My morning had been horrendous. I had spent the majority of it fighting my toddlers to get ready. As we ran out the door I realized I had no lunch, the boys didn’t get their teeth brushed, and I didn’t have Bear’s glasses in hand…again. I quickly ran back into the house and searched high and low as fast as possible with absolutely no luck. I now had no glasses AND was late.
As the tears quietly ran down my face on our drive to daycare, I was hit with a sudden realization: the yoke of motherhood is a heavy one.
As soon as we discover we are pregnant, the weight begins. Not only do we gain physical weight as our bellies swell bigger, but the weight of taking care of our babies starts to seep in before their arrival. The finances. The sleepless nights. Maternity leave. With all the joy and exhilaration we feel, we are also weighted with the nagging of worry. Will they be healthy? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t handle this?
As soon as we deliver, they are immediately rushed to our chests. With that breathtaking first cry we feel the weight of their tiny bodies in our arms. For a moment, that may be the only weight we feel. The only one that’s pressing at the time. But it isn’t long before the weight of our new role envelopes us like a weed allowed to grow wildly without restraint.
Doctor appointments. Breastfeeding or formula? Co-sleeping or own crib? Is it too hot for a long-sleeved onesie? When can I bathe them? What does this cry mean? The list fills our minds. Some women in all of this experience the darkness and excruciating weight of postpartum. For those blessed enough not to, the weight still remains.
And let’s not forgot the weight of judgment. Isn’t that where so much of the weight comes from? The looks we get. The comments. You know just as well as I do that no matter what choices we make, regardless of who contributed, we take the hit no matter what. No one ever looks at a dad and judges them. In fact, if we see a father out with a child the first thought is typically “Oh wow look at him! He is so involved!” He is praised even if the child has peanut butter smeared on her clothes or the boy’s hair is long and wild, desperately needing a trim. Dads don’t carry the same weight we do.
It just continues as they grow. It is relentless and we are always trying to lose it. To shake it. To do whatever we have to do to NOT add a few extra pounds here or there. The worry is incessant, and the weight continues to attach its tiny hooks in us, like a vine out of control. Even if we can lose a bit of it, it typically just displaces, and we still are never the same. While it shifts and grows or recedes, there is still a part of it that is always with us. If nothing else, we are left with crackled stretchmarks as a constant reminder of the weight we once had and a memory of that weight in our arms. We don’t look the same. We don’t act the same. And our hearts are certainly not the same.
As we drove that day, I was immersed in this weight we carry. I even told my husband that while he was the one who let Bear take his glasses off in the barn while playing, I was the one taking him to preschool. It would be MY fault he was coming without his glasses. No one would think for a second that Dad had faltered. It always falls on our shoulders, and it can be exhausting. It’s our weight to carry.
I wish that there was some way to shed it entirely. To step out a fresh, new person without the pressure of it hanging over us. However, I honestly don’t think that’s possible. It is the exchange we make when we give life to another. We carry the weight of this tiny person and continue to do so as they grow. We rejoice when they make good choices, and think for a moment we must have done ok. We are devastated when they make poor choices and know we should have been better somehow. The weight remains no matter the circumstance.
In all of this, the only two words I can lean on to help bear the load are grace and thankfulness. Grace for the ones who judge us. Grace for our husbands who are doing everything that they can. Grace for those beautiful babies when they (and therefore WE) are having a rough day. Most importantly, grace for ourselves. Grace for the bodies who carried the babies. Grace for the exhaustion and allowing ourselves space to breathe when we need it. Grace for every decision we make for them, regardless of if it was the right one, because at the time we were doing our very best. Grace to focus on the moment in front of us and for a time let the worry fall by the wayside. And above all, thankfulness. Because honestly: the weight is a gift. We may not always feel it, but it’s a very precious gift given to us because we could bear it. It is meant to mold us and shape us and to make us stronger. Our children were perfectly paired to us, no matter if we feel we can handle it or not. Some women are never allotted the gift of the weight we carry, and instead, carry a weight inside them that doesn’t come with kisses and giggles and “I love you’s.” That night when I laid in bed thinking of it, this messy, difficult, exhausting but beautiful all-consuming weight, I realized I was made for this. I can carry the weight after all.