Thoughts from Nicole Brown
The Aftershocks of New Parenthood
My first child, Eve, turns one this January. I’ve heard folks say that the first birthday party is also (and perhaps even more so) for the parents: a celebration that you made it through that first year. When I set out to write my birth story when I was three weeks postpartum, I described Eve’s birth like an earthquake in my life, imagery meant to evoke the power and frightening wonder of physically bearing a child and then taking them home to live with you (especially when you have little to no experience with the tiniest of humans).
In those very early days, I could see eternity in those dark eyes. Though they were still glassy, they seemed to peer directly into me in the wee hours of the morning as I held her. Couple that with the way her tiny fingers wrapped around mine and I was often a puddle of tears. Those moments of wonder and gratitude carried me through the physical pain and anxiety of adjusting to new parenthood: sleepless nights, breastfeeding, and feeling like my life was unrecognizable.
They call the tears of those early days the “baby blues” (really not strong enough of a phrase), but as I round out this first year I have come to know that there are aftershocks that new parents experience in the months that follow, when the baby blues have eased and you feel like you are gaining some mastery in caring for your tiny beloved. For me, that was transitioning back into work, and then a few months later transitioning right back out again when my husband and I came to realize that our life structure was not going to be sustainable long-term, at least not without enormous sacrifice to our mental health and the health of our marriage.
I have dear friends who have recently experienced their own joyous earthquakes, and we support each other as the aftershocks inevitably come, the labor of creating a life to support your growing family long-term. That can look like going back to a job, changing jobs, moving cities, finding the right daycare or nanny, or taking a Sabbatical from professional work like me. And we need God, and each other in community, to support that long-term postpartum labor and to simply hold us when particularly large aftershocks rock the foundation of our lives.
As my dear Eve turns one, I circle back to a worship song that resonated deeply in those early days, and where I can still find truth: “in the crushing, in the pressing, You are making new wine. In the soil I now surrender, You are breaking new ground.”