Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Velveteen mom

Parenting a newborn is so hard. Well, that's probably the understatement of the year!

I knew it wouldn't be easy, but these first few weeks have been even harder than I expected. People warn you about the sleepless nights, but there are so many other challenges that no one can prepare you for. Frankie, for example, screams his head off every time we change his diaper or his outfit, so Frank and I dread diaper changes way more than we should for a newborn, because we don't want to feel like we're torturing our son. Or there's the way this little one eats - constantly. I think there is a picture of Frankie next to the word "insatiable" in the dictionary. So I spend at least half my day with a little one glued to my chest, and I feel so very unproductive thinking of all the things I'm not getting done. On the plus side, I've learned how to do all kinds of impressive things while breastfeeding, like standing, walking and sitting at the table to eat dinner. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

I've concluded that being postpartum is like being constantly tipsy, in that everything seems to take way more mental effort than it should. It feels like such a huge accomplishment to do something as simple as showering and then tackling last night's dishes. Yesterday I managed to finish and order a photo book journal I'd been working on throughout the pregnancy, and I practically felt like I deserved a medal for having the mental energy and perseverance to get that done and ordered in one day! Meanwhile blogging seems so daunting, because stringing together words into a coherent thought (much less a whole post!) is not my strong suit right now.

But through it all, that kid is so darn cute and lovable. It is hard, really hard, to spend all your time caring for a little person who doesn't respond or acknowledge your efforts. Sometimes, when I'm tired and annoyed, I begin to think that he is just a bundle of needs and crying. But then he stops crying the second I snuggle him into my chest, and I remember that he knows my smell, and my voice, and heartbeat, and in his little world I am the safest place he knows. The privilege and honor of being that to someone is more than I can quite comprehend. It takes my breath away and makes me give thanks, again and again, for this tiny beautiful child God has blessed us with.

One particularly hard day, the first week Frankie was home, I broke down in tears when my mom was over. "How do women do this??" I sobbed. "I'm so tired of nursing all the time and not sleeping! How does anyone have a second child? Or more??" My mom, who raised seven of us, smiled at my dramatics and assured me it would get easier. Then she said, "you see, honey, in a way, all mothers are saints." I've thought a lot about that. Isn't it true? In being mothers, we find ourselves tapping into deep wells of selflessness and patience and sacrifice that we never knew we had. In doing so we burn away the self-centered parts of ourselves and, like the rabbit in the tale, become Real. The crazy part is that I'm thinking this after less than three weeks of motherhood - I can't imagine how much greater are the reserves of patience and fortitude that older mothers and mothers of more children have. I know I'm just on the first leg of this lifelong journey.

Well, my little needlet is hungry, so I'm off again. I'll try to write again sooner!


  1. I feel you Tess! I am only 8 days in and I have cried so many times about how hard this is, and how it's only going to get harder. I keep reminding myself of how many other mothers there are out there who have gone through the "new to motherhood" stage and are standing on the other side in one piece. It's hard to imagine we will ever get there. Clinging to God is really the only chance we've got. :)

  2. I have this article bookmarked and have revisited often:
    Frankie is beautiful, congratulations!

  3. Your baby is so sweet! He looks like you too!

    I'm not a mum, so I don't know what I'm talking about I guess. All I can say is that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself!

  4. It took me a little longer to feel the way you do- I think Margot was about four weeks old and I thought the same thing you do. "How on EARTH do people do this over and over again?! And for gosh sakes, WHY? I'm so tired!!! I could never do this again." Every single sweet mama who talked to me would say "oh, it gets better. and you get used to the sleep deprivation. I promise!" Of course, I didn't believe them.

    But let me tell you, (and you don't have to believe me. I understand the disbelief!) Margot is 15 months old now... and still not sleeping through the night. And still nursing voraciously. And has learned a new pterodactyl shriek that pierces my ears. And never leaves me alone to go to the bathroom. And somehow, it already *has* gotten better, toddler tantrums and all. It is so much better.

    Mamas need to gain their sea legs, is my theory. Just going from young married couple, free as the wind blows, to being anchored to the nursing chair is a huge adjustment! As is learning how to care for a pre-verbal person and balancing sacrifice with self care. But, one gets used to it... just in time to think "ah, how lovely would another baby be?!" ;)

    Good luck lady! Thinking of you and praying for you. You're a wonderful mother.

  5. I can't even imagine how hard (yet how absolutely wonderful) raising a little one is... Thank you for sharing it with us. Praying for you all!

    Also... MY that is a cute little munchkin.

    Country Girl's Daybook: Jesus, Photography, Fashion, & Food

  6. This is a beautiful post! Hang in there! The first baby seems to be so hard from hormones and the adjustment and total lack of sleep. It took me awhile to even consider having another one, but we finally did. My second is now 7 months and while she's a horrible sleeper in comparison to my first, it's so much easier. It's like I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to having experienced it with my first. Just like the wonderful mama above said, you have to get your sea legs. It's a crazy adjustment, but one God's giving you the strength to handle (and why I think He makes them all so darn cute ;-) )

  7. Been wondering how the 3 of you are getting along... Be easy on yourself! Feeding and caring for Frankie is not only a big job, but such an important one. There's really nothing more important for you to do :)

    When my children were newborns/babies/toddlers and I complained to my husband that I wasn't getting anything done, he would remind me that everyone was loved, safe and fed and that I was doing exactly what I needed to. And he was right.

    The green checked shirt and bow tie are so wonderful!

  8. I have no personal experiences to share for another three months, so I'll leave that to the lovely and wise ladies who frequent your blog, and just send you lots of *hugs* and love. I love the beauty that shines in this post: the beauty of laying down your life for another. It makes me feel awed and privileged to think that I'm going to be given that opportunity so soon.

  9. Tears are entirely normal :) I remember telling Anth that our little Pio is rooting out my selfishness. As wives and mums, we no longer live for ourselves and bit by bit, child by child, we slowly move closer to God by dying to ourselves :) It's painful, but beautiful in the big picture. God knew how sanctifying family life could be! Your little one is super super cute by the way! :)

  10. Oh, I understand the insatiable baby part. So. Well. Gabriel nursed every single hour (going 1.5-3 hours between midnight and 7am at least) for the first 3 months of his life. He still eats every 2 hours during the day and is 9 months old (whaaat). Once I accepted that my number 1 job was to keep him fed (and changed and whatever else) I stopped caring TOO much about not being able to shower every day and all that other stuff. The time will come when you can do that on the daily, but the newborn days make it really hard! I basically gave myself a pass and spent my days sitting on the couch watching Law and Order SVU or reading blogs while he nursed/slept/nursed/slept/etc. On the flip side - doesn't it feel SO rewarding when you do get the little things done?! Having a baby really made me appreciate those little efforts so much more. Keep it up! I'm sure you're doing great!

  11. This is an absolutely beautiful post. I remember asking my Grandma who had nine, after I had my first, "How did you do this nine times?" And she said, "Well they didn't come all at once." I love what your mom said too..it's all about selfless giving.
    PS. He is darling! He looks like he has a gentle soul.

  12. It does get easier. (I've have seven children.)You realise that you just need to get to the end of the day with everyone alive, fed and happy and everything else can wait! And yup - many newborns feed pretty much constantly, like they do in the womb I guess. They have teeny tiny stomachs, so little and often is best! Get real used to sitting down a lot and always have a good book and glass of water to hand. I also always found a ring sling so useful - I could potter round the house a little which made me happy, and the baby was snuggled against my chest so the baby was happy!