To say that things weren't entirely peachy in the first weeks of Juliette's life is an understatement. She was lovely - don't get me wrong. Yes, she screamed. (A lot.) She didn't sleep. (At all.) She has, in every way, been a marvel in our lives, from day one to day one thousand.
Though you might not have detected it from the fairly cheerful blog posts I kept up during that era, I was kind of a train wreck.
Motherhood hit me hard. In retrospect, I was clearly experiencing postpartum depression. I was obsessed with what went wrong during Juliette's birth, just profoundly disappointed that I hadn't had the beautiful childbirth experience I'd hoped for. Nursing was painful and frustrating. My anxiety that something could happen to the baby was debilitating. When my back went out, I plumb near lost my mind. I remember bawling my eyes out for what seemed like hours, bewildered by how much pain I was in, how foreign my body looked and felt, how much I loved and feared the child at my breast, how I was convinced that I would never recognize my life or my self again.
This time, I made ice cream on the second day home from the hospital. Ice cream! I did the dishes while I was in labor. I threw my back out again, as I dreaded but expected, because when my three-year-old landed head first on a hard tile floor, nothing in the whole wide world could have stopped me from scooping her into my arms.
The fact is this: I don't recognize my life or self anymore. This motherhood gig has changed me in such profound ways my pre-parenting persona would just stand there dumbfounded if she happened to encounter the mother of Juliette and Genevieve.
(Conversely, I wouldn't step foot in my college apartment kitchen; my younger self barely washed dishes at all, let alone in between bursts of pain.)
That feeling I had that my life was over wasn't entirely false. Life as I knew it was over, and thank God for that. In the three and a half years since Juliette's birth, I've lurched and lunged into an infinitely more fulfilling existence. And I don't just mean the emergence of my latent domestic side or even the expansion of my capacity to take care of others, though those are significant. My marriage, which once seemed plagued with a sickness unto death, was restored to a far greater health than we had ever known. My faith, which once sounded like a hollow wall if you knocked on it, crumbled, and on those broken pieces a lasting foundation was finally constructed.
Oh, and: I wrote a book about it.
I've been a little panicky about the publication of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family. Though the book shares the same name as my blog, it's not a repackaging of blog posts. The manuscript addresses stuff I haven't touched on the internet. I'm not used to feeling so vulnerable. But in these last few weeks, I've thought about the book quite a bit, and it dawned on me: that book is partially why I'm doing so well right now. It put the hard-learned lessons and God-given graces into writing. I can't forsake the changes or deny the truth; I have written proof.
There's a distinction I want to make. The process of writing is therapeutic to many people. I won't go so far as to say that writing isn't therapeutic for me. It is, though the healing factor is abated by how hard I work to string words together, and how keenly aware of the audience those strings of words might reach. (There's a reason I'm a blogger, not a keeper of private journals.)
Here's the distinction: what seems so helpful to me all of a sudden about the book I wrote last year isn't that I wrote it; it's what I wrote. There are observations about childbirth that help me chill out when - once again - things didn't go exactly as I'd hoped. There are reflections about anxiety that remind me to Be Still and Know That God Is God. And last night, when lack of sleep and stress were starting to wear away at our capacity to love one another well, a soon-to-be-published manuscript compelled me to walk downstairs and apologize.
If what I wrote about the beautiful changes in my life - in our lives - continues to help me... maybe it will help other people, too.
That would be great. Downright peachy, in fact.
~ ~ ~