Cold hit with a fury this week, and our nearly 80-degree-temps fell in a day to below freezing. Snow continues to pile high in my backyard, and Abby felt the first flakes hit her face as she smiled in glee. The world entertains her so easily.
Seven+ months postpartum, I find myself learning new mothering tricks and parenting ways. I’m learning from the community of mommies around me. I’m learning from making mistakes. I’m learning in the thick of emotional breakdowns when I just really need a shower and decide Abby can play in her baby tub at my feet (necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say).
However, I’m not learning from the Parenting magazines that dutifully arrive in my mailbox every month. So, yesterday, as the snow came down and Abby grew bored with books and teething toys, I gave her one to shred. The pages of picture-perfect families were torn up, as she delighted in tearing paper and munching on oh-so-bright newsprint advertisements. And, I thought to myself: “That is the best use for those magazines that I have found so far…” Those judgmental model faces that remind me that I’m not reading to Abby enough, eating healthy enough, sleeping enough, exercising enough, stimulating Abby enough, making love enough, practicing meditation enough and detoxing my home enough melted away in the mouth of a very happy seven-month-old. Good riddance. No one should parents with those standards looming over them.
Life is messy. Life is even messier as a mom and a new doula and a recently retired teacher who is grieving/missing her students and coworkers. I think social media is a dangerous blessing. A blessing because I can chat with friends who are also eating chocolate and carbs at 9:30 p.m.. And dangerous because “picture-perfect” lives so easily become the facade.
The truth is that I miss teaching. I miss my fellow teachers who are like family to me. I miss middle school students who laugh at my jokes. I miss the gym. I miss the future assurance in coming months of a reliable income and health benefits. I miss sleeping in longer than two hour chunks. Many days I am a mess. I found myself the other evening laying on the floor next to Abby’s jumper with my “Need Coffee” shirt and begging my baby not to cry (above photo). Let’s be honest…Who hasn’t tried to rationally reason with an unreasonable child every once in a while?!?
However, the truth is also that combining my birth doula career with staying home with Abby is my heart’s desire. I celebrate the small victories like completing an exercise DVD (I’ve become an avid renter of these from the local library) and laughing with Abby. I visit school and hug students and then leave with my precious baby to play with her and talk to her and sing with her and allow my life to be…messy. Very messy. I’m learning to give myself grace. Grace to not measure up. Grace to not have everything together. Grace to ask for help and wisdom and a babysitter. I am in love with my new calling. It isn’t glamorous, but it is satisfying. Perhaps, it can be said these many months post-birth, that I am coming into my own…
I love these words from the MissionalMotherhood blog that a friend emailed me: “Before I was a mother, my frame stood tall, refusing to lean on another in weakness. But now I know that’s how we’ll survive this thing. Because over and over again, I have been wrapped up in the comforting arms of the mothers around me. When the baby wouldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t think straight. When I didn’t know how to help her sleep. When the never-ending night ended, but the fear stayed. When I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, yet desperately want to be good at this.”
I want to be good at this. This motherhood thing. But, let’s be honest. I have no idea what I’m doing 🙂 I joke with my doula clients that I know a lot about birth, but really very little idea what to do after that! But, I’m praying that the coming months will change that too as “learning on the job” completes its perfect training.
Between my six-month-Abby-update-post and now, Abby has had a lot of “firsts.” Her development is awe-inspiring…I’m seriously watching a little brain grow and learn. David and I are stopped dead in our very-tired tracks all of the time to just wonder…and stare…and laugh…at Abby’s newest object of investigation.
- October 7 – Abby laughed for the first time while playing with her Daddy’s nose AND rubbed her first grass stains on her clothes (so proud!)
- October 8 – She drank water for the first time unassisted out of a sippy cup, she picked up food from her tray and ate it, and took her first “steps” holding on to adult fingers
- November 9 – Abby began army crawling all over the basement floor
- November 10 – Abby popped her first tooth and played at the library for the first time during her first snow storm (it was a monumental, exhausting day. LOL)
- Smooth textures of vegetable/fruit purees
- Mom’s coffee cup
- Chasing and, literally, chewing on the cat
- Tasting EVERYTHING!
- Wind in her face
- Middle school boys (sigh)
- Nursing…every two hours or so please…”Can’t we just keep the boob on tap?” Abby would like to know?!?
- Tearing up magazine
- New toys
- Playing with other babies
- Bath time and playing with her rubber duck in the water
- Chunky/thick puree textures
- Being in her car seat (scream fest right there, folks)
- Being confined
- Being ignored for any length of time
- Not catching the cat (poor kitty)
- Having her diaper changed (I can now change a diaper while she is laying on her belly and playing)
- Being left with babysitter
In the past month and a half, both sets of grandparents have visited, I have worked myself nearly into the ground trying to get my doula and Young Living essential oil business off of the ground, I am freelance writing for Healthline.com, we have begun sleep training, Abby now sleeps in her crib in her room (although she is still nursing every 2-3 hours at night), she has outgrown all of her socks due to very chunky legs and ankles, I have been blessed with some new and amazing mommy friends/communities, and David was hired by a big Denver company for an internship next summer (Yippee!).
More than anything, my soul and body are stretching and finding their new groove. As a doula, I’ve watched several new lives be ushered into the world amidst their mothers’ groans and their fathers’ outstretched arms. My husband and I talk of parenting and marriage-while-parenting. I turn to the mamas around me for empathy and friends (unmarried, married, childless, and parents alike) for sympathy. I pray for wisdom as I nurse and rock through the night.