees fit to let you “not feel like you should,” then I pray you remember feelings don’t make you a good mother.  Feelings lie sometimes.  And they come and go.  But it’s what you DO that reveals your heart.   God sees you getting up through the night, patting little backs and losing sleep. He sees you missing showers but making doctor appointments. He sees you shhhhh-ing and soothing and LOVING your baby, though it feels like you’re doing it wrong.

Oh, Mama, I pray you always remember that you LOVE that baby, even when love doesn’t feel like it “should.”

—–

Post Script:   I finally got my fairy-tale with Baby #3.  No anxiety. No insomnia and depression.   I’m actually wistful as I watch her grow, and I’m finding myself thinking it’s going too fast. Now I understand why people say they miss it when it’s over!

Mamas, I pray each one of you gets to have at least one postpartum phase that feels like it “should.”  But, even if that’s not meant to be, please…please, please, please don’t buy the lie that you’re doing it wrong just because it’s not the same story that was written for another.

Love is what you do.

It’s what you do.

To My White Children about Their Black Friends

When I was a kid, a black girl in the neighborhood accused me of being a racist.

I threatened to tattle if she didn’t give my toy back. So, she yelled, “You don’t like me because I’m black!” (I wrote about it here.)

My issue wasn’t that the two of us got into a playground squabble over a digital pet. No, that type of thing happens all the time between kids.

What bothered me was the way this girl was COACHED into the belief that arguments between friends might have something to do with our different colors:

“…there’s not a doubt in my mind that she was told by an influential adult in her life that people would hate her ‘because she’s black,’ and she took it to heart.

I have no way to know whether that same influential person also explained that people wouldn’t like her if she tried to steal their toys.  I also can’t say whether she was taught responsibility and respect for others at some point after this story took place…

But I DO know this young, black girl was given the Race Card before she even hit puberty–and, like any intelligent child would, she tried to use it the first chance she got…

I believe the adult who gave her the ‘because you’re black’ talk ought to be ashamed. It’s entirely possible that my friend and I could have gone our whole lives playing and fighting and making up, without skin ever being mentioned…except someone in that little girl’s life told her to watch out for racism.

So racism became an issue for her.”

I won’t repost my entire essay here. But I encourage you to read it.

I still believe very firmly that well-meaning but misguided parents are causing more race issues than they are solving. I believe it is wrong for well-meaning but misguided parents to tell black children how “different” they are.

And I’m very disappointed to see that a post went viral this week, encouraging white parents to have “the Talk” with their kids about the “differences” between blacks and whites, too…

The author wrote “To the White Parents“:

“I need you to be talking to your child about racism…

I know that in a white family it is easy to use words like ‘colorblind’ and feel like we’re enlightened and progressive. But if you teach your kids to be colorblind, they may not understand the uniquely dangerous situations my child can find himself in. If you tell your kids racism happened a long time ago and now it’s over and use my family as an example of how whites and blacks and browns can all get along together, you are not doing me any favors. Just because you haven’t seen obvious examples of racism in your own life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

This is disappointing, because just because a black person gets made fun of, or has their hair touched, or even gets shot and killed, it doesn’t mean it was “because of racism,” either.

It’s disappointing because our children shouldn’t have to get over their natural colorblindness, just because their parents see color EVERYWHERE.

It’s disappointing because I have, in fact, “seen obvious examples of racism in my own life”–but, unfortunately, it was the kind caused by “the Talk” that was supposed to prevent it.

I believe wholeheartedly that racism continues to dominate our headlines because parents and teachers are holding onto it with both hands and encouraging the next generation to grab on as well.

I know it’s done out of fear and a desire to protect.  I know they have the best intentions.

But, because parents are having “the Talk” about racism with their kids, I have to discuss it with mine as well…and it won’t sound like the mothers of black sons may want.  

Instead, I’ll need to have a Talk with my kids about why so many parents are having a “Talk” with their kids.

This is what mine will sound like:

“Things may be changing between you and your black friends. And this makes me very sad. But black boys and girls are often told by their parents/teachers/television that they will eventually be treated badly by people with your skin color.

So, the kids you love playing with now may start to look at you with suspicion and frustration later.

It’s not their parents’ fault. They simply believe that all black children have a different experience growing up in American than what white children have. And they believe they’re protecting your black friends when they tell the ‘things-are-different-for-you’ story. Parents of black children honestly don’t realize they’re making things worse when they interrupt your beautiful, colorblind relationship by insisting that colorblindness is bad.

They believe they’re doing the right thing when they teach your black friends to ‘celebrate’ something as tiny and insignificant as skin pigmentation.  
So, though I don’t want to have this conversation, I feel you deserve to know why things could be more complicated as you continue doing life with your different-colored friends.

United humans are a dangerous force, so there are those who would put wedges between as many of us as possible. One way they succeed is by maintaining the story that black people have always (and will always) be treated ‘differently’ from white ones. Our enemy wants us to believe that skin-color prevents people from truly, completely understanding each other. And, if you really want to continue a relationship with your black friends, the only way is to agree that their appearance makes things very different for them in ways you’ll never fully grasp.
Please be patient with them. Be more patient and loving than I have been myself. Hold on to the things you’ve always enjoyed doing with your black friends, and don’t let your anger with the Enemy turn into hatred for the many people (like their parents) who have fallen for his lies. I pray that you will be armed with the truth, but also the Wisdom for how to use it while interacting with your peers.

Don’t apologize for injustices that don’t actually exist–because that’s the same as lying. But don’t just throw up your hands and walk away if/when your friends become obsessed with color, either.

Because seeing those friendships fall apart isn’t what ANY of your parents really want….even if the things we’ve done with the best intentions have actually made that harder.”