I’m sitting on my bed as our 2.5 year old screams from hers, “Not me, Mama. No nap me, Mama.”
Oh sister. One day you will want a nap. One day I will have a hard time getting you not to sleep in the middle of the day. But this is today and I will spend the next twenty or so minutes typing, eyes wide and twitching while I beckon silence. Silence. Why is it so hard to find? Even when the day draws to a close, and the house is still, silence is scarce. My mind races with lists and systems to structure and secure. There’s laundry to be folded, dishes to be rinsed, toilets to be sanitized, a husband to attend to, text messages to respond to, a calendar to update.
A little over a year ago, I legitimately thought I had a brain tumor. Well, I’ll back up a bit. About five months after our first was born, my limbs all went numb. No warning signs or symptoms, just all of the sudden, I lost sensation in my hands, up to my elbows, and in my feet, up to my shins. It was terrifying. After some physical therapy and an MRI of my neck, there was no clear diagnosis and I was told it was likely to go away. And it did. Fast forward through two more pregnancies, one of which laid me out with awful sciatica (is there a non-awful version of sciatica??) and kidney malfunction, here I was, finding myself again with numbness in my extremities. This time, however, I was also feeling it in my head, experiencing memory loss, behavioral changes and extreme food sensitivities. After months of tests and an MRI of my brain, I was told that it was likely stress. The big “S”.
As the neurologist explained my normal MRI and asked about my current level of stress, I was tearfully relieved but oddly felt like he was missing something. Stress couldn’t cause all of this, could it? I thought back to my last few weeks of college as I crammed a 30-page ethnography paper while memorizing cultural structures for Humanities and Old Testament timelines, deciding where to go for my Masters and when I had to be out of my rental. I mean, that was stressful and no part of me was numb. This, however, did not feel like stress. But he, as well as my chiropractor (and husband, and brother, and parents, and small group) all encouraged me to consider it. And so I have. And you know what? I’m stressed.
It’s taken five and half years for me to recognize that the total dependence of another person (or two or three or four or …) changes what we consider to be normal. It changes how and what we process, and for me, this has been a hard adjustment. I need time to process everything (seriously, EVERYTHING) or I make quick decisions that I later regret. But now I was a mom; a working mom and I had something to prove. I could do it all and be it all and no one was going to stop me or tell me to slow down. Until one day, someone did. There was a mentor mom at our MOPS group who saw this will in me as I volunteered myself for everything at one particular leadership meeting. Without hesitation (or filter) she warned me that I was quickly burning myself out and proving nothing other than pride. Obviously I didn’t listen to her (pride, you say?) and went on my way with 274 items on my prove-it list. Five years later, I look back and think, what a fool I was. Why did I care so much about proving myself as a mom, and who was I trying to convince?
I gave myself unrealistic expectations to perform at a level of perfection, as though that exists. I felt unqualified for the job ahead and sank into what I thought was required. When my darling newborn wouldn’t take a pacifier or a bottle, and she had no interest in adhering to the BabyWise schedule, I felt like a failure. And when the sciatica was so painful and debilitating during my pregnancy with Abby, that I needed help walking and taking care of Izzy, oh how my God humbled me and reminded me then that I needed grace over pride. In the tired mom’s world of constant intervening and food-preparing, nap-scheduling, nursing and bottle-making, cold coffee, butt-wiping, face-washing, wondering if you made the right decision to work or stay home or work part-time, the 8-minute shower while everyone interrupts, deciphering judgement … stress is narrowing in, if it hasn’t already. It did for me and I was too prideful to see it until I literally saw the inside of my head and heard the doc say “STRESS”. It’s real. Backing down from the ledge of crazy expectations, making boundaries to protect yourself and your family, letting go of the idea that BabyWise is the pinnacle for structure, is not a sign of weakness or failure. You’ve got to let that sh** go.
Happy New Year.