Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3
It begins when you look down at your stomach. You envision the life inside of you. The kicks you feel and the response to your movement only connects you more. Every doctor visit, every month, every preparation made all seems as if time is letting you have a glimpse of this exciting adventure. As the days pass, this miracle grows bigger and your love grows stronger. An unbreakable bond is made between you and your baby. You witness every kick, you inspect every stretch mark, you lose to most of the cravings.
I was so eager to meet Haven and hold her for the first time. At the same time, I couldn’t wrap my head around meeting her. I felt I wasn’t prepared enough. Part of me wanted her to stay in my belly just a little longer until I could shake the fear of childbirth and motherhood.
The terrifying, exciting, unforgettable moments of labor begin. The time is finally here. You’ve waited so long. So very long. How will it feel to finally see her? Will she love you as much as you love her?
Before you know it, you’re holding your little one in your arms. A moment you’ve long awaited. This moment seems too soon. This moment seems like it took too long.
Although I was only eighteen years old, I questioned why it took this long for me to have Haven. A part of me wishes I could’ve had her with me sooner. She brought me so much peace that the earlier years of my life seemed meaningless. She became my everything. The moment was perfect. She was perfect. I remember just wanting to stare at her. I could watch her for hours. I examined the curves of her cheeks. Her tiny hand wrapping around my finger delighted me more than anything I’d ever experienced. When she would open her eyes and look at me, nothing else existed.
I had no clue how to change a diaper. All the books and articles I read, none of that was what I referenced in my first days with Haven. It was all motherly instinct. It was all love. All the worry I had and all the fear that took over me was pushed away by her presence. She was the epitome of peace. And suddenly, just like that, I became a mother.
When we brought Haven to our home, the fear crept back in. It was all up to Dalton and me to make sure everything was right. I no longer had nurses by my side to help me when I called. As the days pass, you notice how you identify with being a mother.
I would finally get Haven to sleep and I would take a bathroom break. I would look at myself in the mirror and see that I hadn’t had a shower in days. I never knew you could have bags under your eyes at the age of nineteen. My clothes smelled like baby lotion mixed with spit-up. Then, I decided to look deeper. I decided to lift my shirt and look at my stomach. What I once felt life inside of, was now this squishy mess covered with stretch marks. Who am I? My breasts were sore and leaking and my body was changing in ways I never knew it could. While I realize now how remarkable my body was, at that time I was in complete shock.
I could be a mother to Haven and she remained the staple of peace for me anytime she was around. But, if I ever had a moment alone, I doubted myself. I analyzed my body and my image. With becoming a mother comes taking on a new identity. Your world is suddenly breastfeeding, sloppy clothes, pumping, making bottles, changing diapers, and still trying to find time to eat and sleep. When I would leave to go anywhere, even a quick trip to the grocery store, I had to pack anything and everything in case something went wrong. That left less time for me to do anything other than pull my hair back and put on the first t-shirt and pants I came across. I could feel my self-love deteriorating and overtime, it took a toll. I gave Haven all I had, and left nothing for anyone else, especially myself.
My world revolved around Haven. And let’s be honest here, she does still rule a lot of my world. But, for me to be a great mom and a great wife, I have to take care of myself. I must love myself.
I am a mother. I am a wife. I am Haley. Haley loves to take baths and spend time alone. Haley loves spending time with her husband. If I were not able to have these moments to myself, I would become irritable and unforgiving. What I’m saying to you, mothers, is to love your children AND to love yourself. Take time for yourself. Think of how much you love your little one, and imagine just how much God loves you even more. To put your best foot forward for your little one, you need to be taken care of. Love yourself the way God loves you. Have grace with yourself. Look at your amazing body and appreciate what all it has done!
As easy as it is to identify as a mother, realize you are even more: you are a child of God. That is your identity.
I have stretch marks on my stomach, but those stretch marks once held all of me together so that Haven could grow. I don’t have enough time to make sure I have an amazing outfit or an amazing hairstyle, but that means that Haven and I are dancing while we get ready or she’s learning a new skill like brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, or picking out her clothes. In these little moments, Jesus is everywhere.
When she could hardly hold her head up and she laid comfortably on my chest, I think back to when I was struggling. When life seemed too hard and I would hang my head down in defeat, God had His arms around me. He thinks I am amazing and worthy of a beautiful life. God has blessed me more than I can begin to understand. Mothers, fathers, you are amazing. You are doing an amazing job.