After having my first baby, I spent the better part of my waking hours with Carson strapped to my chest in a sling. Though tiny, he was quite literally the weight of motherhood; a perfect blend of all-consuming love swaddled with fear and cluelessness.
As days turned into weeks, my perfect, sleepy newborn woke up, and the darling little baby demanded all of my time. Every. Single. Second. Kevin and I would look at each other with glazed eyes and wonder how this soft and squishy little 8.1 pound human, who smelled so incredibly intoxicating, could bring such chaos into our lives. We were mentally and physically exhausted.
Let's be honest, nobody is more plagued by fatigue than a nursing/pumping mother. Also, take into consideration that Kevin has always been able to fall asleep within 2 minutes of his body being horizontal. Or vertical for that matter. He's that guy. So I took on the role of “is-the-baby-still-breathing?” night watchman, and slept only enough to stay in a mediocre state of alertness during the day. I got just enough rest to have the impressive skillset of nursing standing up whilst leaning over the sink to eat something that resembled a meal.
"But Elena," you say,
"You're 52 years old and an empty-nester. What does this have to do with anything?"
This is going somewhere I promise. Stay with me.
I stayed home with Carson while Kevin returned to work juggling unforgiving restaurant hours. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt during this "magical" time of motherhood. Where I once stood perfectly manicured with my adorable belly, prepared with neatly lined rows of diapers and onesies in the changing table drawers, I was suddenly just surviving. I was un-showered, unkempt, and completely unprepared. I was riddled with doubt, but madly in love with this new little bundle. In all honesty, I believe I had a touch of postpartum, but nobody was really talking about it back then.
And this is where "new parent" and my recent experience with "recovery" start to run parallel.
New Parent: For months it was all about this little baby and preparing for his arrival and what to expect.
Recovery: For months is was all about this surgery and preparation for what to expect. New Parent: I saw the office staff so much, they became like friends. They looked after me carefully through check ups and sonograms, making sure all was well so that childbirth would go smoothly.
Recovery: I saw the office staff so much, they became like friends. They looked after me carefully through check ups and x-rays, making sure all was well so that surgery would go smoothly.
New Parent: After Carson was born, I was showered with care and attention. Flowers, cards, meals, and visits gave me time to figure things out. I was feeling confident about my new role as mother. I was tired and sore, but I was getting the hang of it. I was nailing motherhood. Recovery: After surgery, I was showered with care and attention. Flowers, cards, meals and visits gave me time to figure things out. I was feeling confident about my new spine and recovery. I was tired and sore, but I was figuring it out. I was nailing recovery.
New Parent:I think I have a touch of depression from all this change.
Recovery: I think I have a touch of depression from all this change.
New Parent: Lord, please help me have faith to know we’ll be okay.
Recovery: Lord, please help me have faith to know I’ll be okay.
After the baby… and again after the surgery, when friends and family see that I am doing okay, they go they go back to work. Back to life. The world still turns even though I'm not ready. I want to scream, "WAIT FOR ME!" but to my dismay, nobody does. It's like a giant, red FOMO* slushie has exploded all over my new white t-shirt.
Both 27 year old me, and 52 year old me feel an overwhelming feeling of isolation. But looking back to those early days of motherhood, I recall the one thing I had then, that I have struggled with recently. Faith. Yes, patience has been tricky, but more so, faith. Young me has taught older me that I have no choice but to hunker down and work through this experience knowing I'll be okay. Having faith I will be okay.
As a young mother, I HAD to have faith. I had no choice. A tiny human depended on me every single second of every single day. And then another little darling came along... and then another. If I wasn't full of faith as a young mother, I would have been lost. And maybe it comes a little easier when you're doing the thing you've wanted to do your entire life. Motherhood was always on the agenda. The hard days were as much a part of parenthood as the good days, and I welcomed them all. (Even if I did it hiding under my covers when the kids were asking for their 17th glass of water instead of going to sleep.)
With recovery, nobody is depending on me. The nest is empty. Finding the will to 'hang in there' is a little harder when I nobody needs me to step up to the plate. But lately, I am feeling inspired by younger me. In fact, I marvel at her. I am in admiration of all young parents who are out there kicking baby duty butt. Especially those who persevere with a foundation of faith and trust despite the fatigue, guilt, and worry.
Young mothers have a special kind of superpower living deep within... even if they don't know it.
So 27 year old me has taught 52 year old me a lesson. And though motherhood and scoliosis surgery have absolutely nothing to do with each other, I am finding peace recalling the grace I was given during those early days of motherhood. Now all three of our kids are adults, and it turns out we did do okay, despite our level of unpreparedness.
I am keenly aware that time marches on, and though it may feel lonely sometimes, I am never alone. God has this healing thing down, and I have everything I need.
Sometimes younger is wiser. Or maybe it was just that new baby smell?
Kevin and I with Carson, 25 years old, at his Chapman University MFA graduation dinner.
(Sidenote: Kevin deserves a lot of the credit for both young me and older me. He's been on this ride too! I'd be remiss if I didn't include him as a major player in my life. Without him, this would be a million times harder. ) *Oh! and FoMo is "Fear of missing out". I suffer from it regularly.