My arms are so tired. I’ve hit a wall, and it’s a solid brick one that’s 4 feet wide and 70 feet high.
I figured being a mom would be tiring. I counted on some sleepless nights and foggy mornings. What I didn’t realize is how exhausted I feel when five, six or seven of those sleepless nights pile up, one on top of the other. I didn’t factor in the toll that the constancy of motherhood has on my body and soul.
Some days I feel like a skeleton, a shell of the true me. My compassion and sense of humor dwindle away until the idea of doing anything, including making a sandwich for lunch, leaves me weeping on the couch. Or sometimes I opt not to cry simply because releasing tears requires too much energy.
That’s where I am right now, oscillating between too-tired-to-cry and so-tired-I-have-to-cry. And the only thing I can think is this: my arms are so tired.
My arms cradle my baby at 1 and 3 and 5 a.m., change countless diapers, and lug an awkward 30-pound carrier in and out of the car. My arms rock and snuggle and hold, hold, hold my baby close. My arms swoop the pacifier off the ground for the 12th time. No wonder they’re tired.
Given the way our year began, I really should have seen this wall coming. My family spent New Year’s Eve in the urgent care center, and we all tested positive for the flu — even my five-month-old. The next two weeks were an absolute blur of body aches, fevers and nights of frantic, whispered prayers. One evening my husband and I were so sick we couldn’t even care for our baby. My in-laws saved the day, taking him for the night. I’m eternally grateful to them for that, even though I started wailing in the parking lot because I wasn’t ready to spend the night away from him.
Somehow, we all baby stepped our way back to health. I’ve been feeling better for about two weeks, until my arms started to ache this morning.
This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen apart. I hit my first “mothering wall” a few months ago and did the only two things that made sense: panicked and called my mom. I could hardly explain how I was feeling over the phone, but I think she heard my sobs and caught the gist. “Can’t – do – anything,” I gasped. “Do you think I have postpartum depression?”
“I think you’re a new mother who is incredibly exhausted,” my mom gently answered. “This happens to every mother. It doesn’t make you a bad mom — it just means you’re a human with needs, too.”
Mama, you’re a superwoman. You love your children more than yourself. You spend much of your time pouring life and love and energy into them. But some days your arms are going to ache too much to fasten your superwoman cape, and that’s OK.
As moms, we so often believe that ignoring our needs is heroic. That’s a lie. Tired arms are often a warning sign that we have fatigued souls, untended hearts. If we continually refuse to care for our bodies, souls and minds, we begin to act more like villains than superheroes.
So from one tired mama to another, let’s stop shoving our exhaustion under the rug. Instead, let’s view our tired arms as an invitation to run to our Father and let him hold us. For me, this often means turning a blind eye to the mess of my apartment and using nap time to read, journal and connect with God. It also means asking for help watching the baby so I can occasionally refresh (and re-caffeinate) at a coffee shop.
While I’m resting in God’s arms, I try to remember that he has enough room to hold my child, too. After all, I worship the God who cradles the world in his hands, who formed me from dust. His arms have a much further reach than my own.
Amber Miller is a big proponent of laughing loudly, winning people over to board games (there’s so much more than just Monopoly, y’all), and long hikes. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and her adventurous two-year-old.