When I gave birth to my son, my body was wrecked. Even though I had an easy pregnancy. Even though I (technically) had an uncomplicated delivery.
Looking at my baby’s sweet, sleeping face, I could almost forget about the pain and rest in the joy of this profound, unconditional love. But the minute I sat up, the minute I needed to go to the bathroom, the minute I started walking . . . I remembered. I grimaced. I whimpered. The pain of third-degree tearing and an episiotomy didn’t immediately dissipate.
It was weeks of soreness. It was my husband filling up spray bottles and drawing witch hazel baths (for soaking, not washing). It was taking pain medication and sitting in an almost lying down position because anything else was uncomfortable. It was nursing and snuggling and changing diapers with a dim awareness that I didn’t know how this new scarring would heal.
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I never regretted having my baby. I never regretted the pain or the tear. Going through labor and having our son forever imprinted in my mind as one of my favorite memories. It was awful. I threw up for three hours with every contraction. I pushed for three hours and wondered if it would ever end. But it was worth all the sweat, dehydration, and sweet blue-eyed gazes full of warmth and encouragement from my husband.
The second the doctor held our baby up so I could see him, it was worth it.
My son’s wrinkled, old man face squished in a squall as he marked his territory with a spray of meconium (first poop). At that moment, my husband and I were a family in a new, indescribable way. My heart overflowed in a deluge of sobbing smiles.
As weeks passed and healing slowly occurred, I learned riding a bike was a mistake. I discovered exercising, even months out, resulted in a soreness I never expected. Jumping jacks didn’t just make me urinate myself. They hurt. As I vented and complained and worried, my husband only ever encouraged.
I learned how to nurse, dream feed, and change diapers in semi-darkness. I learned there were times I had to let the baby cry if I was going to make it to the bathroom on time. I appreciated long hot showers for the decadent wonder they are.
Woven into all of our new struggles was a peace and purpose found in the sleeping face of our child. New motherhood is simultaneously a place of complete vulnerability and raw strength unlike anything else I’ve experienced.
Then came another hurdle after having our baby. You know, the PG13 kind. The kind mommas talk about quietly, wondering how bad it will be.
The kind we put off for what feels like an eternity because we’re scared and just not ready. The kind we both want and dread in turns.
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But here’s the thing. My husband was careful to let me feel desired and not pressured. He was intentional about making me feel beautiful. He didn’t ignore the stretch marks and flabby stomach, pretending I hadn’t changed. He praised what my body had done, lending his eyes to my own.
He didn’t expect IT from me. He didn’t expect me to be ready because we were married and having sex is part of being married and it had been X, Y, Z amount of time. Without ever saying it, he gave me the feeling of being anticipated. There’s a difference between something feeling expected and something feeling anticipated.
He wanted me so much he would wait for me to be ready. He looked forward to me. And that distinction helped me anticipate us, too.
It seared the support he had shown me in the delivery room to every day after. It reminded me it wasn’t just that he wanted or needed something from me, but he loved me.
Our imperfect, shared love remained the unchanging thread which bound all of our newness together. We were experiencing a new kind of intimacy—that of bleeding and tearing and pooping and birthing. Birth had held no regard for my dignity, but in it we’d found a deeper unity.
No, birth isn’t easy. No, figuring out how your marriage bed looks after having a baby isn’t easy. There isn’t an all-consuming answer that fixes every problem, mitigates every fear, or eases every pain.
But there is this shared love between you. A baby who screams you are my comfort while our husbands are trying to figure out how to comfort us. Sometimes, we need to remember they just want to step in and protect us (their wives) from the little ones wreaking havoc on their bodies and destroying their sleep. Sometimes, our husbands just want to hold us instead. Sometimes, their innate need to protect narrows down to only you, and we have to help them see the whole picture. We’re all struggling and learning together.
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To the parents who didn’t get to bring their baby home, I can’t imagine your grief or speak to your heartache. Your baby mattered. You and your baby still matter. The relationship you are forging with your spouse is valuable and important.
You are experiencing unity in a new way too, and I pray that unity brings healing. Grief changes us irrevocably, yet the bond you are forming amid your pain is one of unspeakable strength and beauty. In all its darkness, I pray you remember that you, your marriage, and your story, hold a profound worthiness no one can take away.
We all need the gift of being gentle. With ourselves. With each other.
It won’t look the same. You won’t feel the same. It won’t always be beautiful or easy.
But trust me, this season you’re in won’t be forever. When you’re tired and cranky and just want time alone, give yourself that space. Then go back and remember the love that started it all.
You have that baby because you loved him first. He wants to be with you because he loves you still.
You have that longing because your story isn’t over. It’s still being written.