Most mothers have feelings of love and affection the minute their sweet bundle of "joy" is handed to them in the moments after birth. And I have read countless stories of how nursing was just "precious" and the most "bonding" of experiences this side of Jesus' return. I've seen photos of people swooning over peaceful babies who sleep and coo and giggle, even while they poop! And while I love my children beyond compare to what I can describe, I don't have those moments.
When you have a baby - especially in my "shotgun" sort of circumstance - people don't tell you the horrors of parenting in the buff for what they are. And I want to reveal pieces of that to you today. But that isn't even the premise of this blog. Tonight, was a night of firsts. Now, you would think that a mom of three, and a person expecting, would have covered just about all the bases about "what to expect when". But tonight, for the first time in four years, I rocked a sweet baby- my own sweet baby - to sleep.
I can already hear the gasp of "whaaaat?!?!?!" coming from your digital screen as you read this.
While it is true I have held my children.... all of them to be exact.
And it is fact that some of the time they were asleep.
And it is also known that somewhere in the last four years and 11 months I've had "sweet" moments of nostalgia, none of the experiences involved me sweetly rocking and holding tight to a peaceful calm, healthy baby, who wants to fall asleep and does simply and easily.
So I'll start at the begining.
Most women dream - like I did MANY years ago - about being pregnant with an innocent little baby who gently "kicks" (oxymoron intended) and has hicups every once in a while.
My experiences have always been rather, well, different.
Given that I was pregnant before I got married, my first was all sorts of different "normals". (For those of you who have ever filled out a "healthy start" form, imagine trying to answer with my given situation!)
But apart from all of that hustle and bustle- I was ill.
Now pregnancy is supposed to be this heart warming experience where you feel empowered as a woman, and where you embrace your feminimity.
I was embracing the toilet.
Face first, flushed or not, I lived there for months.
I know- everything in pregnancy is counted in "weeks" as to not freak anyone out with "ten months later".... WELL IT IS. Its more than half a year of torture, in my case.
I was accutely sick, and from day one, had aches and pains.
The day finally came when I would have this "sweet loving baby" and I remember having to fight my way through nurses and protocol to have her the way " I wanted to".
I remember them putting her on my chest, and if it weren't for the reality which is the video my loving husband took from the other side of the room, I wouldn't know what I felt, since its all a surreal time blurr anyways.
I was drug free, IV free, and thankfully tear free- but for "cosmetic" purposes they needed to do some "sewing".
BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE TAKE PHOTOS OF THAT ANYWAYS.
I was in disgust as McKenna laid on me, because the cord which hadn't been cut yet was "tethering" for lack of a better word in places it shouldn't.
Finally I was allowed to go home and my blood pressure could return to normal because I wasn't surrounded by needles and people who draw blood.
McKenna was independent and stubborn from day one. She likes telling people what to do. And while Paco and I are firm believers in parents being the parents, there's only so much you can "parent' out of a newborn.
About 8 days in she was sleeping through the night. But each night was a fight to do it. She would settle down and look like she was going to sleep- and just as she began to doze off, she would fight sleep for all she could. I remember calling Paco to come home from wherever he was: work, the school, church; just to hold her tightly enough to swaddle her. She was a strong little girl, and he would hold her with all his strength and sway back and forth, until finally she would fall asleep.
Because of that, we very quickly taught her to "self-soothe" and go to sleep on her own in her own bed.
McKenna was only about 6 months old when I got pregnant with Teaghan. So you can imagine the overwhelming feeling of being "blessed" so quickly with a second child.
Teaghan's occupancy of myself was ended two weeks prior to her due date, and I couldn't have been happier since all the aches and pains came the moment I found out I was expecting since the time between her conception and her sister's arrival came.
I quickly found myself in tears as we arrived home, because unlike with a first baby, or a baby with much older siblings, I couldn't do all of the things I wanted for McKenna because I was still recovering. Learning to rely on people since I'm independent and like to have control was a doozy.
I knew right then I didn't want more kids in the immediate future, and Paco agreed.
Thank goodness we made such a decision, because Teaghan had colic and from day two to about day ninety-seven, we didn't sleep a wink.
My mom offered to take her for a "long weekend" - Thursday through Sunday - just so I could catch up on some sleep, and rid myself of feeling of wanting to throw my kid off the balcony.
Sunday afternoon came, and my mom and I had switched perspectives. It was now she, who wanted to throw Teaghan out of the window!
About 4 different types of formula, ten different doctor's opinions and visits, and three people's sanity later, she began sleeping, and was the best baby in the whole world.
HOwever, having been so exhausted right from the begining, and having two small children, the minute she started sleeping was also the minute I started sleeping too! She would sleep in her bed, and at 7pm, my "break" came, where I could watch something other than cartoons, eat something other than cherios and bananas, and have a regulat adult conversation with Paco, who was also exhausted from working long hours in a
complaint call center.
I didn't need to rock Teaghan asleep, but I also didn't want to. Not because we never cuddled or loved her- because we did - plenty - but we prefered the ten minutes to ourselves before exhaustion took over, and we fell asleep.
I quit taking a birth control pill in July of 2011, but still planned well to NOT get pregnant.
That was short lived.
In November I knew I was pregnant before I even missed a cycle, because the barfing had returned.
Less than thrilled, we were excited to think that maybe this would be it. When we found out it was a boy, I was nearly done.
The pressure was off and no one would resent it if I quit now.
Wes's labor and delivery, although short, and to some hardly an experience, it was enough for me to know I was finished. I wasn't doing it like that again and was certain I had made that final decision.
Wes was your average baby, he wasn't super fussy, but didn't sleep through the night for about 3-4 months.
We were spent.
I would spend hours a day dealing with a mini-preschool and all that goes with it, and at night neither of us was sleeping.
At the time, we were living with my parents as well, in hopes of buying a home. So you can imagine the added stress of 5 people in 2 bedrooms.
We finally moved, and stretched out. Wes had his own room, and began sleeping from 7pm-9:30am. The girls were trained to stay and play quietly on their beds until we came and got them in the mornings. Paco's job had fliexible hours, and most days we could sleep in!
Things were looking up. We started to get rid of the baby stuff as Wes outgrew it. We both had decided we were through.
Wes would soon be walking and we would never again have to lug around a heavy infant carseat carrier, We wouldn't need to fill another bottle in the middle of the night again.
In about a year we could quit buying diapers, and soon after, wipes.
We almost had the capability of having dinner without one of us adults having to feed a baby before we ate.
We were so excited we could hardly stand it.
Things got crazy at Paco's job, and changes were coming hard and fast- with hardly enough money to pay bills, copays were out of the question. I wasn't going to get to the doctor to get more pills anytime soon.
I sound like an awful wife when I say poor Paco was deprived for a bit, because I didn't know one way or another what was happening with me!
In the middle of job uncertainty, financial crisis, and emotional roller coaster events, the feeling came once again of nausea.
I was terrified.
A sweet friend offered to buy me a pregnancy test about a week later, and I remember thinking - "If I take this today and it says yes, then I am. But if I wait and don't know, for at least today, it could be no".
Most people are thrilled at the idea of a pregnancy. Even the said "friend" told me she would love to be pregnant right now.
I had watched in that week as people I knew miscarried, wished for children, and hoped for more. Here I was terrified at the thought that it could happen.
I remember crying the day I found out. And the day after. And the day after that.
I just didn't want to do it over again.
I had to bear the weight of child-bearing all over again, while some women wished they could be mother's at all.
I can't explain why some women love to be pregnant. And I certainly can't explain why God chose me to be the biological mother to four. But He did.
There are plenty of other hard moments about being a mom that are outside of the time and experience of pregnancy too.
There are good days, when the kids obey the first time, and they don't scream, and your energy is runing over the top, and nothing breaks, and the whether is nice, and everyone naps and is in bed on time.
Then there are other days. The kind that are more common among mothers. These involve children who defy your words and actually do the opposite of what you've asked, even if you've done everything humane in your power to keep them from such behavior. Days when the kids scream loud enough to be heard in Jamaca, and neighbors stop by, when your braless mind you, to see if everyone is alright and if your said child can quit disturbing the peace. There are days when body functions wait ( I can specifically recall more times than I can count how many times I've forgotten to go to the bathroom while dealing with a minor.), and headaches are a thing of daily life. Back aches are chronic, but that could be from the mattress that all 4 kids pile onto every night, and when the coffee, no matter how strong, doesn't do the trick. Days when the toilet overflows, the dishwasher won't run, the TV just, oh for heaven's sake please, but still won't work. Days when diapers leak, or aren't child-resistant as you hoped. Days when the juice spills because someone, ehem the four year old, wanted to "help" pour the drinks. Days when pizza gets smeared accross the carpet, or barf gets on the couch, which no matter how many times you've tried, or which direction you aim, won't, regrettably, fit into the washing machine. Days when the sun is too hot to let them "play outside" or too cold to "just have lunch where the mess doesn't matter". And days, oh the countless days, when the kids don't nap- whether one of them or all four. So now the ten minutes of "quiet freedom" you had to shower, pee, or both, has vanished before your very eyes.
As you can see from just reading, the hard days are inevitably more long and drawn out.
Regardless, this is not a blog to remind you of how awful and tiring and draining life as a parent is. No, rather this is to encourage you. Because amidst the chaos and frustration and exhaustion, lies the faint hope that you're training people to be model citizens. You're making them realize the boundaries of their world, and discover more than Christopher Colombus ever did in a daily activity. You're training them to not talk back, to follow directions, and keep their attitude in check so that one day they can work and talk and function as members of a community where all of the above are needed.
Because, whether you'd like to admit it or not, we've all met the now-grown-up-kids whose mother never put them in time out or took away their privelges when they got snotty. We've all had an encounter with Ms. Rude who doesn't know how to prefer others over herself. And trust me, you don't want to live with that kind of family.
I sat in tears as I was holding and rocked Baby Wes, probably the first and also last time, as he's just too heavy at this point. He didn't want his milk, just his momma. And I was there, and rocked him and patted his butt, and watched as he peacefully made his way to dream land.
Maybe you're reading and you've never experienced a peacful rocking to sleep of your kids, or maybe you have, and all the while, your back ached because the day was so exhausting. Regardless, you need to be told good job. And to keep up the good work.
The following isn't mine, but was posted by a friend on facebook. The video is moving, especially for mom's who don't hear their children affirm their hard work. Which I'm almost certain, is all of us.