“This?” 2.0: Dear Jerry

A while back, I wrote about the day that I became a mother for the first time. I promised to come back and finish telling you the rest of that story because there was so much that happened and it all couldn’t be compressed into one post. Yet as time has worn on and I have stewed over how to finish writing about my little guy and his big arrival I felt pulled in another direction. Almost any woman could tell you that their first time, if not every time, delivering one of their children was difficult. I feel now in my heart that solely focusing on the difficulties, surprises and fears of that day on a physical plane wouldn’t be doing my little boy any justice and would be missing the point. By a mile.

I’ll go back to right before Jerry was born. I’m going to be honest for a second, brutally in fact. This may be the most honest and transparent I have been on my blog, so I’m a bit nervous. I’ll start off by saying that I was at a different place than I am now. Vastly different. It might not make sense to you now, but it did to me then. I’ll just come out and say what has been in my heart for working on three years: I didn’t feel entirely ready to be a mother.

Huh?

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, because I do say it in all seriousness. I am with what may be the lot of you when I say that I believe that NO ONE is ever FULLY ready to become a parent. WHO is? I’ll argue that no one fully understands the gravity of becoming a parent until they are one. You’ll never have enough money or be organized enough. You’ll never have the perfect  circumstances. You’re never fully ready for all of the sacrifices you’ll have to make. Or the lack of sleep and personal time. The stress and the aggravation. Those are what I would say some of the true “costs” are. Before becoming a mother, I had always been someone who romanticized having and raising children. I never thought it would be easy but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of what becoming a parent meant. And this did not become apparent to me until the day, at 38 weeks pregnant, that I told I would be delivering my baby that evening.

Me: “Today? Like, on this day? Now?”

The Doc: “Yes.”

“…what?”

Let me back up even further for a moment. I was tired by this point and was suffering, unknowingly, from pre-eclampsia. I was swollen from my head to toe – to give you a better understanding that’s nearly 6 feet of swelling, folks. I was feeling nauseous, frequently light headed and grappling with headaches. And don’t even get me started on what the scale was telling me at every doctor’s visit. Fluid be darned!  I thought that this was normal. I figured that you were SUPPOSED to feel like you’d been run over by an 18 wheeler by the end of last trimester. And even though there are the expected discomforts of pregnancy, I was being too casual with how I felt. And that was dangerous. I was still working full-time  at my current job. My incredible coworkers were making my work week as easy as they could. However, despite their efforts and those of my family and husband eliminate as much stress as possible for me, I was wearing thin. I was slow-moving. Everything was sore or tight and sleeping was impossible. Clothes were beginning to not fit – the swelling was making it impossible to even find anything decent looking to wear. Even my feet were ridiculous – the only shoes that came  even close to fitting were flip-flops, and that was only because they would press into the fluid around my feet and after wearing them for an hour would they fit. Ew. Add those symptoms to the ones listed above and what you had was an Ashley who was done with pregnancy. Literally and figuratively completely done.

I was ready to be done with pregnancy. Or so I thought. Even though I thought I was ready to be physically finished with that season of my life, I knew deep down that I sure as hell wasn’t ready for what was to come. I had lingering questions, anxieties and fears. I wondered what I was going to do with the soon to be squirming, crying and fussing baby that would emerge from me. I would worry about how I was going to give birth, recover and still be able to stay awake at night to care for my child. I wondered how would I know what he or she needed and when they needed it? And don’t even get me STARTED on all of the fears that you conjure up in your imagination after reading up on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“I’m never going to sleep again, am I?” was the thought that most commonly raced through my mind.

I was never around infants, let alone newborns, before my own children came. I didn’t know how to soothe a baby. I couldn’t really tell you anything about breastfeeding (don’t you just, you know, stick em on?) I didn’t know why you would need to swaddle a baby or why you would ever need to worry about different types of bottles or pacifiers. I was amazed at the concept of a breast pump (it looked like what could be a painful instrument of death – which to a new mom who is first learning to breastfeed it very well could be) and was not quite sure what one did with “lanolin cream.” I was pretty much almost as clueless as they come. I knew I wanted children, but I didn’t know the first thing about them.

I had conjured up such fear in my own heart by listening to myself and my fears about the next step in my life that I drowned out some of the best parts. I forgot that there were numerous things to look forward to. And this is where I’m sad that I must further admit more. It wasn’t as if after my sweet little boy arrived that it all of my maternal instinct clicked and fell into place and that I became the mother that deep down inside I was always meant to be. The truth is, I was stuck in this rut for a long time. To long. This state of constant worry or stress. This wasteland that very soon became depression.

This isn’t to say that I ever felt any animosity or  joy at all while pregnant and waiting for my baby to come. I was excited and glad to be pregnant. And after what was an immensely difficult labor and delivery, I was so glad that he was here and safe. But once he was here… I still felt like I was a fish out of water, that I didn’t know what I was doing. I feared I would never gain confidence in my new role and recognize the fullness God had for me in mothering my children.

I became depressed in this new and seemingly very scary place and very discouraged. Though my son was an amazingly easy baby and nothing was a struggle for us, I still found time to be worried, anxious and depressed. And at times, I was aggravated or stressed when what I deemed as my personal time was interrupted with life’s responsibilities. This is not all to say that worry and anxiety has no “place” in becoming a first time parent. Or in being a person for that matter. God knows that we will struggle. We will worry. We will try to plan ahead or surmise ideal situations on our own. We will try to fill in the gaps ourselves and come up with our own solutions. He knows that we will defer to this way of thinking naturally because we’re human, but He also promises us so much more than what our anxieties conjure up for us.

It isn’t just your lifestyle that changes after becoming a parent, it’s your heart. Allowing God to change your heart, grow and edify you? That can be painful. Really painful. And for me, for a long time, it was. Instead of allowing myself to trust God, in His rich provision, mercies and plans I became both discouraged and disgruntled. Instead of saying, “Lord, he isn’t my child anyway, he is your’s and you will equip me to love and raise him,” I worried how I, we, were going to make it work as parents. I was grasping on to some things that I didn’t want to give up, which are so minute and irrelevant now that I don’t really remember specifics. It wasn’t like I was someone who wanted to hit the partying scene. And instead of saying Lord, change my heart and thine will be done I ignored His help and what He promises to those who love him. How self-concerned I was.

When I think back on that time, sometimes it makes my heart heavy. To think that because I didn’t see the greater picture, that I didn’t enjoy it all as much as I could have. Then, I might not have minded an evening to myself or space.  Now, I couldn’t imagine not being home with my children. Then, I knew I would go back to work. Now, my heart and mind are both focused on being a home builder for a good while. But now, now it is all so much different.

Evidence Of Grace

I see my little boy. I see how he acts to his younger sister. He shares and is affectionate. He literally is a gentle giant, at nearly 40 pounds and almost 39 inches tall. He is proficient at knowing his colors, his shapes, his numbers (up to 23) and (most recently) his alphabet. He is more organized than I am, as he spends time closing doors, cabinets and lining up all of his toys in the “correct order.” Jerry loves to read, and speaks very well. He also memorizes books and can almost verbatim recite a book from the library a week or so after checking it out. There are the things that make me proud.

But it has been an honor to raise my son thus far. Jerry is kind and affectionate. His heart is so big, his mind is so bright. He is a stand up guy – and he is only 3. And Lord willing, I won’t get in my own way again. I see where God has answered prayers. I see where God gives me the discernment to pray. And most importantly I see how different of a person I have become because God blessed me with my son. My priorities have shifted. But it’s more than that. What exactly, I’m not sure. God uses two types of relationships in this world more than others to discipline, grow and encourage you. That of being a spouse and that of being a parent. Both teach you to love with grace, sacrifice and truth. I love my son. Because I love he and his sister, I know I need God to give me and make me my best so that they can have my best. I’ll call it sanctification through parenting. I thought marriage dissected you and brought to light one’s sin. Parenting has continued that process for me. The heart is the wellspring of your life. Guard it carefully. If I have nothing life-giving flowing out of my heart, I have nothing to give my children. That lesson is one that God has bonked me over the head with again and again this year and we’re only half way through 2012. The Heart is the wellspring of your life. Sometimes, you have to allow God to swim upstream and make sure it is uncontaminated, as mine was and at times, still is. But regardless of sleepless nights, messy rooms and no bathroom privacy, there is nothing I would change.

And it all started with a little boy, on a day in November, when my husband and I thought “it” wasn’t going to happen. Two pink lines changed everything.

This is to you, Jerry Landon. I pray and hope that you read this one day and see how much of a difference you have made, even in just my life. You are so special and I am so proud to be your mommy. Thank you for everything. For being one of my best friends. For being so loving. I pray that where your father and I have been weak in our lives that you will be strong. I pray for future generations of LeComptes. And I can’t wait to see you lead.

I love you!

Posterity shall serve him,

it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,

that he has done it.

Psalm 22: 30-31

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