Over the past year or so, I think I felt like all of my blog posts needed to be wrapped up in nice packages made of hours of editing and fancy PicMonkey title images. That’s just not where I am right now. But here’s to getting back to blogging like I used to in the old days when I started Humble Handmaid: posting pictures of my gorgeous baby boy and writing about what I was going through as a new mom. Here goes…
Just shy of six weeks after having my fourth baby, and two weeks after starting my second homeschooling year, I am fighting this growing season of my life pretty hard at times. Much of the time, I’m doing okay. I promise. But there are these intense moments of tears and frustration with the tiny people I am with all day. Their little selfish moments and temper tantrums are so very often just a mirror to my own. And sometimes, when all four children are occupied or sleeping by some miracle, I find myself just walking around in circle in the house. I look at usually page-long to-do list with only one or two things checked off the list, and discouragement is a frequent temptation for me. I know that my to-do list items will get done in time. (And please don’t tell me to “let the house go for a while.” I’m not attempting to dust the fans right now, trust me.:-)
I’ve been so reassured by advice from St. Jane Frances de Chantal: “Do what God is asking of you in this moment, and leave the thought of all the rest to Him.” I put this quote up on my kitchen chalkboard so that I read it every day. It gives me peace to recall it when, for example, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to spend 45 minutes nursing and changing and rocking the baby. I guess God could be asking me to do harder things than cuddle with the cutest baby boy on the block, though.:)
Things on the marriage front have been a little strained at times lately, too, but that’s another good thing about it being my fourth rodeo and all: I can remember that it was like this after all three of the previous babies. I think that a major cause of difficulty in any postpartum season is growing as a couple. More is asked of both spouses when a new baby comes home. More giving, more patience, more understanding. It’s not so much “getting back to normal” as surviving until you slowly create a new “normal.” And add what Michael calls my postpartum “hormonal rage” to the mix, and things can get messy. (And why yes, we may have had a heated argument solely about this new vocabulary term of his and how I thought it was entirely offensive and inaccurate and how he thought it was quite the perfect way to explain things.) 🙂
I also think that spouses often don’t react to a growing season the same way: the timing and the manner in which they grow through it is going to be unique to them. It’s interesting to sort of zoom out even on the past few weeks since we brought Roman home, and to realize that there have been situations where Michael and I have flip-flopped being patient while the other one was struggling. Infuriating or hurtful and confusing in the moment sometimes, but beautiful to think about when you look back and see the grace of the sacrament working on each of you like that.
So yes–my life lately has thrown enough at me to make anybody feel a little stress-paralyzed (and yep, that’s a thing). I have handled some things well at times and fought other things not-so-well at times.
I am fighting through the hard times in this season in some positive ways, though, too. All in God’s mercy.
I am fighting with prayer. Not a picture-perfect pre-dawn Bible study, but many moments throughout the day returning to the presence of God and asking Him for help or thanking Him for a little mercy He helped me notice.
I am fighting with rest. Naps if at all possible. Going to bed at a reasonable time. I know that I quickly turn into a hot mess when I don’t take care of myself.
I am fighting by praying with my husband every night, even if it’s one Our Father, and even if I’m desperately tired or angry.
I am fighting by praying with at least one Bible verse every day, even if that Bible verse is found via a teary Google search of “encouraging Bible verses for mothers of newborns.”:)
God has been so good to me, though. I speak of fighting, but there has been so much receiving of grace lately! I feel like I need to shout from the rooftops about all of His little mercies to me. I feel almost a wee-bit guilty about going on about my struggles when He’s been so generous in sending me people and things to help me through them. We’ve had many friends and family reach out to us with such kindness! Food, grocery runs, babysitting, gifts, sweet notes of encouragement. For example, my sweet neighbors have send their little twelve-year-old over several times to play with the kids for me. One afternoon, she did my dishes and folded my couch-full of clothes before she left (while I napped). I know. Not to mention her parents have sent over not one, but four huge meals for us. She came over to help yesterday afternoon, actually, and it was admittedly a little crazy in the house. The baby cried a lot, and the kids bickered a lot, and I got dinner on the table late because I had to keep stopping to calm the baby or discipline a child. I think she must have gone home and told her parents I was struggling, because she came over with two great big pots of spaghetti and gumbo this afternoon.
Hence this blog post.:)
We have had much help offered to us, yes, but I’ve also been fighting this season of life by asking for help. By taking people up on all those genuine offers to call “if you need anything.” Why yes, a meal would be great–and next Wednesday or Thursday would be perfect. A gallon of milk while you’re at Walmart would be awesome! I could use someone to watch the older three while I get some things done around the house–could you come on Friday morning? It’s tough to ask for help, but I’m getting better at it.
You know, (sort of like this other confession of mine), one reason that at first it was difficult to ask for help is that I don’t want to admit that this is hard. I know that I chose this–or at least discerned an openness to it with my husband. Four children under seven. Homeschooling. Stay at home mom. The smaller, prideful part of me doesn’t want to ask for help. Because there are so many people dealing with terrible things, and my struggle is “just” being a mom. And because a tiny part of me is worried that showing that I’m having a hard time will make my family and friends question my choices like I question myself in tough moments. I want to feel like I’ve rightly discerned everything in my life according to His will. But I’m in one of those seasons where you are reminded that God’s will doesn’t mean smooth sailing all the time.
Discernment seems to have three parts to it: Discernment and a decision, living out that decision obediently and faithfully, then trusting God with whatever happens next. I’m in a trusting-God season. When the baby cries and interrupts homeschool (or my three-year-old pees in the trashcan to get attention, as happened today), it doesn’t mean I should throw in the towel. When I have occasional tension with my husband, it doesn’t mean that my good marriage is on the rocks. When I have a page full of to-do items that don’t get done for weeks, it doesn’t mean that I’ve taken on too much in having yet another baby.
Sure, there are moments lately when it feels like I’m dying and raging and despairing all at once. But I’m doing so well overall. That is the truth. Those hard moments are a dying to self that I’m experiencing. Any self-respecting Christian should agree that dying to self is always a good thing, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.:)
My current growing season’s refining fire consists of children coming out of their rooms during
their my after-lunch rest time, or the inconvenience of a fussy baby while I’m trying to get a meal on the table for hungry children. When I’m not fighting my irritation or tiredness from those things, I feel a kind of indescribable wonder and gratitude at how much I am doing…and how much God must be doing.
Eight years of marriage and four newborn babies have offered me plenty of little growing seasons besides this one to look back on. I have grown up so much. And yet the more babies I hold in my arms, the more I realize how much I am and how much I am supposed to be “one of these”: just a little child in my Father’s arms.
I just love reading blog posts that are like this. I miss reading blogs like I did in 2006-2009, when no one was trying to sell me anything or edit their pics to the nines (or heck, even posting pictures). This is simply beautiful and I feel like I’m listening to you talk on the couch over a cup of coffee 🙂 I also definitely used the term “stress-paralyzed” earlier this week, a phenomenon that happens to me on the regular. Lots of painful, beautiful growth over here too, and learning that I can’t throw an adult tantrum. Thanks for sharing that St. Jane quote, I think it will be a new one for my kitchen post-it note collection.
Erin Franco says
I am sorry that I am just now replying to your wonderful comment…I plead motherhood!;)
“Painful, beautiful growth” is just the right way to describe it.
Erin I could have written this blog post myself – or at least in a few weeks, your story will be mine. I’m due with #4 in just a few weeks, my oldest is 6 and we also homeschool. All the emotions you speak of, difficulty with the kids etc and all so much worse when mama is drained and tired. Thank you for your honesty. You are not alone in the struggle and reading the part about your neighbor sending food and their 12yr old brought me to tears! Maybe it’s the hormones 😉 Perspective is everything when you are in the trenches and like you said – you know things will get easier as you evolve Into a new normal. A new routine with an infant. Bless you and your beautiful family and all those offering to help.
All of this!! I can just insert my own name and all these struggles are mine. It is SO true that we feel reluctant to admit it’s hard because of the strong anti-life culture at large. And the whole, “You’re a woman: do it ALL!!! Rah rah!” stuff we hear all the time.
But life all day at home with littles (line are 3.5, 2, 6 month) is mentally exhausting. Along with the physical. Great reminder that we need to ask for and accept more help. Eg- my husband has really been asking me for months to please get a mother’s helper (your 12 year old neighbor sounds AMAZING and where can I get one?!). I’ve been resistant to t because it’s hard to admit I need the help, will have to dip into the budget for it, and (gulp) I won’t be able to control how a helper may care for my kids. But I need one. And our marriage will probably be edit from it as well!!
Great post. Thanks for your vulnerability!!
Kathryn H. says
“Discernment seems to have three parts to it: Discernment and a decision, living out that decision obediently and faithfully, then trusting God with whatever happens next.” Beautifully put, and an important reminder for me! (No PicMonkey necessary, just post those gorgeous baby photos!)
Hi Kathryn! I started at least THREE times over the past few weeks to take a picture of Roman in the beautiful green knitted cap and booties you sent me last year! His head and feet are a little big, though, since he came out at 8.0lbs and has been growing like a weed ever since.:/ Every time I see them by his crib, though, I think of you and your kindess.:)
And thank you for the wonderful comment and note:)
Kathryn H. says
Aww! Well, he’s so adorable. After I made your cap and booties set, I decided to increase my sizes so newborns don’t outgrow them in 20 minutes!
Amy @ The Salt Stories says
Erin!!! There is so much sweet wisdom in this honest post. I want to fold it up and put it in my pocket for new encouragement each day.
Erin Franco says
Aww–just my thoughts! Blogging is like a journal of sorts for me. I’m always trying to think, “What am I supposed to be learning here?!” A lot of times I put little thoughts in my Notes app on my iPhone, and then email myself when I have time to write a post.:) Hope you are well, Amy!! How is your baby girl?
Kristy Regester says
What an encouraging post! Thank you for sharing with us your experience and insights!
Erin Franco says
So glad you were encouraged!:) I was a little worried that I came off too negatively in some parts.;) God bless, Kristy!
Kristin Fontana says
Thats the thing Erin, you showing honesty and the truth about how hard it is, is the beauty of this post. Thank you for showing a little of the true “negative” parts and then writing encouragement, grace and hope. I think you wrote it perfectly!!