Tag Archives: Mother

Motherhood: A Chapter at a Time

ChaptersMotherhood is hard.  We joke about it, we moan about it, we (I) write about it, we sometimes can’t get over it.  The fact that motherhood is messier, stickier, and smellier than you ever imagined is no hidden secret.  We have all heard or told stories about spit-up on clothes, boogers wiped on walls, trips to the ER, milkshakes dumped in laps, diapers removed during nap time, carpooling to activities, chaperoning field trips, and so much more.  Those moments are tough.  They can beat us down until we are searching the house for a clean white rag to wave in surrender.  But maybe those aren’t really the hardest moments of motherhood.  Maybe the hardest moments are camouflaged as our most triumphant; the moments we eagerly anticipate and countdown the days for, until at the last moment we realize the chapter is closing and we can not – will not – be able to open it again.

I spent so many moments throughout the night feeding my little ones.  The house was quiet, my body was exhausted, but my little one and me awake and sharing a quiet moment.  I knew I would be tired in the morning and maybe begrudge this little alarm clock that I snuggle in my arms for the missed moments of sleep. I would complain and tell my husband how many times I was up throughout the night.  I would wish for a full night’s sleep and  wonder if I would ever feel well-rested again.  And then… after months of waiting, I woke up a full 8 hours after I fell asleep.  My little one no longer needed to eat in the middle of the night and no longer needed to snuggle into my arms while we both drifted between sleep and wakefulness.  Just a few weeks later I realized that the little one not only had grown past our night feedings but also my body had grown past nourishing my little one.  The secret quiet moments we had shared came to a quick end.  My little one had tickled me under my arm during a nursing session, he had cooed me to sleep, he had smiled the sweetest smile for my eyes only in the middle of the night. We spent so much time so closely wrapped into each other that distinguishing where one of us ended and the other began was nearly impossible.  The moment came when I realized that this chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my sleepy self but so hard for my mommy-self.

Then the little ones grew and became “slightly-bigger” little ones.  We would play together and work together.  I would sing the ABC’s under my breath while I cleaned up magnetic letters off the kitchen floor only to realize there were no “slightly-bigger” little ones around to hear this lesson of literacy.   I would count in English and count in Spanish. I would sing songs about cleaning up and not biting our friends.  I would make sticker charts to encourage good behavior choices and try to use my kind words at all times.  I would be in full teacher mode and many times feel like I was more in I-want-to-poke-my-eyeballs-out-if-I-have-to-repeat-myself-one-more-time mode.  Life as mommy to a pre-schooler is hard.  My patience stretched and my nerves frayed. I worked hard to teach the little ones smart things and kind things, but all the while I wondered if my brain would ever function in grown-up mode again.  And then… after weeks of registrations, doctor check-ups, and school supply shopping, I walked out of his Kindergarten classroom and knew while my days of teaching him will never truly end, the days of me being his teacher were finished.  Another adult will help shape him, his mind and his character.  He would not look only to me for answers to his many questions, for encouragement when he doubts himself, for guidance on how to handle a difficult situation with his friends.  His world was expanding and my role in it was shrinking.  The moment came when I realized yet another chapter was finished for us.  The moment was a triumph for my college-educated self, but it was oh-so-hard for my mommy self.

Motherhood is hard.  The beginnings and the middles of each phase and each chapter have their challenges.  My “slightly-bigger” little ones have only grown into “quite-bigger” little ones… but still, they are little ones… so I haven’t had too many chapters to close behind us and for that I am grateful.  During the messy, sticky, and smelly days that seem to be one long chapter with a very dry, rather pointless, and completely redundant storyline that I would prefer to skim through and get it over with… I will know deep down that the end of the chapter won’t be easy either. Maybe, just maybe, if I remind myself that the triumphant end of each chapter will most likely come before I am truly ready for it, I will be able to slow down and appreciate each chapter for what it is…. another piece of my little ones’ great and unique stories.

Motherhood: It Is What It Is


Baby #2. Sometimes motherhood turns our lives (and our expectations) upside-down.

At some point after having my first baby, I felt a heavy pressure to be the perfect super-mom.  I’m not entirely sure where the pressure came from, perhaps because many of my friends were first-time moms and we were all aiming for our too-high expectations of what stay-at-home motherhood meant.  The strive for perfection may have been exacerbated by the ability of fellow moms to post photos of the adorable kids, happy families, perfectly healthy lunches, and perfectly groomed selves on Facebook.  Surely, the never-ending pins of perfection on Pinterest cemented these expectations.  Regardless of where, why, and how this expectation came to be, I was definitely suckered into the unrealistic black hole of Supermom.

I busted out my label maker and bought cute baskets to maintain Pinterest-worthy closets; I dressed my daughter in cute outfits that coordinated with her blanket (and pacifier – oh yes I did); I did my best to actually get a shower and put on normal-people clothes.  I put on a smile and tried to “enjoy every minute” knowing that my little girl would be “grown before I knew it!”  Meanwhile, I had a nagging thought in the back of my head… how in the world am I going to keep this up for the rest of my life?!  Surely, this was how life as a new mom was supposed to look, right? Right?! Lucky for me, I got a valid excuse to let it go.

When my daughter was six months old, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, and in the ensuing weeks of exhaustion, nausea, and moodiness I decided that Supermom I was not and Supermom I no longer wanted to be.  I just needed to keep my baby girl alive, my soon-to-be baby healthy, and me at least a little sane.  No more striving for some ideal that I thought I “should” be.  I’m not a Supermom; it is what it is.  If someone didn’t like that, well, it had nothing to do with anyone else.

Now, approximately seven years later, we (moms in general) have swung to the opposite extreme of expectations.  I have recently come across several blogs shouting the importance of “I’m messy and you should be too!” All of a sudden (or maybe it’s been a gradual shift and I’m just more aware of it now) there seems to be a push to strive for a chaotic, messy, and slightly disgruntled attitude about motherhood. While letting go of the desire to present our lives as similar to Pottery Barn Kids perfection as possible, there seems to be pressure to now participate in the “My Life is More of a Hot Mess Than Yours” competition.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love love love the idea of mothers having the freedom to be genuine.  To embrace who we are as women, mothers, and wives… the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful… is the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other.  I love the acceptance of the messy side of motherhood as I definitely land on the chaotic side of the motherhood spectrum.  The problem I do have with this pendulum swing from perfection to hot mess, is the judgments that seem to be attached to both extremes.  Now that we have finally seemed to recognize and accept that not all moments of motherhood are wonderful and delightful, we have also begun to shun those mothers who do actually celebrate the moments that are “perfect.”

For example, if a crafty mom sends her child to school on Valentine’s Day with perfectly perfect valentine’s for the rest of the kids, another mom is ranting about how over-the-top it is.  If a mom chooses to prioritize a clean, tidy, and well-decorated home, she’s labeled as disingenuous and her priorities skewed.  If a mom cuts her child’s sandwich into a fun shape and makes fruit art at lunchtime, she’s deemed to be one of those moms…. “Too much time on Pinterst.”  Heaven forbid a stay-at-home mom shows up at school drop off at 8am in non-yoga pants…. most likely she will receive a few glares and strange looks from fellow moms who chose not to get dressed up for school drop-off.

So where does that leave us?!  Well, technically right now, it leaves us with me being judge-y about other moms being judge-y about other moms just doing their thing.  That’s a whole lot of judge-y.  And that’s NOT the point.

The point is….. as women and mothers…. “IT IS WHAT IT IS.”

Whether or not your house is messy, should not reflect on anyone but yourself.  If it’s tidy, great.  Cleaning is obviously important to you.  If it’s not, great.  Cleaning is obviously not your top priority. IT IS WHAT IT IS.  If you go to a friend’s house and it’s a mess, embrace it. Who cares?! The fact is, it has nothing  to do with you. If your friend’s house is tidy, embrace it.  Who cares? The fact is, it has nothing to do with you.  The same goes for the mom who has the craftiest invitations and the mom who gives the plainest store-bought ones; the mom whose child could be a model for Gap Kids and the mom whose child is wearing the same cowboy boots every single day; the mom whose house is well decorated with throw pillows and art, and the mom whose house is well decorated with toys and laundry. IT IS WHAT IT IS, and it has nothing  to do with anyone else.

Let’s stop judging…. Whether it’s the good, the bad, the ugly or the beautiful.  If you see a mom do something you think is amazing, give her a compliment instead of making a snide comment, “Ooooh, don’t you always do just the craftiest thing?! Of course you would make us all look bad!” That’s really not a compliment and there’s no good reason to make another mom feel bad for doing something great.  If you are a mom who happens to be able to do some of those extra-fancy things, I encourage you to make sure you are only doing it for your enjoyment and the enjoyment of your family… it shouldn’t be about what other people will think of you or the expectations you think they have for you.

So… if another mother isn’t quite living up to your standards (whether they are high or low), try to remember… IT IS WHAT IT IS and it has nothing to do with you.

There’s a Newborn in the World! (and 5 Lessons from Me)

In the very wee hours this morning, the world welcomed a brand new Being.  With bleary eyes and a wet brow she took a deep breath and let out a sound that may have been a cry or maybe just a gasp or even a contented sigh.  I can imagine this new world she had just entered seemed at once overwhelming and strange, yet completely where she was supposed to be.  No doubt she was unsure of what exactly would happen next but suddenly the only thing that mattered was the face gazing back at her, eyes locked and filled with love.  Brand new in this strange world, ready to take on the journey ahead of her… wait a minute… do you think I’m talking about the baby???? No, no, no, I’m talking about the Momma. Yes. One of my dear friends became a mother today.  One sweet and deliciously handsome baby boy and one kind and amazing Momma were born this morning.

All day I’ve been thinking about those beginning hours and days of Motherhood.  The poor kid has been squeezed out of his safe, warm, floating cocoon and into this harsh world with bright lights and loud noises.  The poor Momma just put her body through the ringer and smack dab into recovering from labor/delivery while nourishing another human while not sleeping while hormones are plunging and skyrocketing while baby is crying while husband is asking questions while lactation consultants are getting their faces very near her breasts while nurses continuously poke and prod her while all the while she is asking herself “what in the world am I doing?”  It’s all very crazy.  Except when she looks down into that sweet fella’s handsome and chubby-cheeked face and the world sort of stops for a moment and she remembers, “oh yeah, I’m a Momma.”

I’ve thought about all the things I wish I had known when I was a newly born Momma.  Of all the pieces of advice I would give myself to try to make the road a little easier.  (I wonder if I would even listen to myself or have to learn those lessons the hard way?) So tonight I’m going to write myself my Top 5 Thoughts I (7 year old Momma) Would Share with Me (Newborn Momma)…

1. You are the best Momma for your Baby. Own that title.
Motherhood opens the door for solicited and unsolicited advice beyond your wildest dreams.  You also get to be judged by other mothers…. And even worse…. Non-mothers.  This is a fact of Motherhood.  You can either get really irritated and angry and rant on Facebook about it, or you can accept that people will judge you and tell you how to do things “better” and laugh it off or blow it off and then joke about it on Facebook.  (Facebook also seems to be a fact of Motherhood too.)

I’m unsure if people have good intentions when they offer young mothers advice, especially in the grocery store. Perhaps it’s a joke they play by trying get inside our already-scattered-Momma-brain and make us more distracted and therefore running late and baby crying while we walk up and down the aisles trying to remember what we needed to buy in the first place.  If that’s the case, it’s really not a funny joke.  Anyway, regardless of why people feel the need to share their thoughts and opinions on how you should be raising your child, you needn’t pay attention.  You are your baby’s Momma. You know your baby better than anyone else. You know his personality, how he likes to sleep, how he prefers to be held, etc. You know what’s going on in your family or your family’s history that is influencing your mothering decisions.  Be confident in those things. Be confidant in You.  If you are happy with the way your Motherhood is shaping up, then don’t worry about what other people think or say.  Trust yourself.  Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty.

But one day, you might just think, “I’m not sure I’m doing this the best way…. How could I do this differently?” And that takes me to #2…

 2. Surround yourself with girlfriends (fellow moms and non-moms, too) who you respect and trust.
Many aspects of Motherhood are tough and confusing and downright soul-crushing.  You will need your girlfriends to help you.  It’s okay, dare I say “great”, to ask your friends for help or advice or a kick in the pants.  Back in the day the ladies used to raise their little bambinos together.  Aunts, grandmas, sisters, neighbors would share some of the burden. I don’t really know why, but today’s mothers seem a lot more independent and refuse to ask for help when they need it.  Sharing the burdens is a great way to bond with your girlfriends, to allow each other to see that other Mommas have struggles too, to learn new ways to solve problems, to get a fresh perspective on what Motherhood means.  Even more importantly, sharing the burdens almost always leads to sharing the joys too.  Let your friends help you out.  Let your friends offer you advice and pointers.  Don’t let your pride get in the way or the fear of looking weak and unfit make you miss the opportunity to lean on one of your girlfriends.  One day it will be your turn to offer advice or a helping hand and those friends will soon be like family.

Speaking of family… Let’s head to #3…

3.    So now that you just went from husband and wife to an actual “family,” be prepared to ache for your extended family.
I am blessed to have the world’s most amazing family.  I’ve pretty much always known that.  However, from that first day of Motherhood, I had never truly ached to be near my family more.  My sister and I would talk about living in the same city one day when we had families and that was fun to daydream about, but not a serious “how can we make this happen” plan.  My parents would come out and visit my husband and me wherever the Navy had stationed us.  We would do silly touristy things that were fun, but not entirely monumental. (No offense Mom and Dad.)  After I became a Momma I ached and ached for my family to come and meet my daughter.  I wanted them to see her and all of her fabulousness, and I also wanted them to see me in all my Momma glory (remember…. Sleeplessness, hormonal, sore, etc.)!  I ached for my daughter to meet her aunt who would love her almost nearly as much as I loved her.  I wanted my In-Laws to see the newest little person with our shared last name.  I wanted my daughter to be surrounded by those that loved her most and to be held in the arms that would be hugging her for years and years to come.  No matter the drama that comes with family… we all gots at least a little drama…. Becoming a new Momma makes you ache for those that love you best.

(Also, your extended family are the people who you can fully and totally trust with your brand new baby so you can sleep without one ear open.  My Mother-In-Law gets credit for my first four-hour-straight nap of full deep sleep.  She will forever have a special place in my heart for that nap.)

Family means love, and adding a new member to your family makes you crave that love from the people that love you best.  And who is the one who really truly loves you best… #4 focuses on that…

4.    The one other person on Earth who gets credit for giving you the title of Momma… Your husband…. You’re both winners. So stop competing!
This one might be a little silly, but my husband and I had to actually say this rule out loud and agree upon it when we were prepping for baby #2’s arrival.

Stop competing over who is more tired.

Right around week three or so, when the adrenaline wore off and we were still getting sleep in approximately 2-3 hour chunks we had this conversation:

Dad: “I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Really? Are you?”
Dad: “Yes. Really.  My body aches I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Hmmm. Yeah, I’m pretty sore from my c-section and pretty tired too. Did you know I was up every two hours last night?”
Dad: “I know. I was up too.”
Momma: “But then you went back to sleep while I was feeding her.”
Dad: “But I woke up. I heard her crying.”
Momma: “Yeah, But You. Went. Back. To. Sleep. I heard you SNORING.”
Dad: “I know but then you threw that sock at me so I woke up again.”
Momma: “I threw the sock at you because you were snoring and almost woke the baby up.”
Dad: “Well then I was up and went to work all day.”
Momma: “Well then I was up and went to work all day too.”
Dad: “But I didn’t get to nap.”
Momma: “Well I only napped a little because by the time I fell asleep Baby woke up ten minutes later.”
Dad: “Ah, I’m so tired a ten minute nap sounds good. I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Well, I’m more tired than you are.”
Dad: “Are you? Are you? I’m probably more tired than you think I am.”
Momma: “Maybe but I’m pretty sure I’m more tired than you are.”

WHAT?!  That was just silly.  Clearly we were sleep deprived and delirious to think that was a helpful conversation.  The second and third time we had a newborn in the house we would say something like this:

Dad: “I’m so tired.”
Momma: “I know. Me too.”
Dad: “Baby was up a bunch last night, huh?”
Momma: “Yep. I’m so tired.”
Dad: “I know. Me too.”

Keep in mind that while you, Momma, are working hard. So is Dad.  Is it the same? No. Does that matter? No.  Just accept that the first few months everyone is tired and everyone is over-worked.  But the good news is……  #5….

5.    It’s just a phase.  Everything with kids is just a phase…
Read the fine print: this also means that if things are going well, it’s just a phase too. Soon things will start to not go well again.  But, that’s just a phase too!

I did not love the newborn phase.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with Baby all day.  I thought I was a bad mom or that I lacked some maternal instinct.  Turns out it was hormonal and I soon snapped out of it and life as a Momma turned out to be great.  I got into my groove and we sort of got a schedule down.  But that turned out to be a phase because she had a growth spurt. I was super tired and drained and crabby again, but that turned out to be a phase and she started being more interactive and Motherhood was actually fun.  The fun phase led right into the teething phase and that is a very not-fun phase.  The phases came and went and came and went.  All in all, you just have to hold on for dear life and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.  I’m seven years into this Momma life and I’m still riding through different phases.  Now with three kids I really have to enjoy the times when all three of them are in a good phase at the same time.  It does happen.  That is a most-awesome phase.  It’s actually a “Makes all the tough phases worth it 100 times over!” Phase.

Allow your nurses to help as much as possible while you are in the hospital.
Our nurses took Baby #3, Samuel, out of our room for a few hours so I could sleep. I’m not sure I let Baby #1 out of my line of sight for the first few days.  By Baby #3, I had learned my lesson!  The nurses wrote this note on our door for all the hospital staff and un-announced visitors.
I’m fairly certain I could write pages and pages of more lessons I learned as a New Momma.  Not that I think I know everything now.  Certainly I’m still learning new lessons and re-learning old lessons.  This list was fun to write and think back on all the ways I have grown and changed over the years… almost like a newborn to a seven year old.  My dear friend, you know who you are, I wish you all the best in this wonderful life as a Momma!  You are going to do a wonderful job being the very best Momma that your little chicken could ever have, I look forward to watching you learn and grow along the way.  Love you!

Motherhood: Happy Labor Day

Today’s Labor Day: the day to rest from your hard work. We’re all out BBQ-ing, relaxing, enjoying the last of summer. I appreciate this holiday, I really do. No, wait, sort of I don’t.  I appreciate that my husband had the day off of work and we were able to spend extra time with him.  However, my “rest from my hard work” was pretty much non-existent.  I still did laundry (yes, if you read a few posts ago, I am back to having constant laundry), I still made lunches, and I still cleaned up after the kids.  Labor Day for Stay-At-Home Moms is hardly a holiday.

In honor of LABOR day... a belly shot of me in 2006. This was my view the night before I had my daughter. Happy Labor Day!

In honor of LABOR day… a belly shot of me in 2006. This was my view the night before I had my daughter. Happy Labor Day!

I don’t write this from a place of cranky bitterness.  This is my 6th Labor Day non-holiday, so my expectations are realistic and I’m fine with that.  I just think it deserves to be put into writing that the one day of the year that is specifically a day to celebrate laborers isn’t much of a celebration for me.

The day is called “Labor Day”… you would think that mothers would get a little extra something special since they are the ones that actually labor. First they grow the little beans into a child… a human child. That’s crazy. But if that wasn’t enough, they also labor… literally labor… to get the human safely into the world.  That deserves a holiday. Okay, so maybe there’s the kid’s birthday and that’s like a holiday, but that doesn’t really count because it’s the child who gets the presents and attention… not the momma who grew and birthed the kid.  Lame.  Oh, right, there’s Mother’s Day too. But, c’mon, Mother’s Day is celebrating the awesome mothers we happen to be after the child is in the world.  Labor Day should be a holiday to celebrate the fact that women bring humans into the world.  Everyone should have the day off of work too, but let’s just acknowledge that mothers earn the right to claim the “labor” for which we celebrate.

I should probably openly admit that I never went into full labor. I had some serious braxton-hicks for weeks (months) and started labor with the first two.  However, my first child ended up being breech so we planned a c-section.  My second pregnancy was in California where they did not allow VBACs, and finally my third pregnancy had to be a c-section since I already had two… plus he ended up being 10 pounds, so I was happy to go ahead with a c-section on that one! So, I didn’t actually labor, only a little bit with all three.  I’m going to claim some rights to Labor Day though because c-section recoveries are no picnic. They are laborious, too.

So, can we agree that Labor Day should really give more credit to the mothers in this country. Good.

Can I address one more thing about Labor Day? Yes, yes I can, it’s my blog.

I’d like to openly and publicly give big props to all the mothers (who labored) who also have a husband on deployment today.  (I also give props to all military spouses who are celebrating this holiday without your loved one, but a special one to the mothers because of the whole “labor” thing.) The military spouses who are home with the kids will be laboring like always; no husband getting up with the kids so she can catch an extra hour of sleep, no husband to wrestle with the kids or throw them in the pool, no husband to give an extra hand doing dinner dishes, no husband to lounge on the couch with during the middle of the day.  Today is a national holiday, but for many military spouses it is just one more day of deployment, pulling double-duty as mom and dad, seeing all those families together doing family things… together.  Of all the people in the world who deserve a day off, it is the military spouses who are holding down the fort at home and trying to entertain the kids on their day off of school.

No matter if your husband is on deployment or just on a short work-up, missing your spouse on a national holiday is an extra blow to your enthusiasm.  The whole country gets the day off of work and if they don’t they are most likely earning extra over-time or some such incentive, except for the military who are deployed. They’re working right through the BBQs.  While they made the choice to serve in the military and that’s what they signed up to do, I would still like to give all those military members – especially mommies who are deployed and away from their kids – a special salute for laboring an extra day this year. 

So, Happy Labor Day to you all…
… especially to all you mommas who labored to bring your beautiful babies into this world.
…. especially to all you mommas who c-sectioned your beautiful babies into this world and labored through recovery.
… extra especially to all you mommas who have a husband on deployment today, thank you for taking one for the team today, ladies.  I’m sure I have a Labor Day without my husband sometime in the next few years, but please know I appreciate the hard work you’ve put in today. Because of you cherished the extra hours I had with my husband today. Cheers to you!

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