^Baby Slinging With A Smile
It is almost Christmas, and lately I feel so blessed to go through this season with little people. All the magic of hope, all the moments of joy. It got me thinking about the times that motherhood hasn’t been this sweet. When Christmases were a blur of newborn baby or everyone was sick.
Before I became a mother, I looked at the role with reverence and awe. Being a mother seemed powerful to me. So much potential in your words and actions, how they scattered on little people like rain on fertile fields. To be a mother seemed sacred and purposeful. I was very content to work- I loved teaching philosophy and learning and writing. But to be a mother? That was a calling.
Fast forward to actually being a mother. When my second baby was a glorious, pink, ten pound girl with a name I adored and eyes that I adored even more, she had a weak valve in her stomach so that she frequently emptied her tummy full of breastmilk all over me (projectile vomiting is the official term). When she was two months old she came down with RSV, a virus requiring many babies to be hospitalized. She stayed healthy enough with just a nebulizer treatment at home every four hours. So she was eating every three hours, but if she threw it all up she was hungry again in two, and needed a breathing treatment every four. I had an 18 month old who woke up at 6 on the dot (still does) and I was flying solo with a traveling husband. No matter how many times you crunch that equation, it adds up to no sleep.
Where was all the power I had seen mothers have? All the purposefulness? I was mostly aware of the fact that the laundry basket got filled with my clothes, my daughters clothes and whatever blanket we were laying on three times a day, that my postpartum clothes didn’t fit, that I would trade my wedding ring for sleep, and that my oldest son was cute as a button but a runner. I barely left the house.
I know that many mothers encounter far worse scenarios for far longer periods of time, but I point to that moment in time just to say that motherhood can break you. Some parts of it are really really hard. And when it does, right when you think all is lost, and your life is in shambles just like your house and you can’t go on another day – make that another hour – you find out what you are really made of. You dig deep.
What I found out was that motherhood seemed powerful to me because mothers had to find that strength inside them. And it seemed purposeful because the only thing that really gets you through the hard times is being aware of your sense of purpose. But they don’t come first. They come later. They’re the fruits of hardship and sacrifice. They’re the gifts of motherhood.
But of course I didn’t know that. Instead I kept thinking it was going to get easier. It took a long time to realize it wasn’t going to, and that I had to change.
So I went through the usual rituals of adulthood: I lowered my expectations. I stopped worrying about what other people think. Really. Like, deep down stopped worrying. I celebrated small victories like making dinner and taking out the trash. But most of all, I had to become my own best friend. Because the only thing that makes this motherhood journey harder is if you don’t have your own psyche in your corner. Rooting for you, championing you, showing you the grace and mercy you deserve. If you are doing all the hard parts and dealing with a mean voice in your head that says your not good enough, tall enough, thin enough, rich enough, smart enough, _____ enough, then life takes on the bitter taste of resentment and despair. And watch out: mean voice can be sneaky. Wherever you are weak, which mothers are often, that is where it will work its way in.
So here is to the gift you can give yourself – wherever you are at – of kindness and compassion. Because you SO so so so so so so so deserve it. Really. Honest.