Birthdays and Identity

My oldest turned 5 years old today.

That is hard to believe. The same kid who’s pregnancy had me in fits of excitement, fear, joy, depression– pretty much all the emotions– and whose delivery lasted 32 hours is now a 5 year old kid, half my height and reading…

I struggled with becoming a mom, moreso with him than any of the other children because he was my first, and motherhood was nothing like anything I anticipated.

All of it was difficult; his pregnancy, his labor and delivery, his infancy- the boy didn’t sleep through the night until… Well he still doesn’t… But he didn’t start making it to 6 hour stretches until he was 13 months old, and by that point, I was already pregnant again with my daughter. Talk about deep in your bones exhaustion!

I struggled with my identity during that period. If I’m honest, it’s still a n issue that creeps into my mind from time to time: who am I? What am I even doing with my life?

I had grieved not having children. When my husband and I were asked when we were going to have children, I winced at the question and stifled tears of indignation; I sarcastically made light of parenthood and claimed I didn’t want or care to have children rather than accept my disappointment at not being able to conceive. But when I finally did get pregnant, I’d been pretending to not want children for 5 years of marriage. In which time I had built up other dreams and goals for myself; higher education, career, other hobbies and pursuits. They padded my fragile ego and kept me distracted. Letting go of those superficial plans was one of the most mentally difficult parts of motherhood for me. It’s not that finishing my bachelor’s degree or maintaining a teaching career would have been hollow, or empty pursuits; just that I had elevated them to a place of priority and reverence to fill the void of motherhood. But once motherhood came, I let go of a lot of those other dreams. To be fair, I was pretty resentful of it and many dreams I held on to while being dragged, kicking and screaming by God into a new calling and sanctification… But I did let go.

I did the only thing I could think of to cope with feeling lost and overwhelmed- I just threw myself into being super mom, and yoga, and any other thing I could think of to take my focus off the severe postpartum depression and anxiety that made me feel ashamed. Motherhood is what I wanted, right? So why was it so hard? Why didn’t it feel like enough? Why wasn’t I able to connect emotionally with my son?

Becoming a mom was nothing like what I expected. I have a lot of regrets over the ways I dealt with things, my emotional distancing, and my immaturity in general during that time. I wasn’t very nice to myself, let alone gracious or compassionate.

But there is something funny in the way God gave me 4 children in quick succession- a redemptive quality to it- like I got to “retake” the test and do better each time.

I remember my son’s birthday as the day my whole life changed forever. Every day got more difficult, but also more worthwhile. For some reason I can’t fathom, the Lord God has trusted me with 4 little souls to tend, and for whom I will be accountable in how I raise them. That is a frightfully heavy load to bear some days. And others, it’s my life’s greatest joy.

I think as a mom, a lot of the difficulty in seeing your babies grow up is being so heavily invested in their success and so deeply moved by their failures- I tend to internalize my children’s successes and failures and I take them all personally:

“That was amazing! They are growing in understanding!” Or “That was a heartbreaking disappointment, how can I help them do better next time?”

And that depth and intensity of emotion and care for another human life other than my own (or my husband) is really hard to wrap my head around. But that pales in comparison to the love my Heavenly Father has for me. “What wondrous love is this, O my soul!?”

But I’ve learned that not even motherhood is my identity; it’s my responsibility, my role, my activity… But my identity is wrapped up in Christ and His sacrifice for me.

Galatians 2:20~ “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

And that takes a lot of the pressure off. Because I’m just an imperfect mom raising imperfect kids in a fallen world. I don’t understand it all. I do the best I can most days, and beat myself up for the days when I skate on my responsibility to train my children in fear of the Lord.

When it’s all said and done, my prayer is that my children don’t struggle with identity crisis like I did; my prayer for my son on his birthday is that he would one day be “reborn” and come to find his identity in nothing other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and learn to rest in Yahweh Shalom.

I love you, Titus. Happy birthday, my son.

2 thoughts on “Birthdays and Identity

  1. Congratulations to you, Eden, and happy birthday to Titus!! I am so jealous because 5 years is THE BEST age ever. And you still have three more times of experiencing it ahead of you. I have only one child, who is almost 16, and, while I am utterly happy not having to plan every day around childcare arrangements, it hurts me very much to think I will never have a cuddly smartass 5 years old creature in my home.
    I totally empathize with the identity issue. I wasn’t working for three years after my son was born and then worked part-time jobs for another six. Looking from the perspective, it was a great arrangement and every second spent with my son in the past and now is worth more than any professional accomplishment or anything really.
    I recently checked my Google Ads settings and found out that Google segmented me as a non-parent. Felt like a sting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that Anna. It’s hard to find that balance and I’m constantly looking to other moms who’ve made it through this stage I’m in now and drawing on their encouragement, wisdom and strength, and it is a huge blessing.

      Liked by 1 person

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