My first baby was a doozy. He was premature, I couldn’t nurse like I’d planned, and he cried all day. Well, he didn’t really cry all day—he screamed all day. He had reflux and colic and the lungs of a human freight train. My husband worked long hours, and I couldn’t take a screaming baby anywhere, so there I sat, all day, at home, with a screaming baby who could find no comfort.
The only respite I found was a window each day of approximately 20 minutes. Never more, sometimes less, but every day I had the tiniest of windows to sit and have some peace. This peace was bought with an old DVD of puppets and toys crossing the screen to the sounds of worship songs. I put my son in a bouncer or swing, turned on the TV, and he was entranced, every day, for about 20 minutes before he began screaming again.
Every day I heard these songs, the only sounds I heard at home apart from the wails and shrieks. Every day I sat behind my son and willed that DVD to magically hold his attention for just a minute longer. Every day for more than a year, I never got to hear the rest of the songs on the DVD because my poor, miserable baby would start screaming.
He eventually healed and grew, quit screaming, and became a pretty easy kid to parent. I was so happy to be done with the screaming that I never thought of it again.
Then one day I was shopping and the store I was in was playing instrumental worship songs. Suddenly, a familiar melody began . . . and I stopped.
One of the songs from that blessed DVD, that cursed DVD, was now being peacefully pumped through the sound system, and I was suddenly in hell.
I couldn’t breathe. I was shaking, crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop my response or the song, and I was frozen in the middle of the aisle, coming undone among table lamps and decorative pillows. I knew why I recognized the song, but I didn’t know why my body was reacting in such a visceral way.
I didn’t know motherhood is traumatic.
I had to have three C-sections, one emergency and two routine. I mourned the birth I’d always wanted and was aware of the grief I felt but didn’t process the trauma my body went through and counted my pain as failure. With each C-section, my doctor left a scar. With each C-section, he had to remove previous scar tissue, each time taking away a little piece of me. Cracked ribs from little feet getting stuck, major surgery, incisions that started before the pain medication took effect.
Motherhood is traumatic.
One of my children has some special needs, and I’ve chosen to put my plans on hold in order to parent and care for my child as best as I can. While I am grateful for the option and the ability to do this, I still mourn what is on hold, what I’ve put off, and what I’ve missed my chance for entirely. This kiddo is tough, really tough, and I cry at least once a day. I kill small parts of myself in order to make room for the special needs of my child. I unlearn everything I thought I knew and learn things I didn’t realize I didn’t know. Some days feel hopeless, some days are wonderful, but every day takes an extraordinary effort because motherhood is traumatic.
Motherhood is traumatic, but so is survival.
In order to resuscitate a dying person, we break ribs to beat the heart into working. Doctors perform invasive and life-saving surgeries, full of cutting and burning and pain and recovery. EpiPen jabs hurt. Defibrillators can leave burn marks. Survival is a battle, and it can be a painful one. It can put the body through trauma in order to continue on—just like motherhood.
Motherhood is traumatic, but it is always worth the pain. Motherhood is traumatic, but it is always worth the growth. Motherhood is traumatic, but it is always worth the sacrifice.
These kids who batter our insides and swell our hearts, the ones who make us cry, the kids who demand more than we can give and appreciate but a little of what we have, they’re worth the trauma. They’re worth the work it takes to make it through, worth the resuscitation it sometimes requires to keep ourselves going.
Motherhood is traumatic, but it is worth whatever we give up in order to care for what we have gained.