Only one small little thought for all of us today.
I don’t think I’ve spent as much time outdoors in my life as I have since moving to Stockholm. Swedes are out all the time in any kind of weather, sporting the best outdoor wear you can imagine. We’ve begun the process of outfitting ourselves for the fall and winter or “finter” as I like to call it because fall here feels like winter to me. We all have our waterproof and windproof jackets and shoes, and oh it really does make a difference. For the first time in my life, I feel like going outside in the cold. It’s 11C/32 F for us today, and I was out in a t-shirt, jeans and these rain boots of mine. I love wearing them and running around with Little Boy in the yard. Nothing gets wet except for the boots – amazing.
Getting outside has been a sanity-saving, health-improving, mood-boosting part of the last few months. When I think of the months and months I spent cooped up in our apartment in Geneva with my newborn and toddler, I now wonder, why?
Go outside today, friends. It’s a beautiful world.
This post is Day 11 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)
This post is edited from the archives. You can read the original one here.
Nuggets! Want nuggets! Want have it!
In a minute, I say, the nuggets are still cooking in the oven.
First cook it, then eat it, he says, Little Boy is trying to understand time.
Yes, I reply, but first we have to wait a little bit.
These days he is learning that some things have to come before others unlike his baby days when it was just crying if he didn’t get what he wanted immediately (ok, there’s still some of that going on). And as always, I’m learning the same lessons.
Whole rooms messy and unpacked. Can’t do it right now, you’re making sure a toddler adjusts to a new country and taking care of a newborn. Settling in takes time. Couches that need to be delivered, part of the living room in darkness because we don’t have lamps. Wait. It will have to be done some other time. There are groceries that need to be bought, music classes to attend. You can’t do everything.
Time to go out and enjoy Stockholm on my own. He won’t be nursing so much in a few months, he’ll be on solids, soon, soon, you can go out.
After he was born two years ago, I remember wondering when Little Boy would start sleeping through the night. I didn’t care so much that he woke up at night, but sleeping through the night would be an achievement, my achievement, proof that I was a good parent and knew what I was doing.
So he was going to sleep through the night. Early. Earlier than everyone else’s babies. You know how this story goes. After sleeping six, seven and then eight hours in a row at three months, his sleeping habits nosedived from month four until month nine. Of course he didn’t sleep through the night early. To make matters worse, I tried strategies I should not have tried to get him to sleep more because I was ignoring the laws of time and placing myself as lord overtime.
He needed time, and the truth is, I needed it, too. I needed those night feedings of holding him in my arms, getting to know him, understanding him, falling in love with him. I needed the time to think, to watch early sunrises, and I needed to be taken to my emotional and physical limit to realize that I would not be able to do this on my own because having a baby is an exercise in knowing you can’t do it alone. It took time, but time brought life tous and we learned what worked for Little Boy, for us, for our family. If there is one impulse that I felt over and over and over again in the early months, it was this one – Why isn’t _______ happening NOW? When will it happen?You could fill that blank with anything from breastfeeding to schedules to sleeping to naps to eating veggies to cutting teeth to crawling to walking to talking to…really this list could go on for a while.
And I remember thinking I could not go on feeling continually frustrated by my own expectations,but my ways of trying to fix it ignored the one thing I needed for “it” to change – I needed time.
It has only been in the daily living, the daily facing of daily challenges, the daily choosing to say no to the daily fear and the daily insecurity that has led to the daily covering of the daily peace and the daily freedom.
We spend so much of our lives in the field between the work and the promise, and when our heads are down, bodies deep in the work, it feels like futile, never-ending work. It is so hard to see the promise. One day patience will rise up inside of me. One day I will sleep eight hours in a row at night. One day he will eat his vegetables. Or at least I won’t be responsible for it anymore. The time spent in between when things don’t make sense, when it is still inconvenient, when we are tired or sad or depressed or angry – it is this time that forms our character, shapes our souls and grows our physical, emotional and spiritual muscles.
I grapple daily with the reality that everything related to my children is going to take time, a lot of time, and almost always, it is more time than I originally expected. Isn’t in the same for me? The same for us? Don’t most things in our lives and our relationships take time, a lot of time, more time than we expected? I find in this I have only two choices – dwell on what’s not happening and be a version of sadness and misery to myself and those around me or choose to wait it out and find delight in the little things that surround me in the time of work and waiting.
Little Boy is not potty trained and I have no idea when it will happen or what that will look like, but oh there are so many hilarious things he is saying and doing now surrounding the topic. Baby wakes up at night, I am exhausted, but he naps well during the day, giving me time with Little Boy and time alone because they take an afternoon nap together. My kitchen cupboards are disorganized and messy, but we are eating tasty food that I make almost every day. It’s raining and cold, but my fall jacket is waterproof and my rubber boots keep my feet dry and warm. Anything worthwhile in life takes time, and almost everything with our childrenwill take time, it has to take time, life takes time and time brings life.
This post is Day 10 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)
Little Boy came out, and there was one thing on my mind from the first hours on, When will he get on a schedule? I don’t know how many times a day Husband heard me saying, What time is it??????? (Neither of us wear watches.)
I smile at that woman now because I can hear the contents of her heart. I see her fears more clearly now.
I thought the way to “do” the newborn months was to have a schedule. It was the only way. It was how my more-experienced friends had done it. And I’m a planner and like having an organized life. I told myself that I wanted Little Boy on a schedule because it was orderly and could guarantee time for myself, and remember, I was going to be a good wife. A schedule Gives Time For Your Marriage.
I was wiser about babies. Obviously. Those babies. They need their schedules.
My schedule wasn’t about the baby or my family. The schedule gave me certainty and control in a time that was inherently uncertain and out of control. What I really wanted was to get the hang of this thing, to feel on top of it, to master it, so I could move on and keep living my life.
My schedule helped me feel like life was no different when the reality was that there was no way it could bear any resemblance to my previous life.
I see this impulse all the time in your tired eyes, New Mum. You want to know what’s going on with your baby, you want to be able to meet her needs, take care of him in the best way possible. You want to know when the next feeding will be, when (and for how long) the next nap will be. There’s nothing wrong with that, and lots of babies respond well to it from the beginning, so please hear me – I am not anti-schedule.
But I want to take your hand, look you in the eyes and say with kindness – It’s ok to not know what will happen next. You don’t have to have a game plan for the day, for the week. The world will keep turning. You will be ok. Just love your baby, spend time with your baby, look into her eyes, give him lots of smiles. Talk to her. Talk to him. Keep feeding them.
The right schedule, the best routine – it will come at the right time. You don’t need to control your baby. You can let go.
This post is Day 9 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)
So the other night I was feeding Baby, and he seemed a bit unhappy. I was thinking maybe I didn’t have enough milk.
(This is my second time around with a newborn, and truly I think about almost nothing. I hardly ever change his diaper, he’s had one bath since August 10. Serious. My firstborn fared a bit better in the bath department although just barely. And now I have zero routine or schedule to speak of. I haven’t even – gasp! – written down when he eats or for how long or on which side.)
(Also, the part about President Barack Obama comes at the end in case anyone is wondering.)
Back to Baby, I mentioned that I don’t think about anything anymore, so I don’t know why I even noticed that he was having trouble eating or why I was concerned about my milk supply, but here’s what happened.
He started crying, I got out of bed, checked my phone, it was just after 2am. I picked him up, started feeding, and then possibly fell asleep. Maybe. I couldn’t remember. Then I was awake, I didn’t feel like I had much milk, I couldn’t remember if I had fed him on the other side, and I was thinking, which was likely my first mistake because no one should be thinking at 2am, but think I did and it sounded like this:
It feels like I’m running out of milk. I wonder why. I should be eating or drinking more. Maybe I’m drying up. Maybe I’m pregnant. Could I be pregnant? What would I do if I was pregnant? The baby would be due right when Daniel is a year old. Three kids under three. Is that even possible? What if it was twins? I know two people whose third pregnancy was twins. Could I stay sane with four children under three? Would I get post partum depression?
Then I spent a few more minutes thinking about PPD. No one should be thinking these things, but especially not at two in the morning. At this point I decided to check the time again. It was 3am. Problem solved. I had fallen asleep, he was a the one side for one hour. Of course I felt empty.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Vanity Fair published a lengthy profile about President Obama. It is a great read whatever your political persuasions may be. But the point that caught my eye was a comment he made about how he chooses his clothes.
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
I read this quotation and the article during the 2012 presidential campaign, and it was a light bulb moment for me.
I finally understood why I was so exhausted those first months after our oldest was born. The lack of sleep will always be the obvious culprit when we wonder why it is that we don’t feel the way we used to feel. But the hidden factor is the sheer number of decisions – however big or small – that we make every few minutes.
Is he hungry? Should I be putting her to sleep? Swaddled or not? Too cold? Too warm? Should I wake him up? Is it the right time to cut fingernails? What is that on her scalp? Tummy time? Too much tummy time? What size will he be in a few months? Should we go out? For how long? When will he next need to eat?
The first months are the get-to-know-you months, the time when you’re understand this new person, and that process involves hundreds of tiny decisions, decisions that exhaust you and make it difficult to make other decisions.
This idea will stay with me forever. I’m a thinker anyway, and even without kids, my brain is usually running around with lots of questions. It has to be quieted, decisions need to be pared down for me to experience an internal peace and silence.
How can I minimize the number of decisions I make every day?And in the event that I can’t, I try to be as easy on my self as possible in those moments when my brain can’t handle another decision or another question.
This post is Day 8 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)
I see you there with your crumpled feeding chart on one side, black ink pen bleeding through the small boxes as you colour, check and cross. Mind spinning moment to moment as you wonder if he will eat, wake or sleep. You’re tired but so on top of things, you can’t sleep during the day. Your mind is busy, wandering from one thing to another, muscles pulled taught at all times, and in the moments you have to sit down and rest, your eyes are like a mirror into the world of Facebook, glazing over, one click at a time.
And I want to tell you, you don’t have to be so in control.
Yes, I know everything changed and nothing in your life feels the same anymore. The people you want to be around right now are continents away, the body you depended on is doing some strange things, the time and space you had in marriage disappeared.
You feel like he’s the only thing you can control, be in charge of, the only one you can boss around, you want so badly to be in charge of anything because your own life feels like it is out of your hands. It’s ok for you to tell someone you wish you were somewhere else, that you wish for sisters, friends, people who would just come over and bring you food, clean your kitchen.
You don’t have to be so in charge, you can let down your guard, let people in. Tell someone you’re tired, tell someone you’re juggling so many balls that you feel dizzy.
I see you making complicated meals, rushing around chopping bread and parsley, moulding dumpling balls and wondering if it will cook properly all while feeding a baby, laying him down to look at animals, rocking him to sleep and repeat. You’re trying to live your old life and making your son fit around it.
I see you trying to be a good wife, always listening to your husband, trying to do the things that people told you a good wife does after a baby has been born. He’s not like that, you know. He wants you to be well, when he asks, How are you? at dinner, it’s because he wants to know, not the edited version, but all of it, the tears, the fears, the questions, the frustrations. He wants to help you.
If you would just talk to him, he would tell you to stop doing everything, he would tell you not to have it all together, he would tell you to just rest, live in the season. If you let him in,he would have been grace and freedom to you. Vulnerability is a door that opens to grace, and grace is the door that opens to freedom. You need all of it right now.
You don’t have to be such a grown up.
People tell you how “together” you seem, like everything is normal, like you just picked up from birth on and kept moving, You seem so natural at this, they say, and you smile back. But you’re wondering every day, Am I doing the right thing? Am I succeeding at this? Am I loving him enough, spending enough time with him? Learning to love your son is opening a new space in your heart, and you feel like a child again, desperately in need of parenting yourself.
You miss your parents, badly, even though they have changed, you have changed, you still want to go back to that place where you have a pink, polka-dotted layer skirt and pig tails. You’re in Lipa City, wearing flip flops and dusty, walking to a sari sari store for Royal Tru Orange in a plastic bag with a straw. Someone else was taking care of you. Someone else was making all the decisions.
The early days are crazy days, kiddo. You feel at once a child and a mother, navigating heart changes and nappy changes. Slow down a bit. Drop a few balls or all of them. Put down the feeding chart.
Eat chocolate. Pray. Sleep. Take a shower. Repeat.
This post is Day 7 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)