I am a mom. It’s still a little weird to realize that. My son is now two and a half months old, and that thought still hits me every so often (more so the first two months). The following post might end up being a jumbled, rambling verbalization about my thoughts on motherhood. Mostly because I am chronically sleep deprived, and this post has taken awhile to put together. Please note, I will use “I” throughout because I am speaking for myself, but my husband is a very involved father and is absolutely my parenting partner, so this is not to exclude him!
I have found motherhood to be exhausting, time consuming, frustrating, challenging, humbling, and incredibly rewarding. There are times when I have felt like I just have no idea what I am doing or what this child needs, and times when I am so tired that I have desperately wanted to just check out, handing the baby off to someone else and just crashing for hours. I guess I didn’t expect to feel so unprepared and as frequently overwhelmed as I have (though I really can’t say I’ve felt that way a lot). I have a lot of child care experience, so I think I expected to be above average compared to an average new parent. Despite my twelve years or so of babysitting (“parenting practice” I’d call it sometimes), I still have never cared for a newborn for any length of time. I have to remind myself of this when I find myself thinking that I should know better how to do all this, and cut myself some slack. I am definitely my own worst critic.
The hardest thing has been sleep and scheduling. I knew that we would be sleep deprived, but that is something you can know in your head, and still be knocked over by when you experience it. Someone told me recently that she thought there should be a different word or phrase besides “tired” to describe “new mom tired”. I can’t agree more. This baby is not a gifted natural good-sleeper. I certainly envy parents of those children, but for us sleep has been an ongoing struggle. We didn’t know what we were doing, and Xander can seriously fight going to sleep. I like having a schedule, so being tied to the sleep and nutritional needs of a baby is challenging for me. I like planning out my day, but nowadays I can make plans that get thrown off by an unusually short naptime or various other things. Flexibility has not been my strength, and I am now constantly forced to practice it.
Speaking of weaknesses, I have heard it said that part of marriage is that your spouse holds up a mirror to show you all your faults and sinfulness. I suppose it’s not surprising at all, but I’m definitely realizing how much more a child is capable of that helpful and unpleasant task. I have had to face that I am not nearly as patient or selfless as I ought to be.
Our little guy is growing and getting chubby and I feel accomplished – I did that (sort of)! My body is making milk that’s feeding him everything he needs, and it’s amazing. At various points, it has seemed to us that he is just tired and can’t possibly be still hungry, but then he is only satisfied when he is fed, and we realize he is going through a growth spurt, eating more frequently for that 24-48 hour period. I have often felt as though I am nursing him too much, but it’s not as though we don’t try other things first. We can try to put him to sleep or use a pacifier, or motion, or whatever, but if he is hungry, he is hungry. I found a great article that helped me relax about nursing him (“breastfeeding on demand” as it’s known). When I realized that we had been ignoring his cues because “experts” (or really, just other people) made us think that he “shouldn’t” be eating so often, I felt bad. I realized that we are his parents and we know him better than anyone else, and we really can tell when he is communicating that he’s hungry. I have had to learn to trust those instincts.
I guess you never know what kind of parent you will be until you are one. I always looked down on the attachment parenting movement (characterized by cosleeping, breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, and sometimes extended breastfeeding) a bit. Mostly, I disliked how outspoken they tended to be in believing theirs was the best parenting philosophy, and how long some parents continue to do these things. Personally, if my kid is still cosleeping with us at age 3, we may never have any other children. I find myself landing in that general vicinity of parenting philosophies, though, and for awhile, I felt like a huge hypocrite. Essentially, I decided I’m okay with the whole attachment parenting philosophy, at least with an infant, and when not taken to the extreme. Regardless of what parenting style you end up using, no one should be snooty about their way being the best or only way. Every parent/family is going to do what seems best and right for their family and that particular child, and none of us need any added pressure.
I have found myself thinking that I would really like a day off. I thought, “I have been doing this (nursing, not sleeping, changing diapers, trying to get him to sleep) for six weeks now, so it’s time for a break, right?” I wish I could have one of the nights I used to enjoy so much – staying up all night long and sewing and watching Netflix and having eight hours to myself to do whatever I’d like. Oh yeah, and then sleeping like a rock for 8 hours with the bed all to myself. It really is hard to believe that I have spent every day of this little person’s life with him. I have spent more time with him than any other person on the planet. Not even my husband has spent as much time with him as I have. Crazy.
Somehow, the days go by fairly quickly and yet still slowly at times. I am kept busy, so the day doesn’t drag, but I spend a lot of time at home not doing anything visibly or measurably productive. I am also an extrovert, which means spending this much time at home without seeing people drives me a little crazy. I spend way too much time on Facebook to make up for not feeling connected with the world. I really appreciate having both sets of grandparents and so many family members and friends in the area who are willing to come help me out, or even just come keep me company. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a long-term, every day stay at home mom. I’m grateful that Andrew and I have decided that when I go back to work full time (which as a nurse is just three days a week), he will drop to part-time hours and be a stay at home dad for part of the week, and maybe in a few years, be home full time.
One of the most amazing things about motherhood is how much this child can frustrate and wear you out, and you still have the most astounding depths of love for them. More and more people these days will say that they love their child(ren) more than their spouse, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two at all. I love my husband, but the love I have for my son is just different. I have definitely fallen in love with my son – the same moments of overwhelming emotional love that happened when Andrew and I were first falling in love are happening now, with Xander. I could have just finished getting him to sleep (with great effort), and you would think I would be thrilled to be able to set him down and have some “me time” or get something done, but at that moment, I just want to hold him and stare at him and marvel at this little person that grew inside me and is ours. His father and I feel incredibly blessed to have him in our family; I can’t imagine our lives without him. To God be the glory!
"So I Nursed Him Every 45 Minutes"
"How American parenting is killing the American marriage"