One little baby awake…
Just the two of us here in the dark.
My lil’ hot potato, only three weeks old,
Groovin to Al green at four am in Mama’s arms.
I hope you’ll be back asleep before five,
Cause I’ve been asleep for less than six hours
And I’ve got to get up at seven.
Even 2 am is a good time to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy a still life moment of beauty when you’re up with the new baby, and away from the hectic rush of the day.
Having said all this, let’s hope my old pal insomnia will take a hike, so I can snuggle down with the little one, and catch a few more winks before my teenager gets up early for her first ballet competition later this morning.
To all the busy mamas of the world, who are also on the 24/7 shift, I salute you! 🎉🦸♀️🎉
Your tiny foot—
softer than a silky dog’s ear—
easily fits into the palm of my hand
as you nurse yourself into a cozy milk coma
and snuggle by my side.
Only a week ago,
that same foot
was pushing up against my ribs,
knocking on the door of my heart
as if to say,
“Mama, I’m ready to meet the world!”
And oh, Tiny Foot, how ready I was to meet you!
and you’re working round the clock
like a donkey round the threshing mill–
sacrifice in each step.
Working like your dad,
but long hours away instead of long weeks at camp.
we celebrate our eldest daughter’s 12th birthday–
a dozen years of parenthood–
building a life together bit by bit.
I think of the early days of motherhood,
pregnancy and giving birth for the first time,
and those inexpressibly precious baby snuggles.
Remembering I rejoice
and celebrate having made it thus far.
The day, says my classy and clever friend Laura,
calls for champagne.
And although it takes two,
often moms get all the credit
for building their children’s bodies,
knitting them together in their wombs.
But I think of you, honey
working away in the office each day
so I can order in groceries–
paying for each apple, cake and curry I prepare.
And I realize our children’s cells
are built upon your sacrifice.
They are nourished by your love,
strengthened by your resolve,
encouraged by your perseverance
to believe that anything is possible.
So thank you…for working so hard
so I can be with our little ones
and celebrate with them
all the mess and glory
of being alive.
how my heart is bursting
with the beauteous warmth of you,
your cuddly down-softness
snuggling in my arms,
fluffy dark hair caressing my cheek as I cradle you.
And yet in all this glory
a bittersweet strain of music
tugs at my heart,
because you are so much like her,
your big sister who was born asleep,
eyes closed forever,
and here you are
I want to cry grateful tears of sorrow
when you squeak and grumble like a little bear
because your sister was so silent.
And when I smell the milky scent on your neck
because your sister never tasted milk.
I was left bursting but alone…
my arms like edges of an empty cradle
with only myself to rock.
I get choked up by your little hands
which look exactly like hers–
long slim fingers and grandma’s double jointed thumbs.
They’re curled up in tiny fists above your head
in the abandon of sleep,
yet warm and ever ready to grasp my finger
instead is still, pale, and cold.
In this bittersweet place
I love you both
and want to give you everything:
all the affection and tenderness
I wished to give her
but also want to give you for yourself.
I drink deeply both of sorrow and of joy.
How life and death are woven together
in this strange tapestry where all the shadows
make the colours brighter.
What is painful
and what is precious
have become inseparable
and love runs through it all.
I was just taking a little nap with baby and closing my eyes so I could see what her dreams were…if they were good or bad.
A buddy and I were chatting tonight about motherhood and vulnerability, and how tough it is to get some some women to open up about how they’re really doing, for example after having a new baby. There seems to be, especially among women who are hoping to have multiple children, a feeling that they need to pretend it’s easy…like “Of course it’s great! Otherwise why would I do this again? I don’t look crazy…do I?” And these kind of sentiments shove any post-partum struggles way down out of sight.
Sometimes, in hopes of attracting others to motherhood, moms will put on a brave face and only present the good. But this is a bit like trying to recruit future Olympic athletes by pretending that it’s a cake walk. Not effective because it’s not authentic. It is better to admit the difficulty and affirm that it’s worth it. As G.K. Chesterton insisted, a mother’s task is challenging not because it is minute or unimportant, but because it is gigantic.
Where does the pressure to pretend that one of the most physically and emotionally challenging life experiences– new parenthood– is a smooth ride, come from? It’s part of what I like to call ‘femachosim’–the tendency to be competitive about motherhood, and to shy away from admitting any vulnerability or suffering which would seem to indicate weakness. There is an underlying insecurity in this attitude…a fear of being told their suffering is their fault, and that they shouldn’t have wasted their time having kids. These kinds of things do get said.
In an essay in the anthology “Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood,” I discuss this devaluation of motherhood and femininity in general. I question the validity of a feminism which looks down on the intrinsically feminine power of bearing and nurturing children, and only values professions that have typically been done by men.
A friend of mine who recently returned from maternity leave has heard comments at her workplace like, “being a stay-at-home mom is for lazy, lost losers.” This attitude can make new moms feel parenting should at least be an easy ride and not a challenge. “How hard can it be? It’s just changing diapers…right?” So they hide their struggles.
The fact is that motherhood is extremely hard, besides being beautiful and rewarding, but that we moms choose it anyway. We choose the sleepless nights, the intensity of labour, the vulnerability of having our hearts walk around outside of ourselves in tiny little bodies we are totally responsible for. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and challenges every fibre of our being. And we choose it anyway. We choose to love. We choose to give of ourselves constantly. We choose to have enough hope in our world to believe that life is worth living and worth sharing. We don’t choose it because it’s comfortable. We choose it because it’s transformative. If that’s lazy I need a new dictionary, because I can’t imagine how those things are at all connected.
So you new moms out there, if you’re struggling, reach out. Don’t suffer alone and isolate yourself, for fear of not being a super mom. I saw a great t-shirt tonight that said, “World’s Okayest Mom.” It made me laugh so hard! None of us are perfect. But we’re in this together, and it’s a lot more fun that way. Spend time with other moms. “Waste” time visiting over coffee. The laughter and conversation you have there can save you hundreds at a therapist later!
Many people suffer from post-partum depression for a time after birthing, and there is help. A good place to start is postpartum.org, which also has great materials for your spouse to read. Your hormones are raging and sleep is a distant dream…so don’t beat yourself up if that takes a toll. Reach out. Talk to your doctor. Talk to friends who are supportive. Take steps to get help. And don’t be afraid to ask for it. Lean on others, so they can one day lean on you. That’s what friendship is. It enriches life so deeply.
With a support network of mom buddies, your life with kids is really awesome, despite the difficulties…there are so much opportunites to share, grow and love together. So next time someone asks how you are, think twice before you pop out “Fine.” Your honesty might open the gate for the other women around to share their struggles and find the support they really need as well. How rewarding is that?
Have you ever wondered what the best gift for a mom with a new baby is? How you could best help her feel supported while she recovers from birth and gets into the swing of nursing? Well here is a simple way to be a hero, and the best of friends: organize a meal train for her!
There is a simple website called Meal Train which will help you do just that. Simply invite all her friends and family by email to sign up for a date on your meal train page and you’re done. The site will lets the mom know when someone signs up to help out and even send reminder emails to people the day before their meal drop off day.
There is a place to put favourite meals or let people know about allergies or any other preferences so that the food can be the most helpful. You can suggest fruit and veggie trays, muffins and other snacks as well as meals. I recommend scheduling the meals every two days, rather than every day, as the help lasts longer then, and leftovers can be used up on alternate days.
I have been the very lucky recipient of meal trains since I had my second baby and it is always such a help. The nicest thing for a mom with a new baby is to be mothered a bit! I want to send a big thank you to all who have spoiled me in this delicious way! You are really a special part of making my baby’s first days more smooth and peaceful.
I am very moved by the fact that some ladies who helped me only know me because I smile at them when we are both tending to our little noisy ones at the back of the church during Mass. You never know what a friendly smile will bring your way!
And best of all, thanks to your yummy spanakopita, Greek salad, cake, roasted butternut squash soup, homemade lasagna, chicken and potatoes, chilli, muffins, cookies, fruit, chocolate and so much more, my little three week early baby has gained 2 lbs! Thanks for making his milk, and my life, so much richer by your generous love!