Post-Partum Fear and the Fruit of the Spirit
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
I've had a lot of anxiety recently about transitioning from one to two children. Our miscarriage extended an invitation to really savor all of the extra one-on-one time I would have with our firstborn. While I have so enjoyed my time and adventures with him over the past few "extra" months, I'm incredibly conscious recently of the way that a second child will complicate our relationship logistically and emotionally. I had quite the turbulent entrance into motherhood the first go round. The arrival of our first child shook our marriage in ways I didn't anticipate. Fluctuating hormones, difficult circumstances, unmet expectations, and a lack of sleep revealed things about my heart that were hard to see, and I imagine hard for my husband to live with.
A few weeks ago, as the stomach bug ripped through our house and potty-training added an unexpected emotional riff to my relationship with my two year old, I found myself filled with fear as I thought about what was coming in just a few weeks. What would welcoming a newborn look like with a toddler thrown in to the equation this time?
The vintage Jinny Lind cradle in our room is an ever present reminder of our second son's impending arrival. I find myself filled with both joyful anticipation and anxious dread each time I see it. Above it hang 9 beautifully illustrated floral prints from Ruth Chou Simons bearing the fruit of the spirit. Last night as my eyes drifted up from the wooden cradle to study those petals, I was both convicted and encouraged.
As I anticipate the arrival of another little one, I have been so easily convinced of the fruit of fatigue and post-partum hormones and change: a short temper, depression, anxiety, frustration. But there is so much danger in imagining a future circumstance without considering God's word. There is no telling how the arrival of our second son may parallel or differ from that of our first. I could spend (and have probably already spent) hours dwelling on why this transition might be better or how it may be harder.
Our marriage is stronger. We are both more experienced parents. I can see tangible ways God has changed me and made me more like Jesus. I know what I'm doing more than the first time. Our community is richer. We have a better idea of what to expect. We got a doula this time.
But our two year old is going to struggle to adjust. I will be jealous watching other people get to play with and enjoy him while I am nursing. I will be exhausted and he will likely be dealing with big emotions and outbursts. He will need to be lifted and hanging on me while I am sore and recovering from childbirth. My hormones may make me depressed or emotionally unavailable.
Any of those things may or may not end up being true. Any scenario I imagine may or may not come to fruition. But what I do know about our quickly approaching post-partum experience is that God's grace will be sufficient. His power will be made perfect in my weakness. He will be an ever present help in my time of need. The spirit will intercede for me with groanings too deep for words when I don't know how to pray or ask for help. And Christ, my great high priest, who is able to sympathize with my weakness, will stand ready to forgive my failings, covering them with grace and somehow still using them for God's glory. These certainties move me from fear to faith. These meditations move my anxious mind away from the fruit of fatigue, hormones, and change onto the fruit of the Spirit.
Where I fear distance and resentment, He offers Love.
Where I fear baby blues and the dreaded darkness, He offers Joy.
Where I fear the intensity of post partum anxiety and a lack of predictability, He offers his Peace.
Where I fear my short temper and anticipated frustration with my husband and toddler, He offers Patience.
Where I worry about my biting tongue and thoughtlessness, He offers Kindness.
Where I worry about what will be exposed in me when my circumstances reveal my worst, He offers Goodness.
Where I fear my reactivity and tendency to be harsh when tired, He offers Gentleness.
Where I am concerned that I will neglect his word or disciplines, He supplies Faithfulness.
Where I fear reactivity and the reign and power of hormones, He offers Self-Control.
These things are not the result of a good night's sleep, balanced hormones, more reading, or stronger will power. They are the fruit of abiding, of asking in humility, and of trusting my Father to provide more than I allow hormones, fatigue, and pain to control.
The Holy Spirit is stronger than hormones. God's word is more certain than any of my imagined scenarios. And Christ's peace is greater than my fears.
Written and published by Abbey Wedgeworth of Gentle Leading.