Back when Katie was little more than a short stack of fat rolls I developed a rather curious fantasy. In my imaginary world all kids came with three switches on their backs: Sleep. Eat. Play.
Need to catch a few more zzzz’s? Sleep.
Broccoli not disappearing quickly enough? Dial up the Eat
Want to get out of your pajamas and look like a human being? Set the timer for 15 minutes on Play
I really wanted that sleep dial.
For the first year of Katie’s life I felt like I was drowning. Trying to work part-time from home meant conference calls while breastfeeding, putting Katie down for naps while going slap happy on myself to stay awake and starting dinner when I heard Daddypotamus’ key turn in the front door at 6pm. Not that dinner mattered to me by then, anyway. What was important was that my giant yellow life raft of a husband arrived just in time to keep me from drifting down to Davey’s locker.
Why am I rambling about switches and life rafts? Because I recently ran across this brave and vulnerable post by a new mom:
. . . I have always wanted to be a mom. I remember in 8th grade we all wrote what we wanted to be when we grew up. I still have that piece of paper. It says, “Caitlin Shaughnessy wants to be a housewife and a mom.” I never made a very good feminist.
But I somehow missed the boat on how difficult it is to have a newborn baby. Not many people talk about what can happen to your psyche when you’re extremely sleep deprived. Waking up in the middle of the night at 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 is exhausting. My entire body ached from the birth experience and learning to breastfeed.
All the images I had of parenthood included parents feeling an overwhelming love for their children. However, when Denver was about a week old, I tearfully admitted to Austin that I thought I didn’t love Denver enough. He just demanded so much, I was so hormonal, and I didn’t have all those ooey-gooey feelings that people seem to get for their babies.
Caitlin H (emphasis mine)
Do you not just love this girl for her honesty? Her words took me right back to the beginning of it all. A time when I felt shame at my resentment over the sleeplessness and loss of freedom. The days when I thought being a good mom was about perfecting the art of balance . . . not learning to smile with eyes that burn with exhaustion, serve oatmeal for dinner and throw dirty dishes in the oven when company stops by.
If babies really came with switches I could avoid having to pick Katie up like a football and bolting out of the bed when she starts to bellow in her sleep (Micah is three feet away, sleeping). I could have actually removed the toenail polish I put on for Micah’s birth instead of slowly watching it chip away for four months (perfectly clean now, but those cuticles, yikes!).
A lot of things could have been different, but I’m glad they weren’t. Because honestly, the long stretches between shimmering moments . . . those are the fields where love is grown. Those days when everything went wrong which I would have fast forwarded through without a second thought are where I won every ounce of patience I have gained. I’m still in the pajamas I wore yesterday and haven’t taken a shower yet, but I wear the glow of someone that is learning to love. And so do you.
Good job, mamas!!! (because we all need to hear it once in awhile :))
**Thanks to Caitlin for letting me share part of her story. For an update on how she’s feeling these days check out her letter to her son.