The Postpartum In-Between: Searching for Joy While Waiting for a New Normal
Have you been in this place?
- In between sizes
- In between hormone swings
- In between “normals” in your daily routine
- In between feelings of competence & incompetence
- In between very little sleep and normal amounts of sleep
- In between a variety of very STRONG feelings
My precious little man is 8 weeks old today, and I’m there.
The “in-between” is the place where I’m currently parked.
I’ve been moved to tears (for joy and for sadness). Amazed at how beautiful life is. Overwhelmed by how messy the house is. Ready to conquer the world. Down in the depths because I’m fatter and uglier and older than I have ever been before in my whole life. Excited about the new relationships growing in our home. Frightened by internal fears (playing on auto-repeat in my brain) that maybe I’m not going to be attractive to my husband anymore.
The in-between isn’t an easy place to be.
I’m not normally one who struggles extraordinarily with insecurity. But these last few weeks, y’all– phew! It has come to a head in the area of physical appearance.
- I have cried real tears over “not having anything to wear” (I have heaps of clothes in a variety of sizes between 8 & 16, y’all– don’t feel sorry for me).
- I’ve caught myself trying to convince my husband of what an ugly, fat, old wife he has. (Why would I want to convince him of that?! Am I being the Proverbs woman who “tears down her house with her own hands,” or WHAT?)
- I’ve diligently counted the calories, put miles on the bike, and watched the pounds go UP rather than DOWN. (These are the moments I inwardly rue those women who said, “breastfeeding makes the pounds melt away!”)
So what’s a girl to do? Well, here are some of the ways I’m battling it in my heart:
I’m trying to live in the realm of grace.
Just like the way to deal with postpartum stress, things becomes less stressful when we quit expecting perfection or anything close to it.
I’m trying to identify the things I’m believing, and combat lies with grace and truth.
So, instead of “I’m the ugliest and fattest and oldest I’ve ever been,” my friend encouraged me yesterday to reframe the way I’m seeing myself. Yes, I’m 35. But I’ve never been postpartum and 35. I need to remind myself of the truth:
“Yes, I’m heavier than I’ve ever been (while not pregnant). I’m keeping a careful watch on what I’m eating and being self-controlled. I’m working out regularly and being active. Over time, my body will respond. I’m also breastfeeding and keeping this precious baby alive and healthy. That’s an amazing gift! I don’t need to downplay the significance of all that my body is doing right now.”
When God opens my eyes to other places where I’ve placed my “confidence,” I am trying to confess and repudiate those false foundations.
I’m just going to lay myself bare for y’all, and not try to pretty up these truths. These are some of the places that He has graciously exposed as places where I’ve wrongly put my hope and trust:
- in my own “natural” beauty and ability to look relatively good without much effort
- in my body. Even when I’ve been bigger, my height and curves have given me confidence that I didn’t realize I rested in until this time around, when the weight is staying on more than normal.
- in the idea that my husband will always find me attractive
Now, I have no reason to think that Doug doesn’t currently find me attractive. He is being every bit as encouraging and kind and gentle toward me as He always is.
The difference is in me. I’m seeing things in me that I didn’t see before, particularly in this area of attractiveness. I didn’t realize the degree to which I’ve previously derived confidence and joy from the previous EASE with which I could make myself feel pretty.
Now, it’s like everything has converged and there’s no mistaking it. Even while thinking that I was pursuing soul-beauty above physical-beauty, there are clearly ways that I’ve rested on external rather than on internal beauty.
So now that I see it, I’ve confessed that confidence in the flesh. (And I’m confessing it every time it comes up again in my heart.) I want to shift that confidence in externals into confidence in Christ in me. HE is what makes me attractive. HIS WORK IN ME is what will make me beautiful.
My outward form will continue:
- wasting away
- being pulled down by gravity
- growing persnickety about responding to weight-loss attempts
- going grayer
- feeling more weak and more weary
This is the truth. I can try to contort, twist, and grapple with my flesh.
I could plump up my lips and lipo my hips and powder and pluck and nip and tuck, but no matter what magic I try to work, this outward form is DYING.
But in Christ, do you see it? IN CHRIST, there is everlasting beauty to be had.
In Christ, my inward form will be:
- being renewed daily
- being pulled up
- growing more responsive to the Spirit & His guidance in my heart
- becoming more vibrant
- feeling stronger and more alive
Every DAY, while my outward form is wasting away, my inward soul can be growing brighter and brighter, just as the sun grows brighter and brighter until full day.
THIS is where joy is to be found… in taking my insecurities and fears and all of the frustrations of the in-between and calling them what they really are, and then replacing any false foundations with the one true foundation– the cornerstone of Christ.
Then, over time, as I keep hiding myself in Him, He’ll take out this ugly heart of fear and failure and foibles and frustration and work in me joy and peace and gentleness and confidence in Him that will be more beautiful than anything my soul can produce on its own.
Isn’t it AMAZING what God can do in a wicked human heart?
Instead of external, temporary beauty, He has something much greater in mind: He wants to transform my heart into something beautiful. Even as I’ve written this out, I’ve found joy and delight in Christ rising up in my heart. THIS is where joy is found.
Even in the in-between, we can have joy when our joy is in Christ and not in environmental perfection, external beauty, or temporal comfort.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:
- What sorts of things did you struggle with in the postpartum weeks and months?
- How did you (or how are you) combatting those struggles?
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