A few weekends ago, I had my hardest night of motherhood yet. I lost my cool. I stood in our living room in the growing darkness of evening and yelled, “Shut up!” as both my kids cried. And I am not a yeller, like ever.
The weekend had been spent traveling to our hometown with a newborn and toddler to make the second biggest purchase of our marriage. We all lost sleep and were high-strung-exhausted. The weekend was capped off with a two-hour drive home pierced by the pitch of constant crying, which grated nerves, especially mine.
Money stress. Family stress. Travel stress. Sleep deprivation. Postpartum hormones. Noise.
Plenty of factors contributed to my outburst, until finally something in me just wanted to scream for one second.
You see that girl in the photo? She’s holding it all together, looking like a supermom on the car lot. I stayed cool while soothing my daughter through long car rides. I read the same books and come up with 101 distractions to keep her attention. I kept calm while caring for my son, nursing him and changing his diapers despite his penchant to poop the moment after I put on a clean diaper. I held it together through family dinners and loading and unloading kids from carseats.
In that moment of desperation in my living room, both kids were scream-crying in their beds after a long day, and my husband was carrying our bags upstairs to be unpacked. I didn’t hurt anyone, but I just needed a release. A twenty-four hour-seven-days-a-week job is the burden that comes with a baby. I haven’t had a day off in weeks. I have only been away from our newborn once. So after that yell, I began crying from the weight of the work. The weight of parenthood is so firmly and solidly on my shoulders.
Have you felt a weight like that?
To be the calm one. To be the one with the answers. To be the shoulder that gets cried upon. The body that gets sucked almost dry for nourishment. To feel like the pin that is holding everyone in.
At the urging of my husband, I heavily climbed the stairs to take a shower. My go-to luxury, my game-changer. I sat in the cascading water drops and added my own salty ones to the mix. I was sitting under the burden of two little lives so absolutely dependent on mine. We are tight knit together, the three of us.
Motherhood more than any other role I’ve known has stripped me of my freedom and autonomy. The things our culture most values. Motherhood has sat me down and held me fast. Simultaneously I’ve lost my ability to indulge every selfish tendency and gained the beautiful gift of watching babies grow before my eyes.
Sometimes I want to run out from under the weight and scream and do-whatever-I-want. But instead, I went into my daughter’s room and held her and sang to her. And she cried some more before settling to sleep. And as she drifted off, my son began to cry and life continued, but I had felt the weight of my work. I sat under it – almost as though being underwater, feeling the distinct pressure of water versus air on my body. And I found God gave me the strength to stand back up and do this hard and beautiful work.