Written by Emily Rose
Our daughter Elanor was born at the end of March as the magnolias flowered, and since then my world has been spinning in what seems like a very uncontrolled fashion. Motherhood is breaking me. I know many desire parenthood, and I don’t deny it is a good gift from God. I don’t write here to diminish those desires, but to show that every season comes with deep, intense struggles and longings – ones we don’t see when we’re not in it. We can know this about one another and have compassion.
I don’t want to make public all the details about my daughter’s life; one day she can speak for herself. Suffice it to say, lately I feel like and see myself as a mess. It is beginning to become a label, a title I give myself. It lets me excuse my mistakes or struggles without thinking much about them; it allows me to feel sorry for myself. It affords no hope of improvement, but is more a proclamation, a designation, a determination. This is just who I am: a Mess.
What room does this leave for God to tell me His thoughts? His labels, His proclamations? I avoid listening. I avoid self-reflection. I’m too tired for that, and pure crying and crumbling is far easier. But in this brief, clear moment, I know that while crying-and-crumbling has its place, it is more of a rest stop on the journey – it lets me relieve myself but it doesn’t fuel me forward.
I feel depressed, but that is not who I am. I feel chaotic, messy, overwhelmed; these have nothing to do with my identity. They are not the whole story. There are indeed pity-worthy things I’m encountering. And there is much about me that is joy-worthy too.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
[Psalm 139:7-10, 13-14]
The day before my daughter was born, I struggled with how to process this imminent change. My identity feels in flux once again. God, who am I before You? More than my role or season of life. When all that is taken away, who do You see?
A tiny soul, quivering, unsure of herself but beautiful to You. Somehow.
Me without all the things I do or how I try to be – maybe even without my personality. Lord, tell me who I am. I like to curate myself, to craft my persona to be attractive and admirable, but I don’t need to. You have already made me who I am.
You made me pregnant; you facilitated the birth. You made me a mother, you made me a writer, a maker, an admin assistant, an admissions counselor, a soccer player, a plant lover, a cat owner, a great secret-keeper, a wife, a friend, a procrastinator, a melancholic, an easy-sleeper, a fall-fearer, a quiet-person-who-can-laugh-loudly, one who fears being really seen, one who fears change, who treasures old things, one prone to self-pity… You can make me whatever You want. I will always be the soul You made. Never constant like You, but always belonging to You. Always a child, adopted, bought.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
I will try to look to God for who I am and all that I need. He is telling a good story.
But being responsible for another human is a weight unlike any I have known. I have much fear.
I’m afraid I’m not capable of this.
I’m afraid of always being tired.
I mourn the loss of time with only Andy (my husband).
I’m afraid I won’t get to do the things I want again.
I’m afraid I’ll mess up with my care for Elanor – physically, developmentally, and more.
I’m afraid I will let people down.
The truth is, I am probably not capable.
I may be tired for a VERY long time.
I will have less time with just Andy.
I likely won’t get to do everything I want, certainly not in my timing.
I will mess up Elanor’s care at some point.
I will let people down.
So then what?
What if the worst is true? Am I still myself? Am I still okay? Do I still belong to God? Does He still reign, still love me? Can I trust Him? Can He be enough? Can I let go of the pen as He writes?
I want to learn to describe rather than define myself. I will let Jesus do the latter. I want my daughter to do the same. I have worked hard to refrain from calling her a ‘hard’ baby, or ‘a handful.’ Instead I say that she’s having a hard time or something like that. God made her wonderfully; she is a full person, complete and worthy of love and honor like anybody else. Like me.
Elanor means “God is my light.” You may guess that this was no accident. One of my favourite books, The Tale of Despereaux, teaches that “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning…. Make some light.” [Kate DiCamillo]
Beginnings are often dark. Our world was created out of a void; human life begins in the darkness of the womb. And darkness is all along the way, the valley of the shadow of death. But I’m not one to quit reading before the end. I may not feel it, but I know there is more. I know there will come a day of glory, of fruit on the tree, of green, and the Lord will be our light.
There is nowhere left to go from here
I have fallen past the last frontier
But at the bottom of this well I hear You breathing:
Love below me
Love around me
Love above me
Love has found me,
Love has found me here.
So lay me down… in a field of gold and green.
[Andrew Peterson, “The Last Frontier”]