Note: Kelly and I will resume our regular Motherhood series next week! Apologies about the delays – unexpected hurdles keep popping up. Thanks for your patience!
Today marks 6 weeks from the delivery of my sweet little Josephine. I feel like I constantly gush about the crazy, growing, inexplainable love for my little ladies here, so if you’re getting a bit annoyed I apologize, but it’s just so true. I can’t seem to say it enough because there are no words that adequately describe the feeling. Motherhood is a very powerful thing.
However, this post is a bit different in that it’s about some hurdles, which I suppose is often paired with love, no? I want to always be open and honest in this space, because I know that many fellow moms read this. I never want to provide false appearances; the blogging space is by nature a place that skews positive, and while I will always try to keep this read light-hearted, I do want to provide a healthy dose of reality where necessary.
So, here’s the thing: these past 6 weeks have been difficult. In my adjusting period, I’ve learned some really important lessons that I want to share with you, particularly about the importance of being flexible and forgiving of yourself. I really feel that these lessons can apply to anyone – new mom or not – because no matter what the situation may be, the notions are extremely valuable for your mental state.
Grace’s teepee – or her “Reading tent” as she calls it – was a gift from my amazing friend Jessica. It can be purchased here!
Before delivering Josephine, I had ambitious goals about maternity leave and parenting. I saw this short, 12 week time period as a way to soak in time with both of my girls. I’m not sure if it was a subconscious feeling of guilt for working full time while raising Gracie, or if I really thought it’d be easy, but in any case, I was ready and willing to tackle a not-quite-two-year-old and newborn day in and out.
I knew it’d be tough, but I also thought it’d be fun. We’d go on adventures, we’d play, we’d dance! Josephine would clap along! Other moms did it, why couldn’t I?! “Supermom, they’ll call me!” I thought.
Then I got into the grit of it all.
Starting almost a week after delivery, when all help was gone, I had both girls solo and was, in a word, overwhelmed. My body was very much still in recovery, and yet there I was picking up Gracie, going on walks, running around the playground, playing hide and seek – all while Josephine was in the Baby Bjorn. I was truly exhausted, and it slowly my body started telling me so.
I won’t go into too much detail, but here’s a quick overview. First, I got a painful bacterial infection that I had to see the doctor for. Then came mastitis, which is a breast tissue infection common while breast feeding. A week later, I woke up bleeding all over the bed – the contracting of the uterus weeks after delivery is healthy and you bleed while doing so, but the amount I had was a sign that I was being too active. My body physically hurt, and I was exhausted. I realized that I wasn’t being my best self when I was struggling. I wanted better for both of my girls.
So, we made the decision to head home and stay with our parents so they could help while I was still healing. (This post and this post were both shot while in Michigan and I talk a little about adjusting issues.) It was the best decision – I was able to sleep more, and the extra hands with Gracie was just what was needed to really relax and heal.
Once we came back to Chicago, I again had the girls solo for days on end, and wound up with the flu. It was that point where I said, “Enough is enough.” Throughout the on and off issues that popped up in weeks prior I had sent Gracie to day care, but it was time to make it official. We needed to have her go there on a regular basis while I was home.
So, that’s what we’ve done, and it’s been a huge help. Gracie has been going to day care 2 – 3 days a week so that I can focus on tending to Josephine and relaxing on those days. This makes the remaining days where I have both girls much more enjoyable; I feel more ready to balance it all with some down time added into the mix. (The time spent healing also has helped – I am feeling much more physically on point now.) I also feel like I’ve been able to give Josephine some more valuable one-on-one time, which is so important. On the days where it’s just she and I, we spend them laying together and cuddling.
At first I felt guilty about it – like I wasn’t able to tackle it all as a mom, and like I wasn’t prioritizing time with Grace as much as I should. But now, after many happy, fun and playful days with both girls, I’m realizing that the added balance makes me a better mom.
I’m realizing that asking for help has been the best thing for our family. I see now that there’s no shame in that. And with that in mind, I’ve also chosen to forgive myself for not being able to live up to my (unrealistic) expectations of maternity leave.
One thing is certain – I have a whole new respect for mother’s who juggle kids full time with no help. Truly, you are amazing. I don’t think that people truly understand all that it takes – it’s a thankless job that people don’t see how much it takes until you’re in that scenario. I see that now, and I want to send anyone who’s been in that situation the biggest hug. And a really nice vacation.
Through all this I’ve learned not to be afraid or too proud to ask for what I need, and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.
Help or no help, full time mom or full time working mom, we’re all doing the best we can. Our best is good enough; after all, love is the most important. And if our kids are getting that, then we’re doing a perfect job.