Reflections on 4 years of Motherhood
If you haven't noticed, I've been having sort of tough time coming up with content to write about recently...not necessarily coming up with it-I have plenty of ideas, but it's more like sitting down and executing it. I've been questioning if I have anything to say that's valuable to other people. What I've found since starting this blog a year and a half ago, is that my creativity and drive definitely has it's ebbs and flows. There are weeks, months even where I literally can't stop creating food, or sharing my heart. Then, there are others where I feel stuck, stagnant, and choose Netflix at night over writing. I'm still trying to figure out the rhyme and reason for that, but part of me wonders if it's just natures way of telling me to "stop, take a minute, breathe, and step away" so that I can come back excited about my passion when I'm ready.
Deep stuff, huh? Which leads me to this blog post. I've been avoiding writing it for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I'm in serious denial that I have a one and almost four year old! The cliche that the days are long but the years are short is so incredibly spot on, can I get an amen from my mama friends on that one? The other reason is that I don't want it to sound like I'm coming from a place of regret. Do I have regrets about motherhood, absolutely, but the main purpose of this blog post is to reflect on what I've learned, and how I've evolved as a mother and a human. It's how I feel when I think back to my younger self (4 year younger self to be exact), and I see her in my minds eye--a brand new, beautiful, perfect baby in her hands, scared shitless, and trying so desperately to be PERFECT.
Four years ago, I was reeling from a birth that took every expectation I ever had about becoming a mama and turned it on it's head. It scared me, it took me to a place where I was as far from "in control" as a person could be. And for me, to lose control was quite possibly my most soul crushing fear, though I wasn't truly aware of it at the time. A NICU stay, a really hard breast feeding beginning, a baby that was colicky, refluxy, and very spirited left me feeling dazed, confused, and even more out of control. So what did I do? I tried to control even more. I read books about how to parent, tried to force my baby to sleep and fit a certain mold. Fought against my new life, struggled desperately to get back to the "old me". I missed a lot. I wasn't rocking motherhood, in fact, I was barely hanging on. I would hold my tiny, perfect human and cry, and ask him what he needed me to do...how could I help him?
I felt incapable, not only as a mom, but as a wife. I couldn't take care of our kiddo AND clean AND cook AND shower--though I tried. Looking back, there is so much I wish I could say to that mama that I was, the one who was trying so, so hard to be PERFECT. I don't know it all, and I'm far from perfect now, but 1 year into being a mama of two, with a totally different post partum period the second time around, here's what I wish I could tell any mama who is struggling with the same things I did.
- BE PRESENT. There are times where you will want to wish away the current moment that you're in, either because it's really EFFING hard, OR because you can't wait to get to the next step when baby is crawling/walking/talking etc. Try your hardest to find joy in the moment. It's really really hard to do, but finding joy in even one small thing can change your perspective.
- HOLD YOUR BABY. This one's pretty self explanatory. Stop trying to put your child down every chance you get, I swear they only want you to hold them for such a short time, and one day you'll be asking to hold them, and they'll say no, and your heart will crumble into a million pieces.
- STOP TRYING TO KEEP A FREAKING PRISTINE HOUSE. Ain't.gonna.happen. Besides, even if you do by some strange miracle manage to keep a clean house, is it worth the stress? Is it more important than napping, showering, or feeding yourself? I used to think so, but now I know the answer to be HELL NO.
- LET GO OF THE GUILT. For every mama this will be different. What is it that makes you feel guilty? For some it's not being able to breastfeed, for others it's because you didn't buy organic cloth diapers, or maybe you accidentally let your baby fall off the couch one day because you didn't realize she was mobile yet (might have happened). The bottom line is guilt is useless, it does nothing but eat you up inside. If you can look back and say "I did the best I could with what I had at the time", then let it go because that's all you can do!
- TAKE THE TIME TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. This is imperative, my friends. You deserve it. YOU NEED IT TO SURVIVE. Sleep deprivation. The witching hour. The body transitions. The hormones. All of it. Even if it's just taking 5 minutes to walk outside without someone attached to you--DO IT. Care for yourself, love yourself deeply, treat yourself as you would a friend who was in a fragile place.
- EVOLVE. Don't let what you think of as your "mess ups" keep you from changing and growing as a mama. There were days when I would just let myself go down a terrible rabbithole of blame and shame and guilt about how much my baby cried. The fact that I couldn't help him, so I must be terrible. I wallowed in it. I let it become a comfort to me, the fact that I was not good enough. I ignored the fact that I loved him so much that I wouldn't stop trying to figure out how to help him. That I never stopped trying. That I read anything and everything I could to figure it out. I never let myself "off the hook" and for practically 2 years of his life, that's who I saw myself as--the mama who couldn't get it right. I never EVER gave myself credit for the many, many wins and moments I did "get it right", and there were so many more of those. My point is, you're going to make mistakes--LEARN from them, and move on, or else what's the point?
So there it is folks. What I've learned the last 4 years of being a mother to two of THE MOST PRECIOUS humans on the planet. It's not a lot, but it's enough. It's enough to make me aware that these days are fleeting, that I am a good mama, that things are not perfect, but they're the way they should be. It's made me realize that every child is different and perfect. That the hard parts are not necessarily my fault, that my kids will be ok, that most things I view as major in my eyes are minor, and that most minor things are not irreversible. For those every day things we beat ourselves up over as a mom, there is grace. We can say "I'm sorry for yelling," we can ask our children, spouses, friends, family members for forgiveness when warranted, and work to gain trust that has been lost. We can right wrongs, hold hands, get kisses and endless amounts of love even when we aren't perfect.
The biggest thing I've learned is that perfection is a myth. Trying to be perfect will ALWAYS result in feelings of failure because perfection is impossible. What if, instead of trying to be perfect, we tried to be ourselves to the fullest extent we possibly can? I'm still learning that lesson, but I can tell you now that I'm so much happier in my skin, when I see myself the way my kids see me--beautiful, strong, kind, loving, and EVERYTHING they need.