We sat across from each other in Starbucks, Travis sipping on his mocha and me playing with my empty cup. My mind was a million miles away, not present with him in this moment. I glanced over at four-week old Theo, sleeping in his car seat resting on the chair next to me. Since I knew we didn’t have much longer before we needed to relieve the babysitter watching our older child, I tried to engage in some conversation.
“I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” I finally admitted.
“Yeah, I feel like you’ve been in a fog ever since the baby came.” He was honest but he spoke gently. I’m glad he saw it too.
The weeks after we brought Theo home were dark. I was in a constant haze. My body and mind were trying to cope with the sheer exhaustion of keeping two little humans alive, not to mention myself. Showers were few and far between and baths for my littles were even farther. I wanted to take in every moment, savor every sweet newborn scent, every cuddle, every coo, plus I wanted to hold onto all the ways my two-year-old daughter, Anna, was growing as well. But honestly, those things were the least of my worries.
The light at the end of the tunnel was nonexistent. Was I even in a tunnel? It felt more like a cold, damp tomb with no way out. I wondered when I would get back to normal. What was it like to feel energized and not exhausted? What was it like to not have my eyes burn from the lack of sleep? What was it like to wear clothes that weren’t covered in spit up and poop? I dreaded our meal train ending because that would mean I’d have to plan dinners again. I feared going out in public without Travis because that would mean I was outnumbered. When there is a toddler and a baby, the chances of Mama losing is high. I was not ready to take that risk. Laundry was piling high, dishes were even higher, and Curious George episodes were on repeat.
Life seemed to be passing me by. I would scroll through Instagram in the dark of the night, Theo nursing for the third time since 10 pm, Travis sleeping peacefully next to me. I contemplated “accidently” punching his side to wake him just enough to know I had only slept one hour so far. Then I wouldn’t feel so alone. As I scrolled the photos, play dates and meet ups seemed to be on every colorful square, and I wondered if I would ever get to the point where I could join my friends again. Would I ever want to? Leaving the house was a chore, and I found it so much easier to just stay in. But I longed for friendship and escape. I longed for normal.
There were times I was angry with God for letting me feel this way, this empty, this alone. But then early one morning I received a text message from a friend.
“If it’s ok, I’d like to come pick up Anna today,” the text read.
“Uh, yes, please!” I replied.
Grace abounded with just a simple text. A friend reached out—or reached in the tomb, took my hand, guided me through the thick darkness—letting me know she’s thinking of me and she understands what I am going through. Like a Rolodex, my mind flipped through all the things that I could do in a few hours. I might actually be able to take a shower, and if Theo naps then I can lay down too. Maybe I could make the house look presentable, throw in a load of laundry that has been sitting on the washer for a few days, actually take time to do my hair, meal plan for the week. Or I could just sit and hold Theo. So many possibilities.
And with that I saw a glimmer of light breaking through the dark.
As I write this I am 7 months pregnant with my third baby. My belly grows larger with each passing day and is a reminder that in two months my life will once again feel like I’m passing through a dark tunnel, but with a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn this time around. It would be a lie to say I’m not nervous, especially knowing I will not have enough hands to hold all three of my children. It could be even darker, if that’s possible, than it was when there were just two.
But I know there is hope. There is hope that it won’t always be dark and lonely and the light will break through eventually.
Because it’s not a tomb that I was trapped inside—it was a tunnel, and there was a way out, there’s always a way out.
It happened for me a few months after I received that text message from my friend. She met me where I was, held my hand, and walked with me towards the light. I started to come alive again. I was on the journey to becoming myself again. And with friends reaching out in prayer and kindness, my husband taking on some of the housework load, and Theo finally sleeping more than a few hours at a time, I fled from that tunnel. I now know that I was never really alone, even in the darkest of days.
This is my prayer for all mamas, whether you just had your first or you are on your fifth, that you would know that there is a tunnel—that feels more like a tomb most days—but it won’t last forever. A light will begin to shine as the days move forward, and you’ll eventually have the courage to stand to your feet, grab on to that friend who meets you in the dark, and run towards the exit knowing your loved ones are waiting for you on the outside. Get help if you can’t find your way out of that tunnel.
And take heart, you will be so much stronger at the end.