becoming four

Apparently having a newborn and a 21-month-old is no joke. I mean, not that I thought it was going to be easy, but – surprise – it’s harder than I imagined. And I have quite the imagination.

I’ve started at least a dozen blog posts since Hannah Grace was born (four weeks ago today — probably longer by the time I publish this post), but they have all been in my head. I did actually start one, but typing with only my left hand while holding a sleeping infant in my right didn’t allow me to get very far, and I probably fell asleep, was clobbered by a toddler, had to feed the infant, and/or other things before I could write more than six sentences anyway.

Also, I’m not sure if I managed to save those six sentences.

I debated dictating my posts, but wasn’t sure Siri could handle it. (Additionally, this debate took place in my head, since I rarely talk much to anyone over the age of 21 months.)

We are now a family of four, and in becoming a family of four, a change occurred. I lost our family of three. And, friends, I suck at change. Good change, bad change, inevitable change – all of it.  

Hannah Grace was born – a miracle, beautiful, healthy, strong. And quickly! For the first two or three or seven days (I forget, honestly), everything was a hazy blur. Family in town, friendsHannah Grace 1 visiting. My son happily spoiled and HG appropriately doted on and cooed over. I was preoccupied with healing and feeding and trying to sleep a lot during the day to make up for the lack at night.

But when I started to emerge from that first week or so, I realized that I was sad. Oh no, I thought. Here it comes, post-partum depression. I WILL NOT be depressed. NO. And so I ignored it. I continued to accept meals, write thank-you’s, shop for new clothes (another difference between first and second pregnancies), order more diapers online (that’s how we do it in New York). My husband was away working for a few days and my delightful parents and then sister were in town to help. I am eternally grateful.

But I started to crave our familiar family routine – or what little of it we had as a family of musicians/writers/freelancers. I desperately missed the patterns of life that we had established. And then I realized that even when my husband came home, we would not return to that life. We were now four.

Three was no more. I always wanted my son to have a sibling and always dreamed of having a family of threedaughter. But suddenly the reality of this – and the loss of our family of three – devastated me. I looked at pictures of the three of us, smiling into the camera, and I cried. I looked at my daughter – the sweet babe that others exclaimed over and whispered sweet nothings to – and felt nothing.

I did not have an impulse to kiss her head or cuddle her or spend long hours rocking her in the rocking chair when a feeding session was over. I loved her by doing – by feeding her and changing her diaper and burping her and protecting her from her overly zealous big brother. But I felt nothing.

So after each feeding, I passed her off to the nearest family member, settled her in her bouncy chair, or swaddled her and put her back in the crib and turned my attention to my son. Or my to do list.

When Jacob was born, time stood still. I was on maternity leave from my job – three months of vacation, with no expectations, no assignments, no nothing. I loved Jacob immensely, immediately. I enjoyed the time. I spent hours in the rocking chair.

But this time, it’s different. This time, the projects are ongoing, the deadlines are imminent, concert dates are quickly approaching. There is no “time off” from viola, from writing, from diaper-ordering, or from my extremely energetic toddler. Everything demands attention, now.

I mostly feel completely overwhelmed. I have no idea how I am going to get anything done, ever again.

And this time, we became four.

And I miss being three. I miss the freedom, the familiarity, the sweetness of mornings alone with my son, the feeling that – even though it was hard – I knew how to do it. This – four – is new territory.

Why didn’t someone tell me it was going to be like this?

I spent several days trying not to cry. Just keep going. Keep doing. Don’t think.

Then my husband came home and I cried for an entire day. Or maybe several.

My counselor told me that maybe I was depressed. But it was probably also the hormones. I cried. Hormones, she said again. She’s a mother of two. She knows. I shook my head. What’s wrong with me??? I wailed. I can’t handle the change. I miss everything. I miss my family of three. I miss my job (the one I left TWO years ago. This is not new change). I hate my life.

HORMONES. She said it again.

This is the hardest time, she reminded. God will give you enough grace for each day – and that’s all you need. He gave his people just enough manna in the desert for them to get through each day. No surplus, just just enough.

A few days after that conversation (a few weeks ago now), a friend sent me this:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2. She had written about the unfairness of certain times in her marriage, and the unfairness of the cross. How the world’s pattern is to keep score, to focus on the fairness (or lack thereof), and to feel justified in our anger when things aren’t fair.

But it’s not about things being fair. God holds us to a higher standard, she wrote. We are allowed to be hurt and angry, but we are also called to forgive and to love. Because God loved us first. Because vengeance isn’t ours, but His. Our lives are not about seeking our own comfort. But if we seek Him, and live for Him, and forgive as He forgives and love as He loves, we will be comforted.

I realized that I had allowed my heart to fill with bitterness and resentment. I want things to be fair, and when they aren’t, I allow myself to wallow in my “justified anger.” My husband can sleep through the night. Other families live in the suburbs and have cars and backyards and those moms aren’t filled with anxiety about how to get their two kids on the subway and go anywhere alone with them EVER AGAIN.

This wallowing and focus on all the unfairness had been contributing to my sadness, to my negativity, to my depression – post-partum or hormonal or whatever – and allowing my entire perspective to become negative.

I realized that I had not been focused on loving, and I had certainly not been seeking God’s will or comfort – I had been listening to worldly voices that told me that life should be comfortable. Life should be fair.

I was not seeking a transformation of my mind. I was seeking justification for my exhaustion.

Then a friend sent me 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I had been trying to pray for weeks, but had no words, no attention span, no ability to concentrate. I always ended up falling asleep, daydreaming, worrying about To Do’s, answering my son’s questions (or his not-really-questions, since he doesn’t actually talk).

I read those words and thought, Yes. Those words are for me. Grace. For the hard times. For the love I don’t feel but instead do. For the tears and the grief and the loss and the madness of Why do I feel like this? Why can’t I enjoy this time? Why can’t I feel the love?

Lately, I’ve been reading those words, repeating them to myself many times a day. I don’t have the brainpower for more. I don’t think about them, or talk to God about them, or do anything else. I just read them. Over and over. And let them sink in.

And after I read them, I remind myself: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Last night, I kissed my little girl’s head. I whispered sweet nothings when her little legs curled up towards her tummy with gas pains and I sat in the rocking chair with her for an hour when she finished eating.

Of course I am still overwhelmed when I think of the future with these two little ones, of getting through another evening routine alone (whoever decided that concerts, ballets, operas, and Broadway shows should happen at night was clearly not a mother), of facing another winter. I have no idea when I’ll be able to write again (this post alone is a major miracle), when I’ll shower next, or how I’ll practice viola regularly enough to take an upcoming audition. I have no idea how to do this.

But, friends. Grace. And transformation.

These words are my prayers.

family of four

photo credit: Katie Markquart Photography

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14 Comments

Filed under depression, god & faith, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

14 responses to “becoming four

  1. Andrea

    Yes…to all that you wrote. Grieving is good and normal. Feeling deeply is God given. Sometimes one verse was all that got me through a day, saying it over and over again like you are doing. Going from one to two is definitely harder than one can imagine. No wonder anxiety became a problem emotion for me! Plus with my son’s heart condition and surgeries. Thank you Leah for sharing your heart with us. So real and true. You are amazing! Keep clinging to our Jesus! with love, Andrea

  2. Such honesty you share. There is definitely a grieving process that comes with change. The months following the birth of a baby can be so difficult. We take it one diaper, one feeding, one sleepless night at a time, and before we know it, we can look back and see how God was there with us the whole way, his grace covering us.

  3. Sarah

    You are so brave and your words are so beautiful! The Psalms are full of prayers of lament, followed by songs of praise. God never meant for our lives to be easy, but His strength is made perfect in our weakness and we will, eventually, sing His praise!! He loves you and you have a community who loves you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

  4. So raw and so real. Love you. Keep hanging on. More than a conqueror.

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  7. Jessica

    I just copied a portion of this to keep with me on my phone. I struggle mightily with my sense of “justice”, have grappled unsuccessfully with it and how to make my heart feel what my mind knows I should feel. When I read this my heart stirred and I know that a portion of my heart-understanding has been unlocked. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad the post spoke to you — and helped you to understand something about yourself!! it is SO hard to realize that “fairness” can be such an idol, and isn’t something at all from God…even when it *feels* like it’s so right for things to be fair, or equal, or just.

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