I meant to do this post a month ago, which would have made this my 6 Month Review of Motherhood and that just makes more sense. But the holidays, the travel, the stomach flu, the black hole in Target, yadda, yadda, yadda… I just didn’t get around to it. So, this is my 7 Month Review of Motherhood instead.
Look at it this way, I’m one month smarter now.
On June 1, 2009 I became a Momma for the first time to my beautiful, strong-willed, bossy, self-assured, lovable, squeezable, kissable Beanie. And in one instant my entire life became brighter. Everything in my life became brighter. My marriage was no longer a relationship, it was the foundation for a family. My job was no longer a paycheck, it was financial support for my family. My family were no longer just parents and sisters and grandparents, but now grandparents and aunts and great-grandparents. In that one instant, everything became just the slightest bit better in life. Bean is literally the reason I get out of bed in the mornings (and sometimes the reason I get out of bed in the middle of the night, too…). They tell you all about this incredible love that you’ll have for your children, but it is just a fairy tale until you actually experience it. And then its such a big love that there aren’t enough words to really describe it.
Quite simply, it is the most magical thing in the whole world.
I think Chris and I were fairly prepared for Bean’s arrival, for as prepared as new parents can be. We didn’t go crazy with the baby books during my pregnancy, but we knew enough to get through it all and what we didn’t know we’ve picked up in the past seven months. But this review isn’t about what I’ve learned about Beanie. This 7-month review is about what I’ve learned about myself. What I’ve learned about being someone’s Momma.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I never knew how strong I was before I became a mother. There were times in those first three or four months when I didn’t think I could be any more tired. When my head hit the pillow at night, I thought to myself that if I didn’t get a full nights sleep, then surely I would just shrivel up into a pile of yoga pants and burp cloths and die. And I’d tell myself that if Bean woke up in the middle of the night, I was just going to have to let him cry tonight because there was no way I could physically drag myself out of bed. But then he’d cry. Not often, (because Bean was an excellent sleeper from Day One) but every couple of days he’d have a night where he’d wake up a few times. And every single time I would hear that cry, it suddenly felt like I had just slept for 12 hours, taken a shower, had a Red Bull, and was ready to face the day. It didn’t matter if I hadn’t bathed in a couple days, if I hadn’t slept in a couple days, if it was 3:00 AM in the morning, if I was sore from the c-section, or exhausted from being a mom. That one little cry provided all the energy I needed and I was there for him. Ready to go. And I wasn’t bitter about it and I never blamed him. In any other area in my life, I would have immediately complained about the effort that it sometimes took to simply keep that little pile of goo from crying, but I seemed to have endless amounts of patience with Beanie. And I was – and still am – so proud of that in myself.
- My relationship with Chris has become much deeper and more intense than it ever was before. And not just deep and intense in a serious way. It just feels like whatever we’re going through on any given day – happiness, silliness, anger, frustration – we feel it so much more intensely now. When we laugh, we really laugh together. When we yell, we really yell together. When we cry, we really cry together. We may not always see eye to eye, but we definitely share emotions more strongly now. And I think its because now, more than ever, we are really in this together. We had said that for years before, “We’re in this together, Pookey! Its just you and me!” But in retrospect, we were in it side-by-side before. And there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that. That’s how wonderfully strong foundations to marriages are made; brick by brick and side by side. But with Bean in the picture now, we are even closer than side-by-side. We’re actually in the exact same pair of shoes for the first time in our lives. We have a common purpose, a common interest, a common goal. And its been quite an experience to walk together with Chris down this path. I never knew I could love him this much.
- I wish I had known that recovering from childbirth – no matter what method of childbirth – is a long road. I had a c-section and it took me about eight to tell full weeks to physically recover. But I still find things sometimes that are different in me now than they were before I gave birth. Some of them are pleasant surprises (I now love ALL babies and I was never really a baby person before) and some of them are taking a little longer for me to adjust to (I get overwhelmed easier now than I did before). Emotionally, I am still trying to get back to a balanced life. I can feel my hormones still adjusting and some days I get really sad or really angry for no real reason. I’ve never experienced mood swings like that before, but I think its just part of the process. It doesn’t scare me or make me run to my doctor. Instead, I remind myself that I just went through nine months of putting my body, mind, hormones, and emotions through hell and its going to take some time for everything to get back into place and some things might end up settling in new places altogether. I had a hard time dealing with my post-pregnancy body. I still have a very poor self-image right now. I’m a good three clothing sizes bigger now than I was before I got pregnant and even if I don’t necessarily look that much bigger, I feel it and I know it and that grates on me. Its a small price to pay for such a wonderful gift in my life now, but its an adjustment that I’m trying to cope with. Everything you read during your pregnancy talks about what your body will go through before the birth and then you get a little literature for what will happen immediately in the weeks following the birth, but I wish there had been more information out there on how long it takes for your whole being – body, mind, and spirit – to adjust and re-adjust.
- I had heard a lot about priorities shifting after you have a baby. And I assumed that things were going to change to a certain extent. But in my head, I thought that any change would be a bad change. Chris and I loved our pre-baby life so much that when someone said, “Your whole life is going to change,” I would get defensive and insist that Chris and I were working to bring this baby into OUR lives and not the other way around. The truth is that our lives changed drastically when we had a baby. But I think that when people say “Your whole life is going to change,” they are forgetting to add the best part to that sentence. “Your whole life is going to change in the most incredible ways that you have absolutely no idea what kind of excitement and amazement and happiness is in store for you!” Since having Bean, I’ve learned that change isn’t a threat. And that if you open yourself up to it and just go with it, change can take you to extraordinary heights that you never imagined before. I’ve also learned that these life-altering changes that everyone talks about come pretty naturally. My life would have changed drastically in one way or another and I wouldn’t even notice it for a couple weeks! Its a really easy and comfortable change if you let it happen.
- I was probably most relieved to learn that daycare isn’t such a terrible, horrible thing like I had thought it would be. Its been seven months and I still sometimes get sad when I drop him off on Monday mornings after a particularly good weekend, but I can see how good it has been for Bean developmentally and I am glad that we made that choice. Bean is much more willing to go to other people than I think he might be if I stayed home with him. He adjusts well to schedules because sometimes at daycare things get a little out of order. He can fall asleep with any noise around him because he’s used to that in his classroom. And I have come to really love his teachers. I love that they are impartial witnesses to what an incredible little person he is. They don’t have to love him, but they choose to and that just makes my heart glow. At the end of the day, Beanie is always glad to see me and he wants me to pick him up right away, which puts a smile on my face every single afternoon. But in the mornings when I drop him off, he goes happily to the teachers and I can see that the stability of that nursery gives him a great routine and wonderful socialization skills. As hard as those first few weeks were, I definitely think we are doing what is best for our family. Daycare was important for me as a person, too. It gave me time to focus on other things besides Beanie. At the end of the day, I have stories and interactions and experiences all of my own and for me personally, that is really important. I have learned that I can live my life for my baby, but my world doesn’t have to revolve around him.
- Looking back, I am so incredibly thankful for this blog. I have a daily account of my pregnancy and my marriage right here for me to look back on anytime I want. I sometimes spend hours reading back through posts about my pregnancy, remembering things that I had already forgotten. And I spend even more time reading back through posts right after Bean was first born. I get to see pictures of him as he grows and read about little stories that I might not have remembered if I hadn’t written them down. Its such a lovely way to spend an afternoon for me now and I can only imagine how thankful I will be for it years from now. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant or a new mom to think about keeping some type of journal – a blog, a notebook, a photo album – anything where you can chronicle your journey. Because those little moments at 3:00 AM during a particularly sweet feeding can get lost quickly in the shadows of much bigger events, like baptisms and first solid foods, but that doesn’t mean that those memories are any less precious to me. And don’t worry about being a good writer or a bad writer or having blurry pictures. Those are just the insignificant details that come with remembering perfect moments.
- I wish someone had told me that becoming a mother doesn’t immediately give you all the answers. I used to hate in those pregnancy and parenting books when the authors would say, “You’ll just know…” or “A mother just knows…” because, yes, its true that after a couple months of parenting a mother knows how to take a temperature correctly and she knows how to wash the baby’s hair without getting water in his face and she know how to change his diaper in the middle of the night without waking up the baby, but in the beginning all mothers are students of their children. Every single one of them. So, all those people who can make you feel like you’re just not as good of a mother as they are? Well, at one point they changed their baby’s diaper and forgot to pull the ruffles out around the baby’s leg and the baby pooped everywhere. And at one point, they spent half an hour with a screaming baby on their hip trying to figure out how to work those bottle liners. Yes, a mother does just know. But what no one told me was that they don’t just know right away. We learn as we go and we get better and better at our job until one day, seven months later, we wake up and LOOK AT US! We’re a real mother! And we finally do just know.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past seven months. I’ve learned a lot about my Bean and a lot about my husband, too. And when I stop and look back at my life before I was a mother, I can honestly say that I was always reaching for something. A better job, a better house, a better vacation, a better book to read. Something was always better just beyond the horizon, I was sure of it. But now? I don’t really think there’s anything better over that fence because here in my pasture I have a family that will continue to grow up together. And while there might be stuff over on the other side that I might like, if there’s no Chris and no Bean? Well, then that’s just not my pasture after all.
Motherhood has changed my life in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined. I feel full now. Full in that perfectly content way that makes you want to stretch out and take a nap while watching a football game. Just perfectly whole. And if I can feel like this after only seven short months then I can’t wait to see what the rest of this adventure brings.