Another great article by local doula, Lauren Hasz. Thank you for sharing from the heart Lauren. I know that many of us will find encouragement from your words today.
It’s after 10 pm just days before this article is due for publication, and I’m just now considering putting pen to paper. This is my new life. The over-planned, always-early, detail-oriented woman is now the over-tired, always-caffeinated, sometimes forgetful mommy. My nipples hurt from the teething efforts of a fussy 10-month-old. My conversations occur in broken sentences earmarked by poor grammar. And, I fantasize about sleeping through the night.
This is the reality of motherhood.
People didn’t tell me that postpartum depression and anxiety are so common that approximately 1 in 5 moms struggle post-birth. I wasn’t told that I would pump so often that my husband and I would make up songs to my blasted pump’s incessant rhythm. No one told me that six weeks of colic would look like an eternity of tears and feel like the constant bouncing on a yoga ball to soothe one’s pitiful infant.
Then again, no one told me that I would fall so deeply in love that the thought of hiring a babysitter would be physically painful. No one told me that I would cry at the thought of weaning. No one told me that a small hand patting my chest in the middle of the night would bring a smile to my weary face.
This is also the reality of motherhood.
Local mama S.D. shared with me that she was surprised by how much she loves her baby girl. “I spent much of my pregnancy being nervous and worried about all the unknowns of motherhood,” she explained, “and now that she is here, I feel like my heart comes out of my chest when I hold her in my arms!”
Another local mama, Paige Tscherpel, pointed out that before her child was born, she had many convictions about what kind of person she wanted to raise. Now, she noted that she “never stopped to consider how exactly I'd end up with that person...the work it would entail, the strength I would need to get through the daily challenges of guiding a human being with a will of their own. It's an amazing journey, but it's exhausting.”
Amazing. Exhausting. A journey requiring strength, hard work, and conviction. Motherhood.
I’m only ten months along my own journey. But, I’m learning. Learning and growing and surrendering. Perhaps you are learning right along side me…
1. Learning that motherhood should not be tackled alone.
Perhaps one of the most empowering experiences is to mother our children right alongside other mothers who don’t judge, but simply accept. The disco-floor lyrics “We are family” play in my head, as I acknowledge that it truly does take a village to successfully raise a child AND maintain one’s sanity.
I will never forget the day that I stumbled upon one of my new mommy friends. We were both anxiously waiting in the lobby of a Mommy/Baby yoga studio for a free class to begin. Her 8-month-old was bottle-feeding. My 5-month-old was not so discreetly throwing off her nursing cover. Our sleepy eyes met, and something happened. We were instant best friends. Neither of us actually performed much yoga that day between her crawling babe and my squirming one, but we did accomplish something immensely more valuable: we found a friend to sympathize with our post-baby bellies and our unpredictable children’s napping schedules. We found community.
And, community is what shifts the mundane playtimes into stress-relieving coffee dates at the park. Community is what provides chocolate when the kids are sick, wine when they are feeling better, and support when you think teething might truly be the end of you. In community, the hard work of motherhood feels just a little bit easier.
Even now as I eat popcorn to keep myself awake and ponder what I’m learning as a mom, one of my dearest and longest mommy friends is not only texting me encouragement, but also dreaming right along side me about a week at the beach. “True bliss,” she texts, and then not several messages later a selfie arrives in my inbox with her “get-it-done” face and just the right words to make me laugh, nearly pee my pants, and keep on writing. Because that is was true mommy community provides. Snacks. Sleepy selfies. And just the right amount of inspiration to keep on keeping on.
2. Learning that I shouldn’t ever judge another parent based on a child’s behavior on any given day.
After having been the parent with the child who climbs on and over everything and everyone and the parent with the child who just can’t sit in a high chair but would prefer to scavenge on the restaurant floor, I think I’ve learned my lesson. Never judge a mama based on what her…ahem…sweet cherub happens to be doing at any given moment.
This may seem like an obvious truth to you seasoned veterans with kids in college, but some of us have had to swallow our own portion of pride more recently and acknowledge that temper tantrums can’t be predicted. Behaviors can be disciplined. Children may be able to be bribed into obedience. But the timing of said discipline and/or bribery can neither be helped nor foreseen except for to assume that it will not be convenient, and you WILL make a scene. Enough said.
3. Learning that cheerios are part of life.
Yesterday I was picking cheerios out of my cleavage after my darling found it quite funny to shake her plastic container all over herself, me, and the already-dirty kitchen floor. My bra not much worse for wear, I tiptoed between the o-shaped cereals, so as to not crush them and make an even bigger mess. Good thing I buy cheerios from Costco.
Truly, though, I’m not sure there is an area of my life that is not littered with cheerios. The car. The diaper bag. Every nook and cranny of the house. I find them stuck to the back of my baby’s pants and the outside of my worn-out sweater. I don’t even notice them much anymore. Cheerios are simply part of my new reality.
The reality of motherhood. The reality that requires strong community and bountiful grace.
Because, please, if you take nothing more away from this article than this, then please give yourself a measure of grace. You are not alone. Please give yourself grace for the days that you don’t feel like you measure up to your own or another’s standards. Grace for the days that you survive with yesterday’s mascara still smudging puffy eyes. Grace for the mom next door and the mom in the carpool line. Grace for the adventure that is motherhood. And, most definitely, grace for the cheerios festooning the kitchen floor.
Lauren Hasz, a certified doula, lives with her husband and baby girl in Arvada where she pursues her interests as a writer, runner, and coffee drinker. Nearly four years of infertility and a miraculous natural birth experience have given her a passion for providing families with comprehensive emotional support throughout pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum time.