Monday, April 14, 2014

A Postpartum Series: Transitioning to motherhood

I know it's been quiet around here for the past month. And honestly, that's what I love about this informal method of blogging. I don't take it seriously enough to where I need to concern myself if I don't have time to write for a season. Thank you all for your grace and understanding that I'm just like you and have periods where time and energy are scarce.

Today I feel very compelled to talk about the transition to becoming a mom, specifically a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). You might remember the big announcement in this post from two years ago that my husband got a job that could support our desire of having me at home. God was so faithful to our desires then, and has continued to be over the past couple years. I would love to share some of what this has looked like for us.

Before October 2012, I worked as a graphic designer in Seattle. Honestly, in the few years I spent working after graduating college I had never enjoyed work very much and mostly dreamed of the day I could retire and head home. This was never a long-term goal of mine though. As far back as I can remember I had just assumed that I would spend my life working a career job and that would be that. But literally the second we got married (shortly after I graduated) a switch flipped and I was ready to have babies and be a mama. I couldn't deny it no matter how hard I tried and it actually ended up being a really difficult season of life for me. I wanted to be home managing our home, taking care of daily chores, bills and shopping, raising kiddos, and feeling like I could have more control over what my days looked like. I hated the feeling of doing the same exact thing every day...sitting on my bum in front of a computer, bleary-eyed from the screen and achy from sitting all day.

God knew my heart through this hard season, and I knew he was the one who put those desires on my heart. He soon honored these desires by allowing us to get pregnant and then a few months later giving my husband a job that could support our family. I stopped work outside of the home a few weeks before my due date in late October 2012 and began my transition to life at home. Obviously, this also coincided with our family's transition to one income. We were living in an affordable rental at the time, had sold one of our cars since my husband could bus to work, paid off my student loans with his signing bonus, and had a few thousand dollars in savings. Truthfully, we were winging it though. We had no budget, nor any idea of what living off one income practically meant. Up until then we had way more than enough money to cover our bills, do fun things and even throw a chunk of money in savings every month. That's not to say though that we had any concept of financially planning for the future.

My first months of being at home were a blur. Aside from imbalanced hormones taking over my body and still being a newlywed, I also had a colicky baby. Life was messy and not very enjoyable. I knew God was near, but I wasn't sure what He was doing through this. I cried out over and over in the most basic ways asking Him to help me. I didn't know what to ask for, but my soul was flailing and so was my marriage. I needed Him to sort everything out. In my devotional one day, I read that I could lean into God as much as I needed to. I hadn't ever heard this before and the visual has carried me through some of the hardest, scariest and most frustrating times since then. I literally picture myself leaning into a pair of strong, yet tender arms, wide open and ready to embrace any time life becomes too much.

This was a dark time in our marriage. I wanted to run away forever so badly. I tried over and over, too. I would get in the car and just leave my family because I couldn't take it—the crying, needy baby, the husband who struggled to understand me and communicate his own frustrations and feelings. I am tearing up remembering just how dark that season was. I wasn't sure I was going to make it through. I was so angry. We had a handful of people walking with us through it, but no one seemed to quite understand. In hindsight, I can see I had almost no postpartum emotional support. This exact season was the catalyst to me opening up this blog again. I want to offer the support to other families that I didn't have. And true to my usual form, that often just looks like being real about life.

"This exact season was the catalyst to me opening up this blog again. I want to offer the support to other families that I didn't have. And true to my usual form, that often just looks like being real about life."

We continued on. Lola began to fuss less, but was still demanding. We saw the real estate market was hot and felt like we needed to jump on a house soon. We put an offer right away on a house, but thankfully God knew what was better for us and gave us hearts to back out. Probably a week later we had a second offer down on a house. It was more than we could afford on our own, but had a rental suite that would cover enough of our mortgage to make it work. We borrowed money from a family member to piece together a down payment and soon settled into our first house.

A revelation occurred shortly after moving in. One day I took Lola outside with me, put her in a baby seat and just started weeding my new yard. I felt like a new person. It was rejuvenating, productive, calming, and the sunlight and fresh air were so nourishing to my body. Soon after, I started passing her off to Arthur the second he'd get home from work and run outside to weed until the sun went down and I needed to nurse Lola before bed (we had—still have—a lot of weeds!). This became my time. I began to thrive again.

Our marriage was still hard. I honestly hadn't thought about work since the day I left. Lola was becoming more independent and a bit less fussy. Our new house had lots of natural light that was like a balm to my soul. I had found gardening to be a good friend. But financially we were very disconnected. I sensed it, but couldn't put my finger on what exactly was happening. I'm going to choose to keep some of the details private, but essentially I was very out of touch with our financial situation. Months passed at this rate and things got worse. I knew almost nothing about our money, where it was going, or how it was being spent. Nevertheless, we bought lots of things for our new house—furniture, lumber and soil for garden beds, gallons and gallons of paint and supplies, a new bathroom vanity, we ripped up the carpets and refinished the hardwoods underneath, a fancy dishwasher and an extra fancy washer and dryer, tools for all our projects, and on and on. On the outside things were looking "good".

Summer arrived and I felt more alive than ever. We sought pastoral counseling at church and left with a new perspective on Jesus' love for us and how that ought to influence our interactions with each other. We began to communicate more humbly and lovingly. God was at work and sorting everything out as I had plead him to for so many months prior. Also, the sun was shining and we could finally spend more time outdoors. Before last spring, I had never realized how sensitive I am to needing fresh air and light.

Over the summer, I learned how to get out with Lola. We did swim lessons at our local outdoor salt water pool that sits mere feet from the Pacific Ocean. I soaked up every minute we were there. We also walked a lot, frequented the city wading pools, splashed at the spray park, met with friends, and ate from our very first garden. I started to feel the postpartum fog lifting. My hormones were still such a force on my body, but most days were manageable.

Life as a SAHM was becoming more routine. I often needed to pinch myself to be reminded that this was real life. And still do! Despite everything else being so hard, I never, ever have struggled with staying at home. I see my husband loving his career and putting in 110% effort, and that's exactly how I feel about my job. It's so easy for me to give it my all because God has given me a heart for my family and home. Sure there are crazy hard days, but I have never once wished I was anywhere else. I'm really thankful for this.

I don't plan to go back to work in a 9–5 way probably ever, but I do hope once the children are all school age to have the opportunity to spend more time being the crafty lady I love to be. Who knows what that looks like. In my first few months of work as a mama I would get all sorts of comments from others about ways I could fit "working" into being a mom. The thing is, being a SAHM is work. I have a job that I love and find completely satisfying. Arthur and I often talk about how staying at home is certainly not the easy route. In fact, it's one of the most demanding and exhausting jobs. My husband, children and home will forever be my first priority. I would hate more than anything to miss out on the opportunity to walk alongside my little people every day. The thought of doing anything else makes me well up. And frankly, with the intensity of my husband's job, I can't even imagine how we'd stay sane if we were both juggling career jobs and daycare.

Toward the end of summer, my husband began to slide into a mind-boggling busy season at work. For months on end he was working 70–100+ hours a week. This meant that any time he was awake he was working. The pressure was on. Not only was he busy, but that meant that I was also extra taxed with everything else that needed to get done at home. I took on everything that wasn't work and began to feel very lonely and angry through it all.

One day at women's study at church I was telling a friend about these lonely feelings and she said she could relate. She told me about times she had felt alone and how God had spoke to her and reminded her that He was her always-helper. She wasn't ever alone, and neither was I. Both of us had all the help we could ever need. While this didn't change my circumstances, this piece of truth often quieted my cries for help throughout this chaotic season, and it still does. I wanted practical help, but I also just wanted my best buddy back.

I remember one specific night being walked to bed to get tucked in for the umpteenth time by my husband and being so furious. I cried and bantered out loud with God hoping my husband would hear how "done" I was. I felt so angry that he was choosing work over family. I cried out from the bedroom remarks about how he didn't care about me and was idolizing work. I eventually lowered my sobs and immediately heard God speak for the second time ever to me: "I told him (husband) to work hard. Now obey me." It was undeniable. I told God "Okay" and went to sleep still angry but feeling confident in His authority over our life and the clear directive he gave me.

"I eventually lowered my sobs and immediately heard God speak for the second time ever to me: "I told him to work hard. Now obey me." It was undeniable. I told God "Okay" and went to sleep still angry but feeling confident in His authority over our life and the clear directive he gave me."

Through all of this, our marriage seemed to be growing stronger, surprisingly. I began learning how to serve my husband sacrificially. I grew in my dependence on the Lord and ability to be less emotionally reliant on my husband. I started going with the flow a little easier, which permeated my whole life. When we argued, by God's grace, we both began to show more humility and grace with one another. I was forced to figure out how to manage the house and our family on my own, a skill I'm grateful for now that he travels a lot. And, most importantly, I began to see God as my helper.

It was also during this time that we became pregnant with Baby K #2—three days after Lola's first birthday. Aside from the obvious elation, I was so scared about being pregnant and taking care of a toddler, all while my husband was hardly available. Thankfully I didn't end up dealing with much nausea at all and was able to keep up with the pace of life. And now, as I'm exhausted and huge, his work hours are much less. Although they'll likely pick up again right after the new baby arrives since fall and the holidays are his busy season.

We began slipping into the colder, darker seasons and I could sense my mood shifting. Lola was also so much more active and wanting me to entertain her. We tried to keep a full schedule, but there were many weeks that we hardly left the house because it was too cold and dreary to do anything else. We started talking about moving somewhere warmer so I could have sunshine all year round. This is still on the table, but we'll for sure be staying put for at least another two years because of Arthur's work obligations. I appreciate the seasons here in Seattle, but four months of wet, dark days stuck inside with a tiny person was really difficult on me.

Also during this time, I finally got in touch with our finances and basically learned we had no money and debt I did not expect. I freaked out and felt completely out of control. But Jesus very quickly quieted my heart with the truth that He is our provider and He would give us everything we needed each day. I really believed it, too! Jesus helped us work through this should-have-been-disaster situation with the tools he'd been teaching us about—grace, humility, and allowing His always and forever love for us influence our love for one another.

Ultimately, we needed help though. Neither of us knew anything about managing money in a way that honored God and needed help getting out of the financial predicament we were in. We weren't in deep water, so to speak, but things weren't how they should be, and we still had no financial plan for our future. I remembered hearing about Dave Ramsey from a few different Christian friends, so we searched him on the internet. Turns out he offered a 10 week Financial Peace University course that was designed for people exactly like us. We signed up and through it learned about God's will for his people and money. We also learned practical things like how to set up a budget, pay off debt quickly, manage money, and prepare for the future. This was a total game-changer for us and highly recommend it.

We finished up the 10 weeks and felt confident. I thought we were unified with a plan, but there ended up being more debt I wasn't aware of. Things were rocky, but God was our Rock. There were so many emotions flying around, but God was unwavering. He wanted me to show that same steadfastness to my husband. So, I told Arthur my desire to do this together, we grabbed hands and proverbially walked forward eager to tackle our debt and get our finances under control. There wasn't even a moment through this season where it wasn't clear to us why God had us here, we could see He was doing something big. It was humbling. All of this was His money and He wanted us to treat it that way. He wanted us to depend on Him, not financial security of our own doing. He was giving us tools for how to be wise with His money and teaching us that we are just stewards of it.

And now, we finally have a plan. We're unified in our goals. We are working so hard to be obedient to what God has called us to, to be debt free. That means everything—credit cards, car loans, student debt, everything except our house mortgage for now—and that's hard to do on one modest income. But we're getting close. We're about to sell our car and downgrade to a less expensive one in order to live within our means. We've paid off all our student debt. Our credit card is almost wiped clean. We stick to a tight food budget that is super uncomfortable most months. Life isn't easy right now, but it's so obviously God ordained.

As for motherhood, there definitely are hard moments, but the truth is that most aren't. My children and husband are such precious gifts whom I genuinely desire to serve and bless, and even though I don't always, thankfully God has more grace for me than I could ever need. Whether a SAHM or career mom, God uses motherhood to teach us love beyond ourself. At least for me, this journey has ultimately been about learning humility, and forever will be, I think. Even through the debt, anger, hormones, confusion, miscommunication, depression, and all the other difficult circumstances we've faced, God has remained so faithful. He's answered the prayers I screamed at the top of my lungs from the car, He's comforted my lonely heart when no one else could, He's loved me in the darkest moments when I've been so completely unlovable, He knows my heart's deepest longings. It's beyond me how I would have made it through this season without Jesus carrying my burdens.

I remember writing about this in one of my posts right after Lola was born. I briefly mentioned that I hoped to someday be able to share what was going on since I couldn't then—I had no perspective, I was right in the thick of it. I'm glad I can now, two years later. It's still a process. Marriage is still very hard. So are finances and life. But I'm maturing. There is so much evidence. Each time I am forced to face a difficult season, things start to feel a little easier on the other side. It's a pattern I see God using over and over. I want to persevere and be steadfast through these seasons because I have just enough wisdom now to know that usually the hardest times produce the most brilliant, juicy fruit that makes the trial so, so worth it.

This was an intimate post for me to share with you, dear friends. I've been waiting for just the right moment to release these stories and words. I'm praying for all you mommies reading this and relating to anything I've said. Transitioning to motherhood has been one of the most difficult seasons for me. And isn't it such a sweet gift to be able to look back and see growth—in us, our children, our marriage, in relationships, in life circumstances that never felt like they'd change, in our understanding of God's goodness? I think so.

More from our Postpartum Series:


  1. Wow, Kelsey, that sounds really intense. The whole time we were in PEPS I had no idea. It sounds like you are making some really good choices for yourself and your life around money--I'm sure that will bring you a lot of peace in the future.


    1. I talked a bit about how hard that season was during PEPS, but for the most part I wasn't really sure what was going on, or how to articulate it. I'm still thankful though for all these experiences that have/are shaping me into a stronger woman, wife and mama. xo

  2. Such a heart-felt and meaningful post. I'm sorry things were tough for you, but wonderful to see how you have made use of those difficult times to strengthen your relationships and your sense of self. Your pregnancy posts were so interesting and helpful when I was expecting and now it is really useful to read such a frank account of the transition into motherhood as I too am going through it. I wondered how you were getting on when your blog was silent after Lola's birth, and hoped you would return to it.I think it's very brave to be so honest and open about how things were for you, and to remind us of the importance of sharing stories and supporting one another in parenthood. And what a beautiful little girl Lola is - just gorgeous pictures of her! Thank you!

    1. I'm so grateful for your encouraging comment, Felicity. Thank you! You reiterated exactly what I hoped this post would convey. And I couldn't agree more about sharing stories. I sometimes feel crazy for putting all of this out for everyone to read, but I pray each time that God would allow my words to be helpful. Thank you for your sweet words about my Lola girl, she's the best. I hope you're well. xo


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