Labor seems like kind of a negative word. Like, we know it means work, but arduous, intense work comes to my mind. So this Labor Day Weekend I wanted to share my reflections on labor, more specifically, laboring for the other and my battle with laboring joyfully.
The Labor of Motherhood
So being a mom is hard. I’m going to get really personal here, so don’t judge me, mmk?
My husband and I got pregnant with my oldest on our honeymoon. I was only 20 years old. That means that my 21st birthday looked a little different. Yes, there was vomit, but morning (all day) sickness was the cause, not one too many shots. A severe case of preeclampsia caused my son to be induced at 34 weeks gestation. That meant I only enjoyed kid-free married life for less than the standard 9 months. And after a week in the NICU, little Mikey came home. I was so in over my head. The crib wasn’t ready. None of his clothes were washed. I didn’t even get to have a baby shower before he was born (although we did attend the scheduled ones together, which made for a unique experience).
Anyway, my first 6 or so months as a mom were rough. I couldn’t believe how hard it was. How hard life was without sleep. So many thoughts gave me anxiety. What do I do when he doesn’t stop crying? Is he hungry? Why is breastfeeding so hard?
I thought motherhood was supposed to be amazing and fulfilling! Occasionally a little gummy baby smile melted me, reassured me that this mom thing had its perks, but overall I felt duped. And then I felt guilty for feeling this way. All of my other friends were finishing up college; most of them were not even in serious relationships, let alone postpartum with their first baby. I felt like no one really understood.
Then one day I went to confession and confessed my dark secret of how disappointed I was with motherhood. I told the priest how my youth was a pretty easy, enjoyable experience. I mean some things were difficult, but not like this. He told me that it seemed I was unhappy with motherhood because I was still trying to live my life as Stacy Guzman (my maiden name). I was trying to live my pre-marriage life in a post marriage life, and it wasn’t working. So he encouraged me to say goodbye to that life, to have a funeral for the ‘old me’.
It sounds kooky, but that was perhaps the best piece of advice I have ever received.
I literally went home that evening and cried. I reminisced the easier times: the road trips, the sleepovers, the freedom. I thanked God for those times, then I said goodbye to them, to the life of Stacy Guzman. Then my new life of Stacy Halbach could truly begin. Pushing my pre-marriage self aside made so much room for the others in my life. I remember things not only got easier and more peaceful, but I found joy in caring for them, not bitterness like they were cramping my style.
Ready for more honesty? Sometimes pre-marriage Stacy sneaks back in. The bitterness of HAVING to be all the things for all the people in my family gets old. Sometimes I crave the freedom of a single person. I fantasize about a future with my kids out of their needy phase. And when I come back to reality, I have dirty diapers to change, loads of laundry to fold, dinner to cook, and dishes to clean.
So two weeks ago I was pretty bitter. My youngest children (21 month old boy girl twins) have been a lot to handle; tantrums, throwing food, making messes, and clinginess all started wearing me down. And I got angry, and irritable, and I was miserable. It almost felt good to ‘be the victim’. Like, “oh woe is me… I have six kids and they are needy…” or “why can’t I just do this one thing for myself?” or other such thoughts that truly sucked the life out of me and my family. They could all sense I wasn’t happy and it made them feel like they weren’t enough.
Labor of Love (and Joy!)
So then Lisa Schmidt, you know, the founder of The Well, listener to the Holy Spirit, and female friend extraordinaire, messaged me OUT OF THE BLUE a blog post about praying a Litany of Joy. She said that the Holy Spirit had put me on her heart and she hoped that this prayer would be a blessing to me. It was. It helped me to see that I stopped letting the Holy Spirit move my life. I thought I knew what was best for me, what would make me the happiest.
But what I have learned, and will continue to re-learn, is that laboring for the other (kids, spouse, co-workers, friends, etc) is what brings me joy, IF I LET THE HOLY SPIRIT HELP ME.
All of us are called to labor: to work for the other. All of us are called to experience true joy in service of the other. Most of us serve our families because that’s just what we do. It’s our job to do the things. But the opportunity for joy comes when we invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of that service. And the Litany of Joy that Lisa sent me reminded me of that.
I encourage you to head over to this page and read the Litany of Joy for yourself. And I hope you will remember to invite the Holy Spirit into your laboring this weekend and always. And I hope you will find joy.
Copyright 2020 Stacy Halbach