Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mom Growth

my new-mom self with Miss A at 5 weeks
With each child, I feel like I've become more and more myself.  Don't get me wrong, there are days when I think each child has also made me more and more crazy, but overall I feel much more relaxed and able to enjoy motherhood as my number of children has increased.

I was high-strung as a first-time mom.  I fully recognize it, now.  There are so many things I'd go back and advise my new-mom self.

Like don't go back to work, even if it's only for 5 months, and even though you're only gone for 4 or 5 hours, and even though your friend is watching Miss A and she's in wonderful hands.  You can't get back those new baby days.  And if there's one of my babies I want to go back and hold the most, it's Miss A, because I treasured those newborn days the least.  Not intentionally.  I just didn't understand.  I didn't understand how quickly time would pass.  I didn't understand how special that time is.  I was super-emotional.  And high-strung.  And not sleeping, but instead of in the "I'm not sleeping but it won't last forever" frame of mind, I was in the "I'm not sleeping and it's pushing me to the brink" frame of mind.  And Miss A has always been a little on the fussy emotional side.  I understand that about her now, and have learned over the years how to tread a little more lightly, and how to appreciate that when channelled the right direction, it may become one of her best qualities.  But as a new mom, it meant a lot of days with an unhappy baby.  Who also had a lot of ear infections.

That's another thing I'd tell my new-mom self.  The intuition will come.  But don't beat yourself up for the times when you just don't know.  I remember going to Miss A's six month check-up and leaving with an ear infection diagnosis.  I felt terrible.  I had no idea.  I figured all of this fussiness was just part of baby-hood and part of her temperament.  Had I realized she'd been in pain, I hope I would have shown more patience and less weariness at her frequent cries.

I'd tell my new-mom self to relax because the milestones will come, and there is no need to rush them.  I remember reading to figure out what the next big thing was that Miss A should be accomplishing, and trying to help her check it off.  I studied the "Ages and Stages" Questionnaires from the pediatrician as if they were gospel truth, and I fretted if I had to check "sometimes" for a skill instead of "always," and heaven help us all if I had to check "never."  The muffin is almost 16 months.  He's still not walking.  At his latest appointment the doctor asked if I was concerned.  I responded with, "not really," and I'm really not.  He's talking up a storm right now with several new words a week, and how is he supposed to focus on walking when he's so busy talking?  The doctor offered to write a referral for physical therapy, but it will be a few months before I take him up on it.  In the mean time I'm enjoying my budding conversationalist and his cave-man walk on his hands and feet.

I'd encourage my new-mom self to embrace the days at home.  I tried to schedule Miss A and myself for different outings- on Mondays the library, on Tuesdays Target, just to get us out of the house.  But now my favorite days are the ones where I can enjoy being at home with my kids.  Sure I enjoy trips to the park and the pool, but I have now realized that I prefer being a stay-at-home mom, not a non-working mom who is never home.
I'd make my new-mom self get out there and find some new-mom friends.  That was probably where my biggest struggle adjusting to motherhood came from.  I was the first of all my friends to marry, so it wasn't too odd that I was also the first to have children.  But I didn't realize how much I needed other women, and more specifically other women who were moms.  I didn't realize that I needed people to relate to as I thought about diaper bags and nursing bras.  I didn't realize that I needed to compare notes on baby foods and quick dinner ideas.  I had no idea how much better I'd feel when I could lunch with the ladies and let the kids play every now and then.  Motherhood with one child can be a very isolating time, and I was definitely unprepared for that experience. 

I'd reassure my new-mom self that things would calm down.  I would find a balance and make dinner again for my family.  I would figure out how to take a shower and keep a baby alive and out of trouble.  I would discover what should always be kept in the diaper bag and how to get everyone out the door on-time. And I'd let my new-mom self know that it gets easier.  I really settled into my role as a mother of two.  Three has had its own set of trials, but I love it even more.  And the door is wide open for more babies to come our way someday if it seems right.  Nothing else has helped me grow like this.  Nothing else has been as hard or as right or as joyful or as fulfilling.  Never have I had a time of life I've loved more. 

I enjoyed reading this NY Times article and essay on motherhood by Anna Quindlen, the author of many of my favorite thoughts on motherhood.  

Was it hard for you to adjust to motherhood?
What would you tell your new-mom self?


Mia said...

I love your article and the NYT essay - it's so true! Thanks for sharing this!

Mommy said...

Beautiful thoughts and emotions conveyed...Motherhood is so very special and the moments of babyhood and childhood are fleeting...I still feel this way and my son is 6 years old and I was not able to have more children. I waited a long time for him and I have treasured each moment! I am now hoping that my sisters will get married and have babies and I can babysit! But I am also enjoying working with kids at my son's school - they are so in the moment and enjoy all the little things which is a wonderful life perspective! Love your site!

julie said...

I loved that Anna Quindlen article, thanks for sharing, I'm enjoying your blog! :)