When Having a Baby Doesn’t Bring Joy

The last 10 months have been the hardest in so many ways. While there have been times of joy and laughter, there have been as many (or probably more) moments of tears and frustration. Raising a baby is hard. And raising a hard baby is even harder.

Malachi is a “cryer”. We’ve never classified him as colicky, so I know it could be worse. But I have never referred to him as a “bundle of joy”. God blessed our boy with some powerful lungs. You can’t get away from the noise when he starts to wail. Shortly after he was born, people would ask me if he was a happy baby, and often I would say yes because I felt like that was the expected answer. Occasionally I would get brave and say “sometimes”. But in all honesty, it didn’t seem like he was a happy baby, and that only increased my feelings of aloneness.

A person can only take so much crying before they break. In the first few months of Malachi’s life, if he wasn’t sleeping, you had to hold him or he would cry. No exaggeration. Joel and I would take turns doing something around the house, while the other one held him. And to add to it, I was pumping every two to three hours then too. So during the day, instead of sleeping when he would sleep I would pump. It was the best thing when he would finally lay on his play mat by himself.

By that point, things got a little better at home, but going out was still hard. And going out with him by myself? Impossible. Being new parents, we were so conscious of him crying in public. He goes from zero to 100 in no time, and there used to be no calming him down. Grocery shopping was a chore. Eating out didn’t happen. Not even a drive thru because as soon as you stop the car he would cry. Between my demanding pumping schedule, and his temperament, we didn’t leave the house except for the necessities.

As if his intense temperament wasn’t enough, he didn’t (and doesn’t consistently) sleep through the night. Waking up to your baby crying as if someone is cutting his limbs off multiple times a night really takes a toll on you. And your marriage. You say and do things you don’t mean. You wake up in the morning thinking, why would I ever say something like that? You’re not yourself in the middle of the night. So finally when Malachi turned eight months old we started taking him to see a chiropractor. He wasn’t sleeping and he stopped being content to play. We were having to hold him all the time again. We were desperate. Although the chiropractor hasn’t been a cure all, it has made a huge difference. He does sometimes sleep through the night now, and is generally more content.

I’ve shied away from sharing a lot of our struggles over the past few months, because I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining. We prayed so hard for our rainbow baby. I’m not at all ungrateful for him. I know what a gift he is. But he has tested me in so many ways. He has stretched me to my limits. And if I’m honest, it hasn’t been the most joyful ten months. Our lives changed more than we could have imagined. I didn’t exactly have a booming social life before Malachi came along, but I have become the epitome of a hermit. And that’s been hard. I miss the relationships I used to have in my life. I wasn’t prepared to lose them so abruptly. Raising a baby takes time, and that time has to come from somewhere. Plus I exclusively pumped for last ten months which took nearly 600 hours. Parenthood has consumed us more than I could have imagined.

There’s a lot of things I can’t control in life, like the weather or how well Malachi will sleep at night. But I can choose my mood. I can choose to have joy. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel like I’m running on empty. His joy is my strength. It will sustain me. But if I’m not making time to read the word and pray, it’s going to be harder to choose that joy. When something goes wrong, it can be so easy to stay in a bad mood. Maintaining my relationship with God is the most important thing I can do every day. When I do that, I can see that my joy isn’t in my circumstances. It isn’t in people, or my job, or my accomplishments or even my child. The source of my joy is only in Him.

Now don’t get me wrong, the last ten haven’t been all bad. While the first few months were really hard, we started having brighter days as he got older. And we’ve continued to have more and more each month. I know this season won’t last forever. The saying, “the days are long and the years are short” couldn’t be more true. Even though the days of crying seemed endless, I’m now planning his first birthday party. It doesn’t seem right that it’s already time for that. This season has been hard. I am still learning a lot and choosing to let God teach me through this. I know that someday I’ll be able to look back and see that God was with us the whole time.

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