Every week I rave about the power of our guest posts, and today is no exception. Today’s guest, Brittany, comes to us because she read the voice of another guest, on another Friday, which prompted her to want to share her voice. As I reflect on what Just.Be.Enough is, it’s that inspiration we get from one another that’s what this site is all about.
Brittany writes at Little Mountain Momma and is “a big city girl at heart.” Two years ago her little family of three packed their lives into a giant, yellow moving truck and left the big city for a new life near the mountains. It has been a wild ride, to say the least.
While unpacking boxes after a recent move, I stumbled upon our family Christmas card from several years ago. It was one of those Christmas cards that people love to hate. The family plastered all over the card looks too perfect. Too happy, really. My husband has his arms wrapped around me and we’re both staring dreamily at the tiny baby cocooned in my arms. The Chicago skyline is looming behind us and Lake Michigan is surrounding us on both sides. We do look happy. I’m sure everyone who received our cards that year thought we were. At least that’s what I wanted everyone to believe.
You see, I’ve spent most of my life trying to maintain the perfect image. If I looked like I had it all together to everyone else, then I could certainly hold it together for myself. For me it went something like this:
Marry your junior high sweet heart: Check.
Find a home in a big, beautiful city: Check.
Graduate college: Check.
Find a good job: Check.
Run a marathon: Check.
Oh yes, and somewhere in between all of those other things make friends (but only hold them close enough so that they can see the good parts of your life): Check.
It seemed as though I had the art of “perfectionism” mastered.
And then the baby came along. Suddenly my perfect little image didn’t seem so maintainable anymore. Everything I had counted on seemed to spiral out of control. So when I say that we looked happy in that Christmas card, I’m sure it was true. In reality though, the woman in that photo was falling apart. It was only a matter of time before that perfect image would be shattered.
For starters, we had planned an entire pregnancy around a “normal” delivery. Then our doctor discovered very late into the pregnancy that our daughter was breach. After multiple attempts to force her to turn, she was born a c-section baby. I believed nursing would be a beautiful bonding experience that would happen naturally and seamlessly. Instead, it ended up being a six-week-long hellish tug-of-war between baby and me with my poor husband responding as the helpless mediator.
The worst came about a week after delivery. I had never heard of or been educated on postpartum depression. About a week into our new life together, I began to believe I had made a mistake. All of the new and unfamiliar motherhood experiences that I couldn’t seem to get the hang of or perfect seemed to point to the only obvious conclusion: I was never meant to be a mother. I wasn’t good at it and it should have never happened. Never mind the fact that, as a woman of faith, I believe that God is the ultimate provider and that He, in his perfect wisdom, chose the exact time and place in my life for me to become a mother. I was absolutely convinced there had been some huge mistake in granting me the role of motherhood.
Mackenzie’s birth sent me into an 18-month downward spiral of self-hatred and doubt. I despised that I couldn’t be perfect. I hated that I had spent 23 years making myself into the type of person that couldn’t admit imperfections. Perhaps, had I not built up this pre-baby persona, my post-baby journey could have been made easier by the help of friends and family. But I had created a monster and I had to live with her.
Through all of the sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days I walked the road of PPD feeling very alone. When the baby was cried, I wondered why I wasn’t enough for her. When the she was sick, I blamed myself and my inability to keep her healthy. When she didn’t sleep through the night for the first year, I beat myself up for being the only mom at playgroup with a child who couldn’t self-soothe. I looked at myself and I saw failure.
I recently stumbled upon Just.Be.Enough, where I discovered a guest post written by fellow blogger Jenna Farelyn entitled From Broken and Damaged to Beautiful. The inspiration for her guest post came from Barbara Bloom’s quote that says, “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
Jenna writes that this process of Japanese aggrandizing so perfectly parallels with how we as humans are made more beautiful after being damaged and broken by life. As I read her words, I was mesmerized by the insight. We fall and we crumble and we try desperately to get back up. In the midst of our humility and brokenness, our cracks are filled with depth and knowledge and beauty that otherwise would have been lost. We are aggrandized and made lovelier than we ever imagined possible.
I strongly believe that beauty can come from chaos and that redemption can come in the midst of pain and suffering. I’ve often wondered to myself why suffering has to be debilitating. Can it not be something bigger than causing us to stop dead in our tracks, refusing to move forward? As grit-filled and humiliating as my journey has been, it allowed for one of the most healing and transforming experiences to take place. I once walked with my held high in pride and false security but all the while I was secretly dying inside. I now hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection. I practice living intentionally and honestly about my struggles and shortcomings. I’ve seen how freeing and rewarding this lifestyle can be and, in the end, I have more grace for myself and others because of it.
My life is in no way perfect. My daughter may look like an angel with her white-blonde hair and big blue eyes, but she can throw a mean grocery store temper tantrum. She’s smart as hell but I thought she would never get the hang of potty training. I can’t for the life of me seem to keep her scraggily bangs out of her eyes. My kitchen sink seems to be an endless pit of dirty dishes. At the finish of most days I dust the Cheerios off my couch and pass out on it in complete exhaustion. I still struggle daily with bouts of anxiety and the need to look like I’ve got it all together. And yet somehow, in my heart of hearts, I know that all of this is okay. I’ve surrounded myself with a network of friends and family who remind me daily that I’m a work in progress. And they have yet to bolt on the days when I let loose on them with all of my “bad mom” confessions.
I am imperfect. But I am not a lost cause. I am imperfect. But my life as a mom and as a wife still has meaning. I am imperfect. But I am growing in grace.
This Christmas, I’m sure we will probably send out another photo card. And yes, it will likely have an updated family photo of us plastered on the front. We might even include our giant, furry cat this time around. But this year, the woman in that photo won’t be hiding from anything. She won’t be scared of the child in her arms or of what motherhood has turned her into.
No, this year I’ll look at that card and see how far I’ve come and I’ll remember the journey I took to get there. I’ll see a face of greater wisdom, of life lived and of beauty. Not a face of perfection, but the face of someone who isn’t afraid to face the year ahead. I’ll see the face of someone who knows it is okay to be a little bit imperfect… and is! And in all honesty, I hope others see that too.