A Letter for You: God speaks into one mom’s suffering

When I talk with my friends, many of us are going through various seasons of suffering. Miscarriage. Illness. Unemployment. Madeleine Karako knows that struggle too well. This creative mom is blessed with three beautiful children, but has suffered two miscarriages and then breastfeeding issues. However, her suffering drew her closer to God. In a beautiful new picture book for moms, she shares the encouragement God gave her during that time. Here’s the story behind Madeleine’s new book, A Letter for You.

A Letter for You: God speaks into one mom's suffering. (Mom and author Madeleine Karako holds her new book.)

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TKM: Every mom has her own story. What has motherhood been like for you?

Madeleine Karako: You are so right that every mom has her own story. I love my three kids. They are the brightest part of my life, and I wouldn’t trade one second I have had with them, the good and the bad.

That being said, motherhood has definitely not been what I expected. We miscarried twice before I was able to have a full-term pregnancy with my daughter. Then my daughter was born with severe health issues that stumped us and 15 plus doctors for two years. It was two years of basic survival mode and holding my baby all day and all night.

When my son was born, he started having the same symptoms, so I weaned him at one month to see if my breast milk was a factor (we had long suspected it might have contributed to my daughter’s struggles). He immediately got better. The realization that my breastmilk had been hurting my daughter all those years was a huge gut-punch and brought a lot of mom-guilt into my heart.

Fast forward to today, my newborn also can’t tolerate my breastmilk, so I had to wean him at 2 weeks. I cried every day of the weaning process and just threw myself into the arms of Jesus. I just couldn’t handle the guilt I was feeling, even though I knew it was nothing I had control over. It’s just hard as a mom not to feel guilty when your kids are in pain or when something doesn’t work the way you think it should.

One incredibly positive thing that came from all this suffering: I have an amazing bond with each of my kids. We are incredibly close.

TKM: How did weaning your baby at 2 weeks affect you as a mom?

Madeleine: It was heartbreaking, because nursing is such a natural thing for both mom and baby. And I was producing plenty of milk. I desperately wanted to nurse, and he wanted my milk and was nursing beautifully. I just couldn’t give it to him. So denying him that was extremely painful, even though I knew I was protecting him. He would cry and cry and I couldn’t give him what he wanted.

I also have to be extremely creative in how I comfort my newborns because I can’t nurse; lots of rocking and swaying and singing and praying. It is nice to know that babies still want mommy even if they’re not getting milk from me. The connection between a mom and baby is deeper than just a desire to be fed, and it’s nice to have proof of that.

A glimpse inside Madeleine Karako's book A Letter for You.

TKM: What helped you get through this time?

Madeleine: My mom, Saint Zelie, my art and my faith all played a big part. I remember the day I realized I’d have to wean my son; I just looked at my mom and we both knew. He was in pain and had the same symptoms as his siblings, and I burst into tears. My mom held me and helped me get the formula and bottles all ready so I could wean without delay.

This time around, I knew about Saint Zelie and how she also couldn’t nurse any of her kids. She had to hire wet nurses, and the babies had to live with the wet nurses. As I sat and fed my baby organic goat milk formula shipped directly from Germany, I couldn’t help but feel blessed knowing what Saint Zelie went through.

I also covered my bedroom walls with my watercolor paintings of Jesus and Mary so that I would never forget His love for me. Looking at them daily kept me going and helped me focus on keeping a positive outlook.

One day, after an hour of my son crying and rooting and wanting to nurse, he finally fell asleep. As I sat rocking him, I looked at my wall of paintings and had a chat with God. The tears kept coming as I told Him how miserable I felt, and that I couldn’t bear it anymore. He reassured me and gave me words of comfort and love and told me to write them down. I read those words every day and they got me through.

A glimpse inside Madeleine Karako's book A Letter for You.

TKM: What inspired you to turn this into a book?

Madeleine: God told me to share it. It’s as simple as that, really. I know He wants other women who are hurting to hear these words.

TKM: How did you find time to write and illustrate a book, with three kids including a newborn?

Madeleine: Looking back I’m still not sure how it happened. I guess there were three main reasons I was able to do it.

1. God wrote the book. I was very intentional about not editing it and keeping it as authentic as possible.

2. The paintings I used as illustrations were already completed and being sold separately as prints in my shop. By God’s divine grace I was able to find paintings of mine that paired beautifully with His words. I guess He was trying to tell me the same message through my art, I just didn’t realize it.

3. My mom was a huge help to me my first 3 months postpartum. She would visit and stay for weeks; cooking, doing laundry, dishes, playing with my older kiddos. She allowed me to hold my baby while he slept so he and I could rest better.

I did most of my work for this book with one hand while holding my sleeping baby with my other hand. I have learned in motherhood that there is never a peaceful, set-apart time to get work done. You just have to be creative whenever you find an opportunity, or it may never happen.

A Letter for You written and illustrated by Madeleine Karako, sitting on a table by a mug of coffee.

TKM: What advice would you give to a new mom facing struggles?

Madeleine: Ask for help. It’s not a failure if you need help. We were never meant to do this all on our own. Let people help you. Give yourself breaks.

Surround yourself with things that inspire you. Whether that’s paintings of flowers or motivational quotes, family pictures, etc. Make it so that wherever you look in your house, there’s encouragement.

Listen to uplifting music. Music is so powerful for my family. I play classical music in the late afternoon and evenings, because it really helps my son calm down. In the morning we like to listen to fun songs we all know and can sing along to. It gets me out of my head and helps the kids regulate their emotions.

When you mess up, apologize to your kids. I apologize at least once a day to my kids. I rarely get through a day without making a mistake. The beauty of apologizing to them is it takes the pressure off trying to be a perfect mom and also teaches your kids valuable lessons: no one is perfect, forgiveness is healing and humility has power.

A Letter for You is available on Etsy and Amazon.

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