It’s five in the morning and still dark when I hear a small squeak come out of the tiny form laying next to me. The squeak turns into a whine and before that turns into a wail, I use every last ounce of energy I possess to sit up, pull my sleepy infant close to me and begin to nurse her. I am still groggy but can’t help thinking about the warm, creamy cup of coffee that I’ll enjoy the next time I wake up.
As I often do during our nighttime wakings, I wonder how many other mothers are awake and feeding their precious babies at this hour.
I wonder how many of them will later awaken to their toddler crying out “mama!”, like I will in a few hours.
Motherhood is no joke, whether it’s your first time, second, or tenth. It’s hard and stressful and exhausting and beautiful and rewarding and fun all at the same time. It’s the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’d venture to say most of my fellow mamas would agree.
This is the second time for me, and while many aspects are the same as the first time, there are a lot of differences as well.
This time, I knew what to expect. I knew an unmedicated labor would be hard work. I knew that my body would be different than it was before. I knew that I would experience both exhaustion and cabin fever in the first few weeks of our new baby’s life. I knew that I would love my girl so much I could cry.
I also knew that every child is different. I knew that this baby girl would have a unique personality and disposition, and that I would have to take the time to get to know her inside and out, just like it did with our first born.
What I didn’t expect was the gut-wrenching guilt I would feel every time my oldest daughter would reach out for me while I was nursing or tending to her baby sister. In the first couple of weeks when baby and I spent most of our time sleeping and nursing, I would sometimes wake up to hearing Liesl outside my bedroom door crying for Mommy, and my heart shattered.
I held my Liesl on my lap as much as I could but didn’t yet have the strength to pick her up, and that killed me. She couldn’t possibly understand why her whole world was changing so drastically.
This is when the doubt started to creep in.
Suddenly I felt like I wasn’t enough.
Can I handle two kids?
What am I going to do when both girls are screaming, demanding my attention?
How can I give them both every ounce of energy and love that I have?
Am I ever going to measure up to the idea of what kind of mother I have always wanted to be?
Exhaustion, the need to constantly multi-task, and my tendency to compare myself to other moms escalated my feelings of inadequacy.
For the first couple of months, I was tired and frazzled and feel like a huge mess.
I had to write myself sticky notes to remember to brush my teeth and put on deodorant each day.
I felt guilty when I am giving one of my daughters attention and not the other, grieving the fact the I can’t give each of them one-hundred percent.
I dreaded grocery shopping trips, knowing that there is a good chance at least one of the girls will break out in tears, drawing stares from other customers.
There were days when I count down the minutes until my husband gets home from work, craving just a few minutes to breathe and focus and be alone.
But even in the midst of the exhausted haze I was in, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful.
Grateful for my beautiful, healthy, thriving girls.
Grateful for a husband who let’s me sleep in on Saturday mornings and pours me a glass of wine after the girls are asleep. Grateful that he doesn’t condemn me for the roller coaster of my emotions, but listens, empathizes, and helps where he can.
Grateful for a church community who has loved us so well by providing meals, support, and a listening ear.
Grateful that His mercies are new every morning.
This season of life so full of deep, real, raw emotion. All you mamas in the trenches of mothering young kids, I see you and I know how you feel.
If I’ve learned anything the last few months, it’s that the name of the game is Grace.
All the self-doubt, guilt, pressure to be perfect, disappointment in myself, and feelings of inadequacy are drowned in perfect grace.
Because of grace, we don’t have to be perfect. We will yell at our kids, forget to switch over the laundry, run late to playdates, be embarrassed when our kids act out in front of others, and feed our families less than healthy meals.
But guess what? We are still loved. We are still valued.
This advice is for me as much as anybody else reading this rant of mine – know that your worth is not measured by what you accomplish, how well-behaved your kids are, or whether or not the dishes got done today.
You matter simply because you are you. Forgive yourself when you feel like you’ve failed. Encourage others when they are down. Build each other up and cling to this truth – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV