Motherhood has been such a transformative blessing in my life. It feels cliché to say because we hear it so often, but it absolutely changes you to suddenly love so deeply and completely. Mama Bear is here to stay: I would run in front of a train for my son without blinking an eye, and God help anyone who tries to hurt him. My soul glows with each smile he tosses my way, and I’m reminded daily how lucky we are to have a happy, healthy baby in our lives. It’s something we weren’t sure would be part of our story and I’m so very thankful.
Did that sound like a disclaimer? Because it was. There should be an asterisk after the word “thankful” leading to the words, “*but it’s kicking my booty.” I knew becoming a mother would be amazing, and it is in every way. I also knew it would be hard… but I simply didn’t know what that meant. Hard isn’t the word! I’ve been pushed to the limits of my patience and challenged on levels that I didn’t know existed.
I checked in with my friend Kate, a brand-new mommy, via text the other night. When I mentioned I was having a difficult week, she thanked me for admitting that and agreed that motherhood is not easy. Her choice of words- “admitting” it was hard- made me think. Kate and I only know each other through the blogisphere and emails and texts. She doesn’t see my day-to-day life with Oden. She sees what I share on social media, and as I scrolled through my feed, I was reminded that what you see is not always the whole truth. So let me get real for a moment. I’ve cried out of frustration at least once a week since Oden was born. I’ve counted the seconds until his bedtime just so I could stop dealing with him for a little while. I’ve swung the light fixtures over his bouncy chair or turned on a baseball game (despite the pediatrician’s recommendation of no screen time for 2 years) to distract him and give myself a break from entertaining him. I’ve cringed when I heard his little sounds that indicate naptime is over. I’ve convinced myself that Oden is intentionally waiting to pee until after I’ve removed his diaper. I’ve rationalized that the start time of happy hour should be earlier, when it makes me more happy. I’ve caught myself using a tone of voice in speaking to Oden that I’m not ok with, and then fallen into a little pit of despair at yet another disappointment. I told Kate that I think motherhood is a series of small failures punctuated by a couple of big successes that make it all worth it. But I have many moments when I’m simply not being the mommy I wanted to be.
At four months, Oden has our hearts on a string that he knows just how to tug to get what he wants. He’s a big, strong baby- in the 90th percentile- with a willful personality. When he’s mad, we know it (and so do our neighbors). We have no discernible schedule, which makes life tricky for a begrudgingly Type A person like me. Some days I don’t wear makeup. Some days, I don’t get a shower. Some days, Cholula doesn’t get a walk until Daddy gets home. Some days, I don’t leave the house. Some days, even eating is a challenge- it’s all I can do to scoop a spoonful of peanut butter into my mouth and munch a Baby Bell cheese with one hand. I start each day with goals (Laundry! Grocery shopping! A hike! A visit with a friend!) and it’s a good day if one of the items is accomplished. Some days, it doesn’t matter that things don’t get done. But some days, I feel like I need a do-over by 10AM.
A stressful topic lately is sleep. Oden has embraced a bedtime routine of a bath, lotion massage, jammie time and bottle before falling asleep pretty easily, and was gifting us with 6-, 7-, even 8-hour stretches of sleep for a while. Then suddenly, he’s waking up multiple times in a night again. I’ve Googled countless articles regarding sleep training and have three or four books full of dog-eared pages on the subject. Everyone suggests something different and no advice seems to fit us just right. Naps are hit or miss and come at a different time each day. I know if I could just find a pattern for daytime snoozes and bottles, we’d all be happier, but success has eluded me so far. So my days follow the whims of a 16-week old. He runs the show!
I’m sure some people are thinking, “So what? How bad can it be to have the freedom to spend all day with your growing infant?” And yes, I feel lucky that I have a flexible life and can react to difficult moments without additional outside stress, like a job or another child or something. But I’m here to tell you that 14 hours alone with a fully-dependent baby is a LONG TIME, especially when you factor in the exhaustion. I’ve said since Day One that single parents are my new heroes; John coming home from work is such a relief because it’s not just me.
An interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that no matter how hard a day is or how DONE I feel with parenthood, it only takes a 10-minute time-out for me to be ready to jump right back into Oden Land. Breaks are vital for my sanity, and my heart has so much more room when I’ve had a moment to breathe. At John’s urging, we hired a wonderful nanny who comes just one afternoon a week for a few hours. I use the time to give undivided attention to Cholula, get decent exercise and fresh air, and run errands- all things that are 100x easier without a baby in tow. What a game-changer! I get home feeling like I’ve actually accomplished things and my battery is recharged. I can’t wait to get back to my baby!
I share all of this in the spirit of transparency. My Instagram and Facebook and Bliss Bits show a beautiful life with a big, fat, happy baby, and indeed, I have that. But there’s the other side, too, and I feel that it’s important to acknowledge both aspects as necessary in this parenthood journey. I read something when I was pregnant that stuck with me, and since then, nearly every mom I know has echoed the sentiment: Don’t wish the time away. Babies grow so quickly, and each stage is fleeting and then it’s gone, forever. Though I’ve struggled, I’ve never said, “I wish he was older.” or “I wish we were past this phase.” I know each day is a gift, even when it’s made me cry before 7am. As with anything in life, the good isn’t as good without the bad! And there really is so much good: the way Oden’s face lights up when he hears John’s voice when he gets home, the almost-giggle that comes when I nibble his earlobes, those big, observant eyes that soak everything in, the content little sighs I hear coming from the co-sleeper next to me at night, the gurgley “conversations” we have together each day, the smiles that come during a blissful baby dream, the pride I feel when we are surprised with yet another milestone. Raising a child has proven to truly be the most demanding job in the world, and the most rewarding… and we’re only 4 months in! It’s what I was born to do, and despite the struggles, I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead.
Now… is it happy hour yet?