Tag Archive | mothering

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.

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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.

Moment By Moment: Defeat

Note: I’ve been thinking of starting a series of posts called “Moment By Moment.” These will give you a snapshot of a moment or two (or more) of our daily lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let me know what you think!

I sit on the sofa, my newborn sleeping fitfully against my chest. His big sisters are nearby, my oldest one on the sofa calling out requests for “A croissant please!” and “I need some juice!” and her little sister (the middle child) works at their play kitchen, dutifully trying to prepare her sister’s meal. A tear slips down my cheek.

I have been crying lots of tears lately, happy, joyful, grateful tears, but this is not of those kind.

Today, I feel defeated. It’s early, but I’m tired and this is the first peaceful moment my children have given me. It’s 10:30 a.m. and already I am wishing my husband home and the day be done. Today, the final day of the first week on my own with my three littles, my oldest has cried because her shirt is itchy and she wants lotion on her skin. And after I put said lotion on, and asked if she needed any more, and put the lotion away, she cried because she was still itchy. And she doesn’t want to share today. Every time I turn around, she is snatching another toy away from her sister. And then her sister starts screaming. And all that screaming in between her whines and cries to “Eeeeeat. Pleeeeease eat. Mooooore eat.” She just ate. And the baby! Oh, this sweet, precious, snuggly baby boy who turns into a possessed, screaming monster when I try to put him down so I can prepare food for his sister to eat. Or so I can do laundry. Or just so I can pee.

It’s been this way most of the week, but today is the worst of the worst, and I am spent. Done. Defeated. It’s feeling hard to remember why I’ve yearned for this sort of chaos so long. It’s feeling hard to believe I ever thought I could handle three kids at one time. Just a few years ago, I would have given my right leg and both eyeballs to be in this moment. But now? I’m wishing they’d grow up. I’m wondering what my exact breaking point is. At what point will I become one of those mothers who slaps her child across the face or just walks out the door and never comes back? I’m crying because I feel regret, and guilt. I wanted this. I would have killed for this. I’m so ashamed.

The quiet moment passes too quickly. The girls start squabbling again. Screeching at each other. I put the baby in the Moby, but he moves too much. His legs push against me and, somehow, he works his shoulders and arms free of the wrap. I switch him to the Boba and he wails. I’m tired, and I need to make lunch and pick up the toys littered from one end of the house to the other, and while I do all of that I bounce him and he finally calms down. When I stop to catch my breath, he starts again. And one of his sisters starts begging for food again. And the other begins complaining that she doesn’t like chicken nuggets.

I sigh. I just have to accept it. Today is a day of defeat. It just is.

______________________________

The baby is strapped into the Boba, my nerves are jittery, and I am cleaning the house when I feel it. My underwear are wet.

I had thought my postpartum bleeding was over. I’d put the pads away a couple days ago. I shouldn’t have.

I reach to grab some toilet paper only to find that my 4-year-old, who has become obsessed with wiping herself recently, has wrapped the paper around the roll in the most bizarre fashion that I can’t find the free end and start tugging, tearing, and shredding it in an effort to get some for myself. I am on the brink of a tantrum. I begin to whimper.

With the baby against my chest, I struggle to wipe my underwear with the shredded TP and then tape on my panty liner. My underwear are wet, but I don’t bother to change them. I’m too tired, and it would take too much effort with this baby on me. He is starting to stir and whine. I’m not moving enough. All I want is to rest, to breathe deep and hear nothing but silence and be free of anyone touching me.

I would also like to have a good cry. I can feel the tears coming and I fight to hold them back. Our house is falling apart. I can’t.

But I do. I cry.

“Please let the day get easier, dear God,” I pray as I bounce my baby and the tears fall quickly onto his head. I am waving my white flag of surrender. I am crying uncle. I need help.

For the first time, I wonder, What have I DONE? For the first time, I think, I can’t do this.

It seems pathetic to say it again, but…I’m defeated.

______________________________

Nothing has gone right today. The baby waffled between fussing, crying, and going bat sh*t crazy every time I put him down. My daughters whined and fought and screamed and cried all morning long. I yelled back. I ripped toys out of their hands just as I was telling them not to do the same thing to their sister. I started bleeding and I wasn’t wearing a pad. Everything I picked up I seemed to drop and had to pick up all over again…while lugging around a baby in a Boba. The sky rained. The wind blew. My husband called and I thought it was to offer his sympathy, but instead it was with questions about our health insurance. He was cranky. He hates insurance companies. We received our hospital bill and it’s all wrong. Another insurance company to fight. And as I was writing this blog post, on a computer that we just bought and I’m still learning how to use, I accidentally deleted a long paragraph I had typed out and I had to type it again.

Yes, it’s a day of defeat. And I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better. It could be this way for a long time.

But one day, it won’t be.

There are always better days ahead, I’m told.

And I think I remember that being true.

Meeting my Niece

I am one of those crazy people who dig road trips, but I was unsure whether I was going to love the one we went on yesterday to see my sister and her new baby. For one, it was a long way to drive (over two hours) for a short time to visit. We planned to stay only an hour or two, so as not to overwhelm Sis with too much company while also trying to adjust to being a new mommy. In addition, my daughter was in some sort of mood yesterday and an extended time in a car with a crabby two-year-old is not exactly a party. And also, most importantly really, I have purposely spent very little time around newborns since my miscarriage last year. I did not know if my heart would fare well in seeing my tiny niece and knowing that, right now, Teddy Graham would be about three months old.

But all in all, it went well. Cupcake wanted little to do with her new cousin and was only worried that the baby might steal her cup of orange juice. She spent most of the time chasing the cat around the house, with my husband following close behind. Poor kitty. Poor Honey. And me? I was okay. My niece is small and beautiful. I held her from the moment I arrived to almost the moment we left. She stared into my eyes, wide awake, for a good while and eventually fell asleep as I rocked her gently. She didn’t say a peep the whole time we were there. And I am ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until the drive home that I even thought about Teddy. I don’t know if this makes me a horrible mom, or if it just means I am finally on my way to some sort of healing.

And one other thing…as I held my niece, I was surprised by how natural it felt. How right. There have been times recently when I have wondered if I would even know how to take care of a newborn again. If I would know what to do, or how to hold one, or rock one, or love one. It seems so long ago that Cupcake was that small. But I was reminded that, somehow, mothering a baby is like riding a bike. You just never forget how to do it.

And I am so glad that, finally, I have something to be confident in.

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On Motherhood

Today is my daughter’s birthday, so this post is a little about her and a lot about mothering. I want to write this post mostly for me, but also to explain my experience with parenting after infertility and to give some of you hope (I hope). What I don’t want — the very, very last thing I want — is to cause anyone additional pain or grief. I hope this post is okay.

Two years ago today, I became a mother. The child I had longed for, cried for, and craved was finally placed into my arms. After fifteen months of infertility and nine months of worry, fear, and complications, she was finally here. It was a moment I once believed I would never experience. But in that instant, it did not matter what it took to get her there. The memories of Clomid, charts, OPKs, and doctor visits were gone. The tears, the pain, the grief were gone. Not forgotten, just entirely insignificant. Because all that mattered in those first moments was the miracle that was in my arms. She was mine at last and she was no different than any other baby born at that hospital, except (perhaps) she was more loved and more cherished than most.

I have found, though, that in the days, weeks, months, and years since giving birth, the road that I walked to achieve that dream has colored my parenting experience. There is still a part of me, even now, that is afraid that we will lose Cupcake. I remember, early on, being very scared of SIDS. This was not a normal fear; it was truly a phobia. The highest risk of SIDS is from two to four months and as my daughter approached the two-month mark, there were nights when I felt such panic in my chest that I could scarcely breathe, I was unable to sleep, and I was sweaty and clammy with the thought of what could happen. I obsessively googled and did everything I could that might prevent SIDS, even waking up multiple times a night to check on Cupcake, but even then there were days I was convinced that we would lose her. I felt as sure of it as anything else I have ever felt. It was only time that helped to diminish the panic and reassure me that SIDS would not take my daughter away. These days, I am a bit more chill and a bit more confident that she will be sticking with us, but it does not take much to send me right back to that dark and fearful place. The other day, I was watching a show about a young child with cancer and I spent many hours after that crying and worrying. Is this normal? I can’t really say because it is all I’ve known,but I imagine it’s probably not. Not to this degree anyways. Perhaps these fears stem from having lost so many people I love early in my life. I am always afraid that I will lose one more. But I think it is because infertility has the power to fundamentally change a person and the way she reacts to the world. We know too well that there are no guarantees. No guarantees that we will ovulate. No guarantees that we will conceive. No guarantees that what has been given to us will be with us forever. We realize the fragility, and utter value, of life itself.

But infertility has not damaged me completely. In some ways, it has built me up and made me a better mother. As I told Theresa in a comment on one of her recent posts, I have a constant sense of gratitude. I have been faced with the possibility of never holding my own child, and this does not escape me any moment of any day. During midnight feedings early on and during tantrums yesterday and tomorrow, I have never forgotten that, while what I’m going through in that minute is hard, there are other things that are much, much harder. You know that poem about infertility? The one that starts like this:

There are women that become mothers without effort, without thought, without patience or loss and though they are good mothers and love their children, I know I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics or money or that I have read more books but because I have struggled and toiled for this child. I have longed and waited. I have cried and I prayed. I have endured and planned over and over again.

There have never been any truer words. I am not a perfect mother. I lose my patience, sometimes I yell, sometimes I do things that do not set a good example (like eating a lot of Nutella straight from the jar). But I know that I am better than I ever would have been without going through what I did. I am better because I know the life of my child should not be taken for granted. I treasure her every day, even when she is crying, or screaming, or hitting me in the face with her new Elmo doll. I cherish the chocolatey kisses that stain my clothes, the hair pulling when she tries to brush my hair, the toys flying across the room because she is frustrated and doesn’t have the words to say it. Every day, I am reminded of what could have been if I had had never had her, and what might never be again if I am unable to have another baby and experience this all from the start one more time. So I work harder, play harder, and laugh harder, all because infertility has shown me that every child is a precious, precious gift.

They say when a child is born, so is a mother. How true. It’s funny to think that while I imagined having a big family most of my life (except for one period in middle school when I declared I would never have children), and for all the trouble I went to trying to start one, I was never positively sure that I be a mother. Or that I would be any good at it. I thought maybe I’m too selfish, too lazy, too unsure, too indecisive. My free time too precious and my sleep at nighttime too cherished. But once you have a child, nothing has meaning without that child. I didn’t care that my time became our time. I didn’t mind the sacrifices I had to make or the things I lost because so much was also gained. This is one of the things that my daughter has taught me. Because of her, I have learned that the only thing that truly matters in this world is love. Giving and receiving it. Because of her, I care less about things and care more about treasuring those I have in my life. In the last two years, I have also learned to have patience when necessary, to appreciate the simple things in life (like the slug creeping on our sidewalk and the sound the leaves make when blowing in the wind), to speak up at the most important times, and to not sweat the small stuff (though I’m still working on that one, every day). As a new mother, and especially as a survivor of infertility, I have come a long ways.

It seems appropriate to me that Cupcake was born the week of Thanksgiving. As you might remember, I have a lot to be thankful for, but there is nothing in this world that gives me more gratitude than my daughter. Every year, as we celebrate her birthday and especially in a particularly difficult year like this one, I am reminded of how lucky or how blessed (take your pick) I am. I hope one day soon each of you are able to say the same. Really, there is little else in this world that I want more.  And for all of my fellow Americans, I wish you all the happiest and sweetest of Thanksgivings and, no matter where you are at in your journey, I hope and I pray that there is something, however small, for which you can be thankful. XO

Introducing…Cupcake!

Over the weekend, I took my daughter, who is 19 months old, to the park. I have a fancy new camera that I wanted to play with. (In my case, “new” is fairly relative as I’ve had this camera a year now. It just feels new to me because I’m still learning how to use it.)  I took lots of pictures, all of them of Cupcake.

I usually refrain from posting photos of her here as this is an anonymous blog and I feel a fierce need to protect her and our family in such a public format. I am also hyper-aware that many of my readers are still struggling to conceive their first child and have no interest in seeing or hearing about my beautiful offspring. However, she is very cute. And I want you to know me and you can’t know me without knowing what makes me me, and a big part of that is being a mother. I won’t do this often, but without further ado, here she is…my greatest accomplishment, my very heart, and my whole world:

On a good day, I see this girl and think nothing of my loss, or my struggle, and only how very blessed I really am.

I Want My Mommeeeeeeeee….

That’s what I kept saying as I was going through all of this over the last six weeks. I want my mommy! And when she walked off the plane yesterday, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally, someone is here to take care of me.

You have to understand the type of mama she is. Think Gilmore Girls. That’s us! She’s my mom when I need one and my friend when I need one. And now that I’m a mom myself, she’s also my mentor when I need one, and I welcome that. And best of all, when she’s in town, I get a break. I play with my daughter and maybe do some baking/cooking, but I don’t have to do laundry, dishes, bath, bedtime, or any other mommy duties. I get a 98% reprieve.

Alas, at least for the weekend, I can stop being strong. I can take care of me, instead of caring for everyone else. I can focus on healing and less on hurting. I can stay in bed all day if I need to so that I can mourn and grieve. But I don’t think it will come to that. A month ago, yes. There was nothing I wanted more than to crawl under the covers and hide from the world. But now, I think I can face it. The pain isn’t gone, but it’s becoming bearable.

And I have fun things planned for the weekend! Pedicures, date night, a day trip into the city, lots of good food. For the first time in six weeks, I have something to look forward to. It feels good. For these few days at least, I just want to forget what is behind me, and especially all the uncertainty that lays ahead.