Moms improvise. All day, every day. Last month I used a toy snake to stir my coffee on a plane. The other day I blew my husbands mind when I told him you can pile goldfish into the little space on the driver door of our car if you do not have another place to put them. What is that thing for anyways? Change? Chapstick? Pocket knife? Who knows, but I have used it for all of the above and many more. Moms do it all the time; we are forced to think on our feet with what we have close at hand because with a baby on your hip you have to get creative. The amount of things I discovered I can do with my feet when my oldest was born was absurd. When hands are scarce you make do.
On RM’s first camping trip I helped set up the tent while literally breastfeeding a two month old. It was not graceful, but both things needed done so I got to work. They say a woman's brain changes when she has kids. Usually when they talk about such changes it is in a negative way, and I will say usually it feels negative. There is what feels like a black hole or a vacuum that happens when you have a baby and it is frustrating when you can no longer handle many everyday tasks, like remember lets say anything. Anything at all. But starting to see many friends have their first or third time kid while simultaneously having my youngest big enough to do some small hikes solo has been eye opening to the fascinating side of the changes your brain makes. It becomes so powerful and creative and just as much of a sponge as your newborns.
OF COURSE your brain changes. You are going from a completely selfish person to someone that is forced to be responsible for another human beings LIFE in all ways. Their actual life, from feeding to clothing to cleaning to all of the things you never realized were things until you had to do them for and with an 8 pound blob. Want to go to another room, or get the remote from across the couch? You are taking that kiddo with you. They are napping on your chest? Better hope you have already peed and have snacks, water and the TV remote or your phone handy because you are NOT budging and risking waking that tiny person. After all, they refuse to sleep at night and you need a minute of silence from their constant crying. This is when my feet started to come in handy.
You forget how incapable a newborn is pretty quickly. When I had my second I remember being so surprised that he could not help me in any capacity when I dressed him in the first weeks. I had done this all once before, how could I not remember something so basic? It is amazing how much they can learn in two short years. That first year is so hard and I could not be more grateful to be done with that phase. Here is the thing: the time will pass, the skills will come. I am talking about the basics, like the baby holding their own head up, to cooing to talking then running around. I am also talking about you, mom. You will discover that your instincts can be trusted, these are your kids and only you know how what they need, what is right for them. There will be many days that they wake up and look older, and it will make you a little sad. But those changes, those mini growth spurts are so exciting to watch and to participate in.
I breastfed both of my boys for about a year and one of the most encouraging things their pediatrician told me was praising me for keeping them alive. She reminded me that the only thing they had consumed on this planet literally came out of me. I alone kept them alive. This is not to take anything away from moms that do not breastfeed, I am of the opinion that a fed baby is best, and could care less what that looks like for you. It is only to say how powerful moms are. Powerful moms can do almost anything one handed, they can survive on sandwich crusts and abandoned juice, powerful moms can make any house feel like a home, they add love to the world even when they are having the hardest day. Powerful moms can work or stay home, and they all do what is best for their family. If you are a mom, you are a powerful mom, so keep going and keep growing. Even if your brain has turned to mush, try to recognize all of the change it is going through and appreciate all of the growth it is experiencing. I know you miss your old train of thought, but isn’t it incredible how you can distinguish YOUR baby's tears in a crowded nursery or how that cry can wake you up from to depths of sleep when you don’t think your body could possibly survive on one less minute of sleep. You are doing it mom! Do not forget that.
If you know me at all, I am not shy in saying that I am not a baby person, but I was not always so bold in that claim. I do not think every woman was created to solely love babies. I felt a huge amount of shame and frustration about this fact when my oldest was born. I timidly shared this shame with my sister in law, a woman who was born to love the tiniest babies, a trait we do not share. She told me something that helped me so much more than she can imagine. She compared babies to cake. Everyone loves cake, she said! But having babies is not like having cake for your birthday, that is much more comparable to being an aunt or a friend to someone with a baby. Having babies of your own is the equivalent to having cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 18 years. Nobody wants that, it’s too much cake. It was a simple concept that brought such a sense of relief to me. Hearing this from a woman that I admire so much, that loves babies like I thought I was supposed to, was so profound for my mushy mom brain that was struggling. It was what I needed to know: being a mom is HARD for every mom, and I was doing great. SO ARE YOU.
Powerful mom, do not forget about you. The most powerful moms I know do not forget that they need to be filled, that they matter too. They take time to themselves and they do not feel guilt about it. I have a two and four year old and this week I took the first of what will become a weekly “night off”. I am more of an example of how to lose yourself than I am of a powerful mom that is capable of putting herself first. I have fallen into the ‘martyrdom motherhood’ trap and I am just starting to put the focus back on me. My first me-date was a complete flop, and maybe I will write about it sometime, but for now I am going to stay persistent and hope they get better. This is one of those do as I say not as I do moments, hopefully you can learn from my lacking. Improvise: even if it is just a shower alone or a grocery trip without the littles in tow, do something to take a break. It is hard to do, but it is important.
Now, I am going back to my pot of coffee and turning off the TV time for my kids it took for me to write these words. It is 7 am and the laundry has been started, and coffee has been consumed without using any snakes as stir sticks. I did slurp down the remains of an applesauce packet from the boys from last night (okay, okay it’s a few days old, but its been in the refrigerator!). Here is to seeing what laughs or tears improvising gets me today!