I’ve always been a perfectionist and an overachiever. In fact, I came out of my mama’s womb 6 weeks early; everything was fine, I was just ready to go. Through all my formative years, getting things done efficiently and exactly the way I wanted to was always the priority.
Of course, it was no surprise to anyone who knows me that when I became pregnant with my first child, I was already one step ahead. My name list was ready for my husband to look over, my registry was done within two days of conceiving, and my complete birth plan took about a month to get put together exactly the way I had always dreamed of.
I took my prenatal vitamins, did prenatal yoga, drank that nasty tea they say helps your cervix open, choked down dates three times a day, and did my darndest to make sure that wee one was okay. I was prepared for a homebirth and ignored everyone asking me why I was still pregnant at 42 weeks. I just KNEW that everything was going to be okay, because this is what I was made to do… right?
Never once did I doubt this truth I had embedded into my thinking. Never once until I had been in labor for 36 hours at home, my water still intact, and writhing in pain so terrible I couldn’t move any part of my body. The midwife checked – I was fully dilated. For 4 hours I forced myself to push, but nothing was happening. No descension, no water, no baby.
So, I did the unimaginable. Instead of continuing in hopes that nature would take its course, I gave up and I asked my husband to take me to the hospital. As I signed the waiver form to get a c-section, a little part of my heart died. That dream of a beautiful, natural, homebirth was shattered. In that moment, I didn’t care. But I had no idea the journey that was ahead of me.
Afterwards, I did my best to hold it together. To make up for the loss I felt from my son’s birth, I worked extra hard on everything else. I breastfed through black nipples and a baby who couldn’t latch. I pretended I was okay through a bad case of the baby blues.
I followed all the rules that a perfect mom would, and I made sure that everyone who took care of him abided by those rules as well. I was burnt out. I was completely relying on my ability to keep things together, and my stress level had shattered the roof.
After four months of trying to keep up this perfect mom facade, two horrible things happened. First, my doctor told me that my son was starving, and I needed to change something. He didn’t care what, but exclusively breastfeeding was not cutting it. The tears after that appointment were unreal. I was furious with my doctor, blaming him for everything. I chose to not believe what he had to say and assured myself my baby was fine.
The worst part of this was that a week after that appointment, I was scheduled to have a serious surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my pancreas, which also included removal of my gallbladder, and parts of my small intestine and stomach. I had hoped that my son’s 5-month checkup would go smoothly and that the doctor would be proud of my parenting skills (which had been the case at every appointment before). I didn’t want to have anything to worry about during my surgery, but now my concerns were doubled.
Though my world seemed to be crumbling, I was determined to make things work. I told everyone that I would be able to breastfeed through my surgery – no problem at all. I had no idea that I wouldn’t be eating or drinking for over a week, that I would be on the most narcotics possible, and that I would be dehydrated from lack of IV fluid. I was pumping through my pain every 2 hours at the hospital and making a total of about 3 ounces a day. My son was eating 30-40 ounces at my mother’s house.
It all came to a halt one night in the hospital when my mom called me. I was angry because she was feeding him so much while I was making so little. We got into a very bitter argument, and I lost it. All this time I had been trying to follow these rules that made me feel like I had it all under control. I was telling myself it was for the good of my son, when it was just to make me feel like I had achieved this “good mom” status.
The next few months were unbearably difficult. I quit breastfeeding and my 6-month-old went onto formula. The guilt from that decision wore on me heavily, but I knew that I didn’t have any other choice that was healthy for the both of us. My baby spent so much time with other people because I was unable to care for him properly at that time. The loss of that precious time with him was wearing on my soul, and I struggled to stay afloat during that season.
But, as my body healed, so did my soul. Life went on and I got better, and things became more stable. One evening I was hanging out with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years. After a few hours of watching my family, she made a comment that really hit me.
She said, “I was really curious if you would be an insanely strict mom, or a super relaxed mom. I honestly had no idea which way you would go. But you’re so chill! I love it.”
This comment hit me in the gut. I suddenly realized that she was right – I could have gone both ways. And at the beginning of my motherhood journey, I was the first. I was on my way to being a control freak. I would have been a mother that my kids wanted to run away from and hide their lives from.
But then God wrecked that. He honestly saved me from myself. I wanted a perfect birth. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted everything to be perfect and go my way, from how much my son was fed to how he was dressed, and everything in between. None of those things happened the way I had expected. But the crazy thing is, that my life is beautiful and wonderful and those things not happening exactly how I wanted them to didn’t ruin anything.
Today I look back, and there are some tears that are shed every time I think back on those experiences. My expectations and hopes were shattered, and it was hard. But through it all, God taught me in a very deep way that I am not in control. I always knew that truth in my head, but my behavior didn’t follow through with that way of thinking. I always tried to control situations as much as possible, even to the point of anxiety attacks.
The person I am today: the mother, the wife, the friend, and the daughter, is different than the one I was before these events occurred. The panic, depression and stress were all a result of me believing that I could be in control and that I knew the best way.
I have found so much freedom and joy in letting those things go. I’ve realized that those trivial things are, in the end, completely futile. Before, my anchor was in my own ability to control my circumstances. When I couldn’t do that, I felt like I was lost at sea – no stability or safety. Today, my anchor is in the Lord’s ability to provide and orchestrate it all. When my anchor lies there, it will never be moved, and I always be in a place of safety. My only job is to rely on that anchor, regardless of the storm.
So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.Ecclesiastes 11:8,10 ESV
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.Psalm 112:7
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,Hebrews 6:19 ESV
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.Proverbs 19:21
More About Britta
Britta is a stay-at-home mom to her one-year-old son Sam. She enjoys writing, cleaning, and helping her husband Niel with his responsibilities as a youth pastor. They live in the rural midwest and enjoy spending time together as a family.