This is probably the realest thing you’ll ever read from me. On Saturday afternoon, I was feeding Ryan and struggling to have a let-down. I was starting to feel panicky and anxious again, since this was not the first time. I had been struggling to let-down with increased frequency. I had even begun planning to cut our nursing journey a little short. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Meg, you need to get a grip. I realized I had been a reluctant participant in this baby journey since Day 1. I had been resisting. I had resisted going into labor for a week, citing all the reasons why that particular day would be inconvenient. My body had resisted releasing the placenta. I had resisted the doctors. My body had resisted making milk. I had resisted sleepless nights and extra laundry and the needy screams of a baby. And while I loved him, I was resisting my baby in a way. I was doing all the right things, going through all the good Mom motions, but my heart was without joy. I felt empty and stretched much too thin. I had been toying with the idea that maybe I was struggling with postpartum depression, but the real deal was that I have been having a bad attitude.
I read a verse in Exodus yesterday that made me chuckle. It was clearly meant just for me.
The previous verses were telling of how God had lead the children of Israel out of Egypt after the Passover. God had instructed Moses to encamp by the sea; warned that the Egyptians were in hot pursuit; and revealed His plan to defeat them. When the Israel began to panic at the knowledge that the Egyptians were close behind, Moses encouraged them to stand firm and see what the Lord would do. The next verse caught my eye.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’”
God had already made His plans for victory known to Moses. It’s as though the verse was saying, “What’s all this fuss? You already know that I am handling this. They are crying for no reason. Tell them to get a grip and keep moving.”
Years ago, God had promised to “repay me for the years the locusts had eaten.” (A phrase you can find in the book of Joel.) I had cried out on so many occasions, in anguish, over the “normal” newborn time I had missed with Avery. I had truly felt robbed of it. I grappled for YEARS with the fact that I wasn’t able to nurse her and deeply mourned the time we didn’t have together.
And then came Ryan, the baby that had been part of the promise. God had given me another baby with which to have all the experiences that I felt I had so lost. And here I was—RESISTING—resisting the fulfillment of the promise. The years that the locust had eaten are being repaid and I have been to inconvenienced to notice.
I read the verse and felt God saying, “I brought you out of Egypt (the pain and suffering of Avery’s first years); told you my plan to redeem that time; gave you a precious gift and now you’re fighting me. Why are you crying? It’s time to move on.”
So, moving on... It’s time to make new habits and routines, not mourn the ones I had last year. It’s time to settle into the chaos, not fight it with every fiber of my being. It’s time to get into a new groove, even if a new groove wasn’t something I had anticipated.
The truth is that I’m good adapting. I’m good at multitasking. I’m good at breastfeeding. I’m good at sleeplessness. I’m good at being consistent with homeschooling even when I don’t feel like it. I’m just choosing to be annoying by it at the moment.
Now, please hear that I’m not discounting postpartum depression as a thing. It’s real, I believe it. I also believe (and feel very confident that all the women who have truly battled PPD will concur) that a lot of the time women, like myself, are tempted to blame postpartum depression for all of their struggles when they really just need to get a grip and get themselves (ourselves) together.
So, what’s the opposite of resisting? To me, the opposite of resisting is leaning in. It’s ironic to me that I’m having to revisit this concept, since leaning into pain is something that I’ve learned is the first step towards healing.
Lean into the grief. Feel it all as deeply as it must be felt every time it must be felt. Feel it not just immediately after the loss, but every time the grief sweeps in.
Lean into the failure. It happened. Denying it, ignoring it, or blaming other people for it only ensures that you’ll likely fail there again.
Lean into the disappointment. Disappointment is not weakness, it is the cousin to grief. It is not disobedience. Disappointment is the loss of a dream, however large or small. Honor those feelings and then let them go.
Lean into the loneliness. Avoiding it by filling the void with noise and things and unhealthy connections is the fastest way to stay lonely longer.
And for me, lean into this new life. It’s more challenging than the old, but it is worth it. Picture your Thanksgiving table 20 years from now and think of the investment that these difficult baby years truly are. Choose joy. Remember the promise.
It’s time to move on.
P.S. I’ve discovered that a daily dose of Brewer’s Yeast works wonders on failure to let-down.