As the one woman show of Strong as a Mother, I find myself in a position where I longingly desire to be poignant with my blog posts. To not only draw on my own experiences as a labor nurse and childbirth educator, but to reflect on what I'm living as a mother, day in and day out. I read posts from other mother and parent centered bloggers and marvel at their ability to connect with their audience so perfectly. "Yes!" I will exclaim, agreeing with an article, "it's like she wrote this about me!"
Yet as for me, I've started, edited, and re-edited a single post on a significant maternal health concern since early December, but I can't seem to get the wording to where I want it to be before I post. Concurrently, my best ideas for topics of discussion for both blog and social media that often hit me just as I'm about to finally drift off to sleep after my kids are at slumber, but alas, in the morning they elude me. I struggle to find the time some days to even post to my business social media pages, let alone work on promoting it. I'm just too darn tired.
Why is this, you may ask? Well, I am, one could say..."in the thick of it".
I can remember the overwhelming sense of "what the hell did I get myself into" when I had my first son, Jake. The challenges of constant nursing, diapers, bottles, laundry, sleepless nights, the feeling of loss of self-identity...of who I was, as a woman. It hit me rock hard. I vented, cried, and occasionally screamed my way through the first year postpartum. Fortunately, I had a strong circle of mothers who welcomed me in. "It won't always be like this", they promised. "You're in the thick of it," they said. They swore if I gave it time, I would find my groove into this new role I was learning, and fortunately their words rang true. Slowly, I was able to incorporate this new precious love of my life into some of the other precious pieces of my pre-motherhood life that I so needed in order to feel like "I" existed, not just the "mom" parts of my identity.
My second son, Ryan, came along two years later. I braced myself for what I was in for when he arrived. I mentally prepped, set up a stronger support network of friends and family, and had more logistical conversations with my spouse so we were both on the same footing with how things would flow once baby arrived. Though his pregnancy still rocked my world, I found that navigating postpartum was less challenging in a way, as I had a better realistic expectation of what was to come, especially in those first few months postpartum where routine is more or less non-existent. I found myself more forgiving of what I wasn't able to accomplish in terms of organization, professional development, and juggling parenthood to two new blooming beings. I learned that you can't always make two kids (and a partner), happy at once. I learned how to achieve (some) patience with toddler meltdowns while chronically sleep deprived. I also learned that while healthy eating is always a goal, sometimes mac and cheese was simply enough. That I was enough, perfectly imperfect as a mother of two.
Now, four and a half years after I became a mother, I have three small beings depending on me to show them the ways of the world. Though I expected full well the challenge of bringing a third child into our household with our oldest not even yet 5, I didn't know what lesson in motherhood her birth would teach me. Now, I suppose it doesn't hurt that she was also born 8 months into a world-wide pandemic, forcing me and every other family to rely more closely on a tight inner circle of friends and loved ones, and to find comfort into being a homebody for a time...a lesson I had trouble digesting with my first born. Pandemic related or not, Carly is three and a half months old at the time of this blog, and I can say with confidence that for me, this third child's birth has instilled in me the art of grace as a mother.
In the past few months I've learned to give myself grace when I'm home alone with all three and they're all crying over one thing or the next at the very same moment. I've laughed in the mirror to no one but myself when one kid's screaming at me from the bathroom that he needs the book he dropped, and the other is screaming over fruit snacks he can't have, and the baby is crying because she just had a poop blow out, which is now all over my baby wrap, because I'm wearing her. I've given myself grace when I look at the mirror at my dark circles under my eyes, the spit up on my shirt, the softened shape of my once toned body, and embraced it...even though it's not always easy. I remain just as scrambled in thought and in routine as I had been with my previous children's first years, but it's a somehow more enjoyable experience.
I know from experience that this first year postpartum will pass in the blink of an eye. I've done it twice before. I know they will each soon wipe their own butts, and go to school for 30 hours a week, and my softened body will hopefully tone up some, and my sleep will improve. Still, gone will be the days of the middle of the night snuggles, the sweet smell of the freshly washed baby's head, the comforting chaos of noise and of mess that mothering babies and toddlers brings....and I know that I will miss "being in the thick of it."
To my fellow parents out there also in the thick of it, I raise my glass to you. Let's rally together over zoom, but before 9 pm, because let's face it...we'll be face planted into bed by 10.