Weeks away from giving birth to my daughter, I had a super realistic pregnancy dream: Something had gone wrong. I could not carry her to term and survive labor. We’d have to choose between her life and mine.
I did not pose the which-would-you-choose question to my husband, but I had to tell him how surreal the dream dilemma had felt. To my surprise he said, “Without a doubt!” For a second I thought we might share the same answer, until he finished with, “I’d save you.”
I didn’t know then how to say what I felt, that I would not be upset if he chose our unborn daughter over me. (No judgement on anyone who’s had to make hard decisions regarding life-saving procedures!) I appreciated my husband’s reasoning at the time, favoring our plans for a future that included raising subsequent children together. But the dream roused me to the new way I prioritize my needs, comfort . . . even life.
As mothers, we naturally protect our children. From the earliest days of new parenthood, this instinct allows us to die to the desires of our old childless selves and put the needs of our kids first. Some distinguishing moments represent a crossroads between our decisions and reactions before baby’s arrival and now.
The Pregnancy Scare
As soon as we start thinking of ourselves as parents, we encounter the jarring thought that a new life is just as important as — or even more important than — our own.
For me, the moment came around eight-ish weeks pregnant when I had some light bleeding (which turned out not to be problematic). My reaction was to barter with God. I knew I’d beheld a miracle in the lumpy, pulsing peanut shape on my early sonogram. I prayed for a complication-free pregnancy with this little peanut, even if it meant no more babies in the future.
The Interrupted Routine
Baby has arrived, and a whole new “normal” is settling in. Often, that means we face serious disruptions to — if not annihilation of — our old schedules and routines.
One day after my husband returned to work, I got halfway through a shower when the baby woke up early from her nap and started fussing. With a twinge of annoyance, I kept on with my ritual. (She can wait 10 MINUTES while I shave!) As I listened to her escalating wails in the next room, a switch seemed to flip inside me. Compassion flooded my heart for this tiny person, made in God’s image and worthy of respect and dignity (i.e., not left in a dirty diaper or with a growling belly for my convenience). My beauty routine could wait.
The End Of Convenience
As time with a newborn passes, reality dawns that things are just not simple anymore. We quickly miss old ways of getting through the day and other conveniences that are now extinct.
Before giving birth, I envisioned resuming endurance runs with baby babbling happily in the stroller for hours at a time. But my daughter developed eczema, a condition aggravated by sweat and heat. One day, I finally exchanged long jogging stroller sessions for runs on the treadmill at the best time for her — while she dozes comfortably in her crib. The Möbius strip represents to me a tool not of convenience but of torture. I miss the warm sun on my skin, the big blue sky overhead, and the sensation of ground moving under my feet. This compassionate alternative maintains my daughter’s comfort (though sadly not my sanity) during the scorching Texas summer.
The Struggle for, or Relinquishment of, Power
Months into this motherhood thing, baby continues to surprise us with ever-shifting milestones. In the face of these new obstacles, we begin to see how ineffectual forcing her into each new development actually is. And while we still call the shots as the parent, we must die to an unhealthy need for control.
In my case, this occurred with sleep training. On a particularly bad day (when, at times, both baby and I bawled in the rocker), I came to a realization. I wrongly considered her inability to sleep as defiance of my will, and in so doing, made an opponent of her. An obsession with getting her to fall — and stay — asleep robbed me of simple enjoyment of her while awake. She needed an ally, not an adversary, to help guide and teach her. There were more important things that afternoon than a perfect sleep schedule. The fight slumped out of me, and I just held her.
When our daughter was about six weeks old, I revisited the subject of my pregnancy-gone-wrong dream with my husband. I asked if he thought he’d answer any differently. He took a breath, his eyes filling with tears. “That’d be so much harder now that I’ve met her,” he admitted. “I don’t think I could choose against her.”
Of course, I pray that you and I never face such a heartbreaking dilemma. I am blessed to make daily concessions — dying bit by bit to my old self — for my daughter’s good and for the glory of the God who gave her to me.