5 Most Important Things I've Learned in 5 Years of Motherhood

At 5 pm on my daughter's fifth birthday, I popped a bottle of champagne and poured a single glass. I'd survived my first five years of motherhood, maybe even thrived at times, and since motherhood is something we so often do alone with our kids, it felt appropriate to toast to my kids and drink alone. Many of us humans of the female persuasion know from a young age that we want to be mommies. I don't remember a lot about early childhood, but I do remember being five myself and persuading my best friend's two year-old sister to be my child. "Hug my legs," I would tell her.

Fast forward 24 years and it seems everywhere I go I have a child clutching onto my legs. The baby loves to pull herself up onto me, one hand on the back of each leg. It's as sweet as I knew it would be, and harder than I never knew it could be.

For all the mommies struggling today, for all the women struggling to become mommies, for all the women wanting to become mommies, not today but someday, this is for you.

1. Women are strong (and hire a doula). Society teaches us to fear birth, both the pain and the risk of it. But the World Health Organization estimates that only 5% of c-sections are true emergencies. 95% of the time, we can birth our babies without complications. That being said, interventions lead to more interventions. Drugs are great, empowering in their own way, and hospitals are helpful because they take pressure off of the mother. Even if we choose these gracious safety nets woven by the 21st century, we can still have faith in our natural ability to birth. Your beliefs can go a long way in helping and hindering your birth. My best advice? Hire a doula. A professional labor coach will help you in ways you cannot foresee or understand now. Contact me for Seattle-area recommendations.

2. You must fill your own cup. Your kids are going to demand a lot out of you. Everything, in fact. It's only natural. Don't try to do everything by yourself, don't get bitter, don't be a martyr. Ask your partner, parents, friends for support. Ask them to take care of your kids so you can fill your cup. You know what it is you need to do, now do it. You will be a better mother and you will have more to give and your kids will benefit from spending time with other caregivers. You might feel guilty at first. But when you see how much better you run when you aren't on empty, you will understand. Also, no one else can fill your cup for you. Not your husband or your mom or your best friend or your partner. That part is up to you.

3. Do what works for you. Nobody but you and your partner knows what's best for your kids. Many people will be quick to judge your methods or suggest alternatives. Take their advice with a grain of salt, even if you asked for it. (And they'll give it to you, whether or not you asked.) Parent the way you feel comfortable parenting. Birth the way you want to birth (fearful or fearless!). Let your kid cry it out or don't. Bed share or don't. Discipline the way you want to discipline. Figure out what works, and go with it. You have something called mother's intuition for a reason: survival.

4. Enjoy yourself. This started as "don't take everything so seriously," but that didn't feel right. There is nothing more serious than the love we feel for these brand new humans for whom we are solely responsible. I read a blog post recently that connected our exhaustion to the hyper vigilance we must practice every single second of every single day to keep our babies alive. Sleep deprivation aside, taking care of small children 24/7 is the most exhausting job in the world. You deserve to have a little bit of fun while on the job. Go get an ice cream cone. Turn up the music and dance, or make videos of your children dancing. Pop some popcorn and pop in a Disney movie. Invite your mom friends over for coffee and let the kids make a huge mess. Drink the coffee, dammit. Don't worry so much about what they're eating or how much TV they're watching. If you ever feel guilty, just go outside and chase your kids, and I promise their giggles and your endorphins will help you remember that everything is actually okay.

5. This won't last forever. They are so cute. You just want to inhale them, don't you? When they giggle, you feel so much joy that it hurts. And it hurts because it's all temporary. Children grow up. You can give them every thing and tell them nothing about life, but they will still grow up and they will still leave you. Someday you will miss them. Someday you will ache for little voices and little feet and little bodies that wake you up all hours of the night. You will miss the laundry and the messes and the hands always reaching for you. These bittersweet truths have helped me through the dark hours when I am lonely, bored, isolated, tired, under appreciated, overwhelmed. It is a tragic relief: you will not always be a mommy, but you will always be a mother.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.


The Waiting Game

I wrote this post approximately 36 hours before my water broke in the comfort of my own home. Baby is here and healthy and my birth story will be posted in due time. In the meantime I'd like to share my thoughts on the end of pregnancy, and how it felt to go past my due date.  DSC_9407

photo credit: Jessica May Photography

There's a reason so many women become batty towards the end of their pregnancy.

The waiting is hard. The waiting can siphon away your energy like a leech drinking blood, a leech you can't rip off until he's gotten enough. The waiting can keep you home all day and awake at night. The waiting can send you to google for every strange sensation. The waiting can consume you.

When you're waiting for a baby it's easy for the rest of the world to fall away. It could happen any minute. It could start today or in a week. Your universe hinges on the baby's arrival.

There you hang. By the thread that holds baby inside. Stretching thinner with every passing second.

For me, the waiting is harder the second time around. I am completely aware of all the ways my life is about to change. I know the pain and the power and the ultimate joy to be found in birth. I know how it feels for a baby to descend through the birth canal and widen my pelvic bones and latch onto my breast for the first time. I know the flood of oxytocin and the bliss of life with a newborn.

I can't wait and yet I must. I can't wait and yet I want to. Life in the womb is perfect and whole, fleeting and full. I am full of baby and I love it. Once she comes out, there's no going back. I will miss her being inside, submerged in the fluid of life, submerged in me.

Still, I can't help but feel like everything is on hold. It's like depression in that all of my usual interests do not hold the same appeal. In the mornings I don't want to work out. In the evenings I don't want to write. I stopped wearing makeup and (maternity) jeans. Come 3 AM you can find me in the kitchen eating yogurt or reading a novel. I go to the bathroom four or five times or more per night. In order to get a decent night's sleep I have to be in bed for at least 10 hours because I spend so much time awake, waiting for slumber, listening for the pop. Literally. Giovanna's arrival started with an early morning pop that woke me from my slumber, the breaking of my waters that brought the immediate onset of contractions.

And I'm most likely waiting for the wrong thing. Each birth is as unique as each person. There's no use in trying to predict when or how she will come. Just like birth will necessitate a profound letting go, enjoying these last few days (hours? weeks?) of pregnancy requires that I let go of my agenda, my predictions and especially my fears.

I've been told by more than one person close to me that I seem very calm about my pregnancy and birth. I took this sentiment as the utmost of compliments. Because this is how I want to bring my child into this world: peacefully. Upon a billow of faith.

Yes, I am calm. I trust my baby to choose the right moment and I trust my body to do the work.

As long as my water doesn't break in this Starbucks.