(I wrote this in early December)
Something interesting happened to me a week or 2 ago. I was folding my kids clothes, and as I put them away a baby blanket in the closet made me think back to when I had my first baby. That first year or 2 after his birth was so difficult for me. My mind thought back to all the work I did to take care of my baby. How exhausted I often felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. How it felt like the floor fell out from beneath my feet and I had called out for help, reached out for help, but had been left alone to keep falling. It felt as if I received only words of blame from my mother “IF I’m not there for you, it’s because you didn’t let me see the baby soon enough at the hospital. Showed me how involved you wanted me to be.” and utterly confusing declarations of “I know your pain, no one helped me either.”
In that first year or two after the birth of my first child, there was a feeling of being at a low with a lot of fear and shame mixed in. Shame I didn’t feel like what I imagined being a new mother should feel like. Fear that I was a bad mother, or that maybe my baby was a “bad baby”. These thoughts broke my heart, where was the love? So much fear, and shame, and guilt in me – and so much need from my tiny baby. He needed me, he wanted me, his mom, I could never escape that. Everyday was largely the same, was I about to break? Or was I breaking over and over again to deeper levels? Would I ultimately break or worse break the spirt of my child with my own brokenness?
That was the mood back then. But the mood as I reflected on that time briefly this week – brought me to tears. Soft tears for myself. I could see that time in a way I’ve never seen before. I saw how hard I had worked even though I felt so low and alone. I did get up day and night to feed my baby, I bathed him, played with him, strolled and rocked, kissed and hugged, signed up for social activities as he grew, I read the books to him and the parenting books for myself. I had fears and dark thoughts yes, but I expressed and lived my love in a time so hard for me.
I felt relief and proud. I felt compassion for me. I realized the person who was neglected, who had been for years and was just realizing it in a searing way, was me, not my baby. I felt a sense of “You did well, it was hard, but look you did so well. You were alone then, but I am here now. It will never be that hard again because you will always have me. I see how much you struggled towards love even as you ran out of your own energy. When those who you thought loved you left you alone, you picked yourself up and said “No” I will parent different. You fought for what you have never seen, but for what you dreamed for your child. You became someone new. You stepped out of your comfort zone. But not for you, for your child. And in doing so you revealed who you really are. I am proud of you.”
I have never felt such compassion for myself. It does seem as I practice being more compassionate to my self each day and others my compassion is growing more natural. So when that difficult time came up in my mind, a time I am so used to judging myself for or feeling dark about, a new compassion replaced those old feelings. It was a beautiful moment for me, a healing moment. I saw myself as someone worthy of a big hug, a warm shower, a day off, and a quick word of praise and encouragement that one sweet mom said to me one day as I struggled to get my tantruming kids from the library to the car “You got this Momma” with a look of understanding, encouragement, pride, and love.