A Beginner's Guide to Parenting // What I Learned in ICU
Being a new parent brings a myriad of emotions--joy, excitement, exhaustion, and fear. I sort of expected all of those emotions, but what I didn't expect was the immense feeling of guilt that came with the job. I'd venture to say there are few things that make you feel like a failure more than the hiccups you face on your parenting journey.
It happens in even the smallest of ways. My son has gas and one time I gave him gripe water, which he then vomited up. I felt so guilty for giving him something that would cause him to do such a thing. And it's not even necessarily what you do and don't do; him having gas made me feel bad because I couldn't make it stop.
This really became apparent to me pretty early on. A few hours before I was discharged from the hospital from giving birth, I began experiencing cramps, nausea, and tiredness. Nurses insisted it was a mix of just having had a baby and my lack of sleep. So, I went home with my husband and newborn son, only to be so depleted that I took a three-hour nap as soon as I got home.
I woke up feeling better and enjoyed dinner that night with my family. However, around 9 PM, I began experiencing severe cramps. Within thirty minutes I went from a level 2 to a level 7 in pain and I knew something wasn't right. I told my husband I needed to go to the ER.
My precious newborn son was lying in the cradle next to our bed. As he looked up at me with his innocent, big blue eyes, I said goodbye to him with tears streaming down my face. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
I spent that night in ER, in lots of pain and running tests to find out what was wrong. I ended up being diagnosed with a rare ovarian blood clot. I spent the next 3 days in ICU, the first half of it away from my son, and in utter disappointment with myself. It only got worse when I found out I could no longer breastfeed due to the medicine I had to go on long-term.
In that hospital room, and in my first week home, I felt such an attack from the enemy. Telling me I wasn't a good mom or wife because I couldn't be there for my son like I should, leaving my husband to carry most of the parenting load. He constantly whispered into my ear what a disappointment and failure I was. To be honest, I felt like my husband and son deserved better than what I could give at that time.
It was a dark place of guilt and condemnation, with my feelings all over the place. But like David had to do in Psalm 42, I had to get a hold of myself. Sitting in that dark place and allowing the enemy to have a voice in my life wasn't healthy or helpful. I had to sort through my emotions.
I encourage you to take 15 minutes and listen to a podcast I did on this experience and how I navigated the emotions. You can:
In that podcast, I shared 4 things I did to encourage myself:
Reminded myself that God's mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Each day God extends to all of us a gift of a new beginning and forgiveness. He wants you to embrace this gift today and every day as you parent!
Know that God uses every decision and mistake for His glory (Jeremiah 29:11). Everything in our life is weaved together for a much bigger plan and nothing you do will surprise God. He'll use you even with all your fails.
His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Embrace your areas of weakness because God's strength can show up there and He will be glorified!
I can cast my cares on Him (Psalm 55:22). Whatever fear, worry, or anxiety you are carrying, you don't have to carry alone. Cast it on Him and He will help carry those cares for you!
As a new parent, you are going to experience a lot of things and one of those is feeling like you don't add up as a parent. Please know that you are not alone and that it's normal to experience those emotions. But don't allow the enemy to tell you you're not a good parent. You are your child's parent for a reason! It's not a mistake that you were chosen to steward your child(ren) and you don't have to do it alone. In fact, please don't! God is with you!