I met my adventure-loving, heart-stealing son face-to-face almost 14 months ago.
I loved him right away. I loved him as he was growing inside, as I felt him moving, rolling, kicking. I sang to him, talked to him, and ate in ways I thought would benefit him. I held him as soon as he was born; I could hardly believe he was right there, skin touching, even though it should have been easy to believe after 4 hours of pushing him into day light.
I marveled at his tiny toes and rocked him for hours and talked with my husband regularly about just how lucky we were (and are) to have such an amazing little kid bestowed upon us.
I have a secret, though.
The way I feel now about motherhood, about him is the way I thought I would feel when he was first laid on my chest. Nolan grew on me over the span of a year. I feel like I need to remind you that I always loved him when I say that, like maybe admitting he grew on me is saying I didn't love him enough in the beginning, that I somehow failed as a mother right off the bat.
The first year, or maybe the first 10 months (I can't remember now), were not easy. I repeated often that motherhood is or was harder, but better than I expected.
Maybe I've said that too much in writing and in person as I tried to explain away why everything about me was so different (or at least it seemed to me), why some days I couldn't remember what I was told 10 minutes ago or the only stories I had to tell were about something I'd learned about motherhood.
Sometimes it feels like there are secrets about motherhood that you aren't let into until you're living them. It's okay to voice those things. It's okay to say I had no idea how hard this would be when I signed up. It's okay to laugh about the silly things you said in a tired fog, take a real break, do something that's not baby related or say I don't know what I'm doing.
It seems silly to me that so many of us are doing the same things at the same time by ourselves- in different ways, sure, but if we're respectful of each other's choices, we should be able to do more life together, shouldn't we? I'm still working toward solutions for this one, but sometimes a simple "it's normal to feel that way" is enough to tide me over or take the edge off.
It's normal to feel like some parts of my day are mundane. Nolan can repeat the same activity over and over and over...I don't have to think his actions are interesting at every moment. ( Often, giving myself permission to feel less than thrilled means I end up transferring the energy I'd spent on fighting my feelings and carrying guilt to look for ways to enjoy the mundane parts. )
It's okay to struggle through the process of learning to be a mother. No matter what you may think about mothers' intuition, doing anything well requires effort. Keep on truckin'. It'll pay off.
Get educated (but stop before you head starts to swim in all the parenting theories out there), and then do the best you know how to do for yourself, your child, your family. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. (<--Not concerning myself with irrelevant opinions is a practice for me. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I am not.)
Ignore all suggestions that you are spoiling your child by hugging, holding, or otherwise responding to their cries.
Remind yourself every day that you are equipped with whatever you need to be the right mama for your baby.
It isn't likely that one action or inaction is going to make or break you or your child's spirit. If you notice something about your parenting choices you don't like, don't panic; just move on and make the appropriate change.
All those cliches about enjoying them because time moves so fast? I'm pretty sure there's truth in there. Take time every day just to marvel at your kid.
I'm rooting for you.
I continued to climb out of that funk over the weekend.
Several shared meals, 2 glasses of wine, many people I enjoy, an adults-only party where I remembered I like me (and I can be fun! and talk about more than my baby!), lots of chaos and laughing and loving the moment(s) made for a salve for my spirit that I needed very much.
I'm often the sort of person for whom life feels heavy much of the time. I enjoy it; part of my approach to life is openness toward all of the adventure that life has to offer.
Nolan has highlighted both of those things in me. I determined early on that I don't want to break his curious, adventurous little spirit by keeping him too safe. He does climb things and cause my heart to stop on a regular basis, but he is really enjoying exploring life. I love that about him and our life as a family.
Still, I'm never going to be a laid-back mom. I know, "never say never." I just don't see it happening.
I often wonder/worry over "am I really doing what's best for Nolan? for my family?"
I hear that's normal.
I look that at gap-toothed little grin, and I just want to give him everything. Every adventure, every opportunity. He turns me to mush several times a day, and then I'm back to the questioning how I can do what's best for him, for us, for the 3 of us.
Right now, I am looking for work, and I'm a mess of emotions. Part of me wants to stay home forevermore and just see what life has to offer us. I don't want to miss out on any snuggles, the sound of the giggle, or that look of wonder I love so much. I don't want to see his crazy little personality get stamped out and truth be told, I want to be needed.
I am needed. Money is really tight around here right now, and I need to find a job. I am both excited about the change (a chance to use my skills! adult time!) and not looking forward to it at all (having to say goodbye to my baby most days).
Nolan is at an age right now where he needs me, of course, but he needs independent play, and he can do it himself, thank you. It's so good for both of us; I know I'm going to have to learn throughout my whole life to let the little boy who is my heart on legs go because it is so good for both of us, but it is not easy for me at all.
I think me going to work could be good...again, for both of us. No matter what I do during the day, it is still just the two of us the majority of most days. While we get out nearly every day (Nolan will grab at the diaper bag and repeatedly point to the door if I take too long), he still takes two naps a day and needs some recharge time. I could use a little more interaction with my peers, and I miss the thrill of seeing an event I put together happen smoothly (or at least appear to happen smoothly) or the light bulb moment happen for a student.
I know by now that I am rarely, if ever, alone in whatever I am dealing with or how I am feeling. I know there must be other mothers whose hearts are a mess over the best thing to do for their babies.
I think this might be the best thing I can do right now, and I hope it's enough.
I should probably be sleeping right now.
I've been awake since 4 am, and at this point, I can't just go back to sleep. Which is okay, because I'd love to spend some time with my keyboard.
Nolan's been sleeping through the night lately, in his own bed. Getting him there took nearly a year, but we got into a good rhythm just before we left for 5 nights in Gettysburg. I thought that might be the end of that. It wasn't.
The past 2 or 3 nights, though, he wakes up upset and needing to snuggle. We are just about done with breastfeeding, and I think he misses all that comfort and extra cuddling.
Maybe I do, too?
Yesterday, Nolan's grandparents and Aunt Steph came over for cake and to shower him with so many presents. (We decided against a big party this year.) It was lovely. Nolan was showered with lots of attention and love, which is exactly what I wanted for him at his birthday celebration.
I was surprised to find out that I didn't feel the way I thought I would. I thought I'd feel warm fuzzies and movie-worthy magical moments, or something like that. Instead, I just felt sad.
I know that seems strange, doesn't it?
I just remembered today that I wanted to make a banner out of pictures of Nolan's first year. I really wanted one, but somewhere in Tim's traveling and getting sick and me trying to wrap my mind around how to adequately celebrate a year of being parents to an amazing little kid, I forgot. I also really wanted to take Nolan to the park yesterday. It was a beautiful day, and we need to get ourselves into the sunshine as much as possible these days, but I knew I couldn't do it all in time, so I stewed. I mean, I was really grumpy for a little while. And then I wised up. Everyone would be fine with out a banner, right? We went to the park and climbed the stairs, slid down slides, crawled under a bridge, rode those springy things that rock back and forth and make me nervous every time. We ran through leaves and found a basketball and enjoyed our neighborhood on the trip up and back. At one point, I answered a text just as Nolan looked back at me in a look, Mom! kind of way. It broke my heart that I was on my phone just when we was trying to share a moment with me, so I put it away.
The whole experience was just good. Just what we both needed, I think. But it meant there were no decorations. Although I still feel like I made the right choice, I just know I can do better at putting together a get-together than that. I know Nolan doesn't care and only I do.
I just...maybe it's the time change(I struggle with S.A.D) or my little boy growing up or the not knowing how to wrap up this past year in a nice and pretty way, but yesterday was just emotionally difficult for me.
Steph stayed afterward last night and we drank wine, and I so needed that.
My husband listened while I tried to explain the mess that was in my head, then hugged me tight and rubbed my feet.
Today, I am going over to a dear friend's house, where I will share a meal with some of my favorite people. Kelly and Lindsey both have adorable, crazy little boys, too, but they are older than Nolan. I know they'll commiserate with me and make me feel like I'm going to be okay.
And I am. I'm okay.
In list form, the things in this post that are so good in my life (as in, things I am thankful for)(because I think I do need this right now):
#7 (still continuing that list and trying to get to 25 before Thanksgiving). Time to myself, in the morning,my prime time.
#8. Nolan is sleeping (mostly) through the night! In his own bed!
#9. seeing Nolan so loved by his grandparents and his aunt
#10. Playing in the park with my son? One of my favorite things to do right now.
#11. Nolan's grandma and grandpa got him snow gear! So unless it's actually dangerous, our outdoor time has been given new life over what's supposed to be a snowy winter.
#12. I love my sister-in-law, of course, but I also really like her. I mean, I would choose her as a friend even if we weren't related. Also, I really just needed to relax and have a glass of wine last night, and she was there to enjoy it with me. That did me so much good.
#13. Nolan sleeping through the night means I can stay up sometimes and hang out with my husband, who I miss.
#16. French press coffee. (Oh, I didn't mention that? That is happening this morning!)
This little boy is a the joy of my life.
I know. This is news to you, right?
Sometimes, I start feeling like what I'm doing (with him, being his mom and all of that) doesn't matter because he won't remember. Of course, I can feel that way if I choose, but those thoughts aren't founded in truth, exactly.
What is it about somebody remembering something or not remembering that makes us (maybe not you, but sometimes me) think it is a good gauge for what is worth doing? Nolan will not remember what is going on in his life right now, but he will be loved (albeit imperfectly) during his most formative years. At his core, (I hope) he will know he is loved unconditionally. With that perspective, feelings of worthlessness don't really make sense.
I fill other roles, but
I am Nolan's mother.
There are so many ways to parent. I just keep attempting to learn. Keep thinking and paying attention, keep talking and listening.
Today, I was caretaker to one of Nolan's birthday buddies (we have two sets of friends who each had a son the same day Nolan was born) in addition to my usual little rascal.
In the beginning, I was breaking up every entanglement (the other boy is significantly smaller than Nolan)...but as I was observing them, I noticed that this is just how they did things. The being on top of one another, the grabbing of a toy, and then grabbing it back. The touching of faces and pulling of hair (although that got a little iffy sometimes).
I watched them, and I played with them, but I stopped intervening on every.single. thing. They didn't need that from me.
Several months ago, I learned that Nolan enjoys most things I would find scary or a little too rough. Most times, he thinks they are hysterical.
Being the mother of a little boy has been quite the learning process for me. I imagine it always will be.
I am a lover of food (for so many reasons! You might already know this.).
I appreciate healthy, satisfying meals.
I thrive on meals that are shared with others (even if they aren't the healthiest).
I think that food can be community glue.
I think there is more than one "best" way to eat because no two bodies are the same and because our bodies change in chemistry every few years.
Since the arrival of my baby boy and my new role as a mother, I've been experimenting with my approach to food. I need to marry my love of community-glue-meals, my adventurous palate, and my need for nourishing food that fuels days that include, but are not limited to, taking care of an active little boy.
I'm sharing what works for me right now because recently, I've seen that every time I share something that's is important to me or is a need, especially when it comes to something parenthood-related, there is always someone (often several someones) that come out of the woodwork to say, "me, too!" And usually me, too, and this is my take.
I love that.
How I approach food to fuel motherhood
- I don't eat any added sugar from Monday to Thursday. I do this to avoid sugar crashes and sugar "hangovers." Maybe I've become more sensitive to sugar with pregnancy, but those things are real. Most of the time, I can't afford them.
- By Friday afternoon, I kind of feel I've earned a real dessert (added sugar included) and I'm ready to kick back and relax. Tim will be with me much of the time, so I don't have to be so concerned with being on top of things constantly. This means dessert is a-okay.
- I allow myself to have whatever I want all weekend, including sweets. I'm still aware of how my choices make me feel, and I still make a lot of my usual healthy choices. I do say yes to the cake with the perfect icing that so many weekend parties seem to have and even eat dessert every day (if I actually want those things).
- I avoid sugar later in the evening on Sundays to avoid a sugar hangover on Monday.
- I drink coffee. I know a lot of moms don't, but this mom most certainly does...and I'm not looking to give it up any time soon.
- I eat a lot of plant-based fat. Peanut butter, avocado, olive oil.
- I don't subscribe to any one diet (as soon as I even try to, I am in mental rebellion), but my eating style is probably closest to Clean Eating during the week.
- I try to eat as much as often as I am hungry. Sometimes this is 3-4 times, and sometimes it is 6-7.
Now I'm curious- do you have a role you purposely fuel for? Nurse? Runner? Parent? Something else? What is it and what is your approach?
I took Nolan to the gym with me last night.
I was thinking a yoga class would be a win for both of us. I could decompress and he could motor through the play room without me constantly trying to ruin his fun (ie. keeping him from electric outlets, falling downstairs, landing face-first in the tub, playing in the cat's food...).
We arrived, and he was sleeping. I paid, signed him in, set him down, talked with the child care workers. Still asleep. So I left. I mean, I was about to miss the class, so I left.
And it was wonderful. Just what I needed.
Nolan woke up sometime while I was gone, of course, and because I wasn't around when I dropped him off, all he wanted was to be held.
So much for running off some of that (abundant) energy.
I haven't been able to find my wedding rings lately.
I lose my phone regularly and go to do something only to forget what I was going to do when I get there. I've sort of gotten used to this, but the wedding rings were too much for me, and I was frustrated.
I tore apart "everything."
I called the hotel I stayed at a couple of weekends ago.
I prayed quite a bit and eventually told God that I knew he knew where they were, and it would be really nice if he'd clue me in.
I imagined that someone was holding onto them to teach me a lesson, and when I found out, I told that someone that I didn't need to be taught a lesson with the rings. I needed someone to show me how to be a good mother and how to save up enough energy to be a wife without shortchanging my son. In my head, I was really letting the unspecified person have it, but I also knew there was no one actually trying to teach me a lesson.
I knew I had actually lost the rings. But I teeter back and forth between feeling confident in motherhood and okay, every thing's changing again, and how do I handle this? Lately, I've been feeling less than confident, and so easily tired out, and it felt good to blame a non-existent someone else for a few moments.
After awhile, I just kind of had to let it go. Consciously relax and move on. Because I have a son who needed me to cuddle him and play games and sing and make him laugh and not be a stressed out basket case.
Somewhere in all of that, I was able to relax about my current place in motherhood. I don't know what it was. Maybe the struggle and the eventual peace that came with it? Maybe it was all the extra snuggles he's been needing (that is mama needed, also)?
I don't know. I know that we ebb and flow, ebb and flow.
We struggle, not purposely, but for good reasons. Reasons like little people who depend on us and husbands who want to be on our team.
Of course, after all of that, after the struggle and the letting go, I found my rings.
I wrote my last post early Mothers Day morning, coffee by my side and the rest of my family sleeping upstairs.
I didn't post it the same day because it was Mothers Day. I wasn't sure I wanted to publish a post that was all, "hey! look at me being a mom!" on the same day. Because we get it. I'm a mom. Everything has changed. (Except I will continue to write about it because everything has changed and I NEED to keep writing.)
I packed our schedules too full that day. Church and lunch and dinner and hours away with not enough of time for my baby boy to recharge.
Nolan loves to be around people, but he needs to be away from them to re-energize. (Hanging out with his Mama and Daddy counts as "alone.") By the time we arrived at my in-law's, Nolan was in and out of miserable. He needed to decompress. He needed to get away and watch the cars go by and maybe pick some grass.
But everyone wanted to see his sweet face (who can blame them?), so we all acknowledged he was grumpy and tried to work with his current state of being anyway.
I struggle sometimes with what to do when I know I can fix things for him. I know him so well, of course. We've become buddies over these last few months. He knows I will laugh when he tries to give me "kisses," and he trusts me.
(Ahem. He trusts me to take care of him, which includes not packing his schedule too full...)
He needs other people, too.
I don't want to smother him. I don't want to do anything to cripple who he is and how he develops. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I love it, but I worry sometimes that he can get too much mommy time.
I know he's only 6 months old, but I'm coming across the "what to do when there is no right answer" conundrum. Which is pretty much the same as, "I could always find something to worry about from now until the rest of my life because I am responsible for this little life...and. REALLY. I could always find something to worry about before he was born."
Over and over, I go back to my old stand-by of doing the best I can in the moment. Sometimes it is enough and sometimes the moment lets me know I need to change a few things, educate myself, or just pull him into my arms and hold him tight.
Kiddo is still sleeping!
Maybe Fridays are his catch-up days?
I have a lunch date in an hour-and-a-half. The clothes I intend to wear are laid out (not on to avoid probable spit-up and drool stains), the diaper bag is ready, keys, coat, every thing out.
Of course, I could do some housework, but being here for a few minutes seems like a better idea.
I have very good news for you...
It's Friday (!).
No matter how trying your week has or hasn't been, I'm hoping your weekend is one of refreshment and joy. Does that sound a little too sappy?I really do hope that. This is morning, got-a-good-night-sleep, and on-her-2nd-cup-of-coffee Sarah.
If you're not a morning person, I don't recommend coming to my house for breakfast.
Actually, you probably shouldn't come to my house for breakfast (or any time in the morning) if it's short notice and you're not ok with the sight of unshowered, make-upless, spit-up-on Sarah.
(Short notice is kind of relative, depending on what is going on with Nolan. He is the boss in this house.)
Do I make my life sound too glamorous for you?
I will let you in on a little secret.
This life? It's not glamorous at all. I will get dressed, made-up (granted, my make-up routine is pretty basic. It works for me and does good things for my mental state), and feeling pretty. And then? Spit up. On the shirt I was hoping to prance around in for the day.
Depending on the amount of sleep and coffee I've had, that can either cause me to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, and move on or laugh...or all of those things.
But you know what? (And you knew that was coming, didn't you?)
Nothing in life compares to my son's smile and laugh. Oh, sweet Jesus, I cannot even describe to you how my heart fills up, almost to the point of bursting when he giggles because of something I've done. I do some pretty ridiculous stuff just to make that happen.
I mean, really, over time, I've become less and less worried about how I am perceived..but I'm pretty sure I have (almost) no shame now.
Can I throw out one bit of advice to the new mamas out there?
I'm certainly no expert, but I can offer this:
Do what you can to make sure you get a break from being a mama once in a while. Take people up on their offers.
If you really don't have any help, do what you can to get a gym membership+ child care. If you don't have enough money, talk to a few gyms. Some will cut you a deal based on your income.
I love my role as a mother, but sometimes I just get tired (in more than one way.) Being completely responsible for someone is unlike any responsibility I've ever had.
But I know if I can just get away for a little while..for something small, like a bath, a shower, a quick workout..I nearly always come back, refreshed and ready to fully engage with my gorgeous baby again.
If you live close to where I am and you need a refresher (what mother doesn't?), let's make plans.
I know what it's like.
This motherhood thing is pretty awesome
but it's not meant to be done alone.
Oops! Sorry, no pictures today. Baby's awake, so it's time to hit publish and head out. Happy Friday to you and lots of love.