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She’s Here

Our fourth child, our third daughter, arrived eleven days ago.

Isabel*Joycie*Grayce was born on June 1st at 4:53 a.m. in a natural hospital birth. She weighed 8lbs 6oz and measured 20.5 inches long. She was six days overdue, covered in vernix, had almost a completely bald little head, and her eyes were bright and alert. Her sweetness was apparent instantly. In every way, she is perfect.

It’s hard to accept that she is our last child. I’m still not sure she is, though my husband adamantly disagrees. But that’s another story for another day.

Today, I am savoring every moment. The snuggles. The sleepy sighs. The dreamy smiles. Her tiny, precious weight against my chest.

These are the best days of my life and I am treasuring every one of them.

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Hard

Many thanks to all of you for the kind and understanding comments left on my last post.  They were chicken soup, and a sunny Seattle day, and a warm ocean breeze, for my soul. I’m so glad that I didn’t take that post down, as I considered doing just after I hit Publish. I needed to say what I did and I needed to hear what you had to say. So thank you.

A week later, the worst of it has passed and now that we’re on the other side, I feel somewhat silly for reacting as I did and the dark days I endured seem hardly worth mentioning. Crying toddlers. Sleepless nights. Fussy babies. And preschoolers who push your buttons. That’s what every mother endures. So why on earth did it feel so HARD? Some days when I think of it, I feel weak. Some days, I just feel human.

Regardless, it’s over. And I can see now in the light of day that what I lost sight of then is that none of this is forever. When Skittle was crying for no reason at all and Poppy suddenly was waking in the wee hours of the morning, after a month or more of sleeping until 10am every day, our home felt in chaos and I couldn’t anticipate if it would ever go back to the way it was before all hell broke loose. I was scared that a few nights of difficult sleep meant the tides had turned and I would never sleep again.

But that’s not how this mothering thing goes. Sometimes (like, most of the time, especially if you’re me and you don’t have a relaxed bone in your body and try to keep some sort of order with three kids who don’t give a sh*t about order), something is really hard. And then it stops being hard, either because you get used to it or because the problem goes away, and then it feels easy. It feels like you’re rocking motherhood. You get a little cocky. And then you get slapped across the face because something gets really hard again. And often, this hard thing is different from the last hard thing and the hard thing before that. And sometimes, on a really unlucky day or week or year, all the hard things happen at once. And then you nearly punch a hole in the wall because you go crazy with the stress of it all. And then everything gets better and you get a second to breathe before something gets hard again. But mostly, even with those moments of fresh air and rest, it’s hard. Motherhood is hard.

But it’s also a blessing. It’s a gift. A treasure.

And it’s easy to forget that when you’re knee-deep in the crappy parts of it, but that’s okay. We’re allowed to forget. Even if we prayed for our babies. Even if we fought through months and months of trying, and tears, and drugs, and ultrasounds. Even if we lost a baby. Even if we thought we may never get to hold this baby who is now driving us crazy. It’s okay to forget that, once upon a time, we would have given our right arm and our big toe to be going through this.

Because when it’s over, when we get to take that big breath and perhaps a big gulp of wine, we remember. We remember where we came from. We remember how lucky we are. And we are ever more thankful, and ever more committed to doing better and to showing our children how grateful for them we are.

Motherhood is really hard. As is life.

But good God, I sure am glad I get to experience them both.

Confessions: Drowning

Note: This is a very raw, honest post, written in reflection of how I felt at a very low point in this week. I feel good now, but also know more hard days will always be ahead. Please be kind in the comments.

He’s asleep in my arms, his sweet, bald baby head resting on my bare chest. He’s milk-drunk and sighing heavily in his sleep. There’s music on the radio and his big sisters dance, tiptoe, twirl, and giggle their way across the living room floor while I sit and watch, enjoying this quiet, perfect moment in time. To an outsider, some stranger standing on our porch and peering through the kitchen window, we must look straight out of some made-for-TV movie, happy and carefree and living everyone’s idyllic fantasy.

But what no one knows is that, this week, I have yelled at these children. All three of them. I have yelled, screamed, cried, sobbed, begged God, prayed, and swore silently and aloud to whoever would listen. Maybe because we were sick last week, or because it’s almost a full moon, or because of some other unknown force at work, we have been a disaster here for days now. Every last one of us. My five-year-old is doing everything in her power to make the rest of us miserable, snatching toys from her sister just because she can, running from the room as soon as she realizes I’m going to ask for her to grab me a burp rag, just generally being an impolite, insufferable little brat. My two-year-old, sweet, gentle angel that she is, has become a wailing, viscious she-devil who flings her bowl of applesauce across the room at breakfast and lunch because she doesn’t want me going to the bathroom while she eats. And the baby? Poor, defenseless, snot-nosed little thing whom I was just bragging about because he sleeps from 10pm to 10am every day? Well, he is proving to the world what a comedian he is as he now wakes at all hours of the night, screaming at the top of his lungs, and then refuses anything more than a thirty-minute nap during the day.

And I have lost my mind over it. I have said to the baby, “Well, you’re just going to have to cry because I’m not picking you up this time,” even though I didn’t mean it. I have wished away all the years ahead of me of hugs by chubby arms and toddler lips saying, “Me love MomMom” just so that they would grow up and all this madness could be over with. I have thrown more than one adult tantrum. The rage that I have felt has scared me. I could have hurt my children. I didn’t — thank God, I knew enough to stop myself before I reached that point — but I could have. I wanted to. And afterwards, as I rocked our sweet baby boy to sleep yet again, I said to my husband, “This is how it happens. This is how babies get shaken or thrown across a room. Parents just can’t take anymore.” I understood.

I hate myself for that. I hate that I understand. I hate that I can’t handle as much as I thought I could, and that I reached my breaking point so quickly. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? I wonder. And what about the fourth baby that I yearn for? The fourth, and maybe the fifth and sixth? (Because even at the lowest point, I’m still thinking ahead. Still wanting more.) How do moms do this? Is it just me? Am I the only one flailing in these choppy waters of parenthood?

There are days when I hate this mothering gig. I know I shouldn’t. My ovaries don’t work and we fought so damn hard to get here, to have three children call us “MomMom” and “Daaaaaad.” I should be thankful. I should soak it in. I should cherish every moment of it. And I do. Mostly. When it’s good, it’s good. The kids sleep and snuggle and laugh and say “Thank you” on cue. We go to the zoo and the park and read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and eat unbaked cookie dough. I take photos (lots and lots of photos) and the kids smile and we put the photo in a frame and we remember the good times with warmth and a lot of love.

But the good times don’t make the bad times any easier. The kids scream or cry all at once. My girls won’t share. Someone is up all night, needing me. No one likes what I put on the dinner table. The baby requires constant bouncing, wiggling, tickling, and rocking all day long, day after day after day. And over and over again, I trip over a tornado of toys and swear I’m going to throw every last one of them in the trash because I just can’t stand the thought of picking up one more Disney princess figurine or itty-bitty lego. I’m tired and in over my head. At the worst of times, that’s the truth: I am in way over my head. I’m drowning. And there’s no going back. No, undoing this. No fixing it. Somehow, I just have to suck in a lungful of oxygen when I can and keep doggie-paddling and hope that’s enough.

But here’s what I fear: It’s not. Surviving isn’t thriving. It’s not enough. Not for my kids and not for me. I’m a failure. I’m defeated. I’m weak. My kids deserve better. All the ugly things I tell myself…the list is long. I’m a bad person. There’s something wrong with me. I should be punished. I am worthless. It gets worst and worst.

And yet, behind each one, there is another voice. The voice of reason. What I hope is the voice of truth. A whispered echo of hope and redemption that says:

Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow, you can do better.

And I will. Or at least, I will try.

I will always try.