Just to be Mama

all i wanted

Let me just preface this by saying I respect every mama’s choice to do what she feels is best for her family. I salute you, working mama, as you get up early every morning, after being woke up multiple times a night by a tiny baby, to provide for your family. I salute you, stay at home mama, as you work all day and all night meeting the demanding needs of your family.

Here’s a bit about my journey and how I went from working outside my home to choosing to be mama full time.

I thought I wanted to be a career mama! You know, the one that dresses in expensive clothes and drives a brand new car through the Starbucks drive through each morning on her way to the important business world? She works hard to climb the corporate america ladder and is well loved and respected at her place of employment. No one knows how she’s doing it so gracefully and beautifully as she rocks the balance of career and family. I wanted to be HER!

I wanted to be her until the first day I dropped baby off at the nanny’s after a 12 week maternity leave. I got up at 4:30am to make sure both baby and I would be perfectly dressed and out the door by 6:45am. I was looking forward to more order and a perfectly executed routine as maternity leave just felt like a day to day survival with absolutely no order and certainly no schedule.  But as I drove to work, tears streaming down my face as I just kissed the newest love of my life goodbye for the next nine hours, I knew this life wasn’t for me.

That day I made a decision that would change my life. I told myself, my baby, and my hubby that I would do whatever it took to stay home and be mama. Not the beautiful career mama I had planned, but a mama that spent every single moment just being mama. I went home after a much-too-long day at the office, snuggled my baby, cried a lot, and started to make plans!

b85eb6a83c7775cc82d9ba72a7b47a79

For the next three months, I got up at 4:30am, worked all day, came home, cooked dinner, fed and bathed the baby, got the babe and hubs in bed and worked again. This time though, I was working for myself. I was building a business that would quickly allow me to be home with my baby. I was exhausted, emotional, and MOTIVATED. The little sleep I got from 1:00am when I went to bed until 4:30am when I got up, with many baby wakings in between, was wearing on me, but I wasn’t about it let it stop me.

We cut back on all our expenses – stopped eating out completely, which was hard when our friends invited us constantly to go to dinner/movie/outing. Why does every American social gathering revolve around food!? We sold my beautiful new car and got an old Honda odyssey  which we fondly call “Goldie”. We kept our home much warmer in the summer so our electricity bill would be as inexpensive as possible. We’ve never bought baby new clothes, always second hand from friends and yard sales. We stopped buying all organic produce from Whole Foods and chose the local farmers market instead. We changed. We changed a lot and we changed it fast. Our friends stopped inviting us to go out and poked fun at our frugalness. We were living a life completely different than they. Can I tell you a secret, mama? It is WORTH IT. Every single cutback is worth it.

the day i quit

Goodbye Corporate America!

I could quickly see that these lifestyle changes, stressful days, and long nights were paying off.  In three months, I replaced my income, quit my job and started living my dream. I am home with baby and doing the job God called me to do – be mama. Of course there are days that I struggle with balancing my new business and taking care of this special little guy, but the worst days now are still so much sweeter than the best days back then.

Working-Mama-who-wants-to-be-home, my heart goes out to you. I know the pain you feel every morning you leave that little one. I know how it feels to think about your baby all day long, wondering what he or she is learning, if he’s eaten enough, if he’s pooped, if he’s had good naps today. I know the envy you feel knowing someone else is snuggling your baby. I know the anger that a simple facebook post from a stay at home mom noting how HARD it is to be home all day with the kiddos brings. I know. And I know the pressure society is putting on you to maintain that fancy lifestyle image, but let me tell you, it’s not worth it. Cutting back, starting your own business, ANYTHING that you need to do to be home is WORTH IT. I’m not telling you it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s so hard. But it’s so worth it.

Hugs to you, mama!

Advertisements

100% Natural Sunscreen

100% natural sunscreen - EarthyCrunchyMama.CoWith the summer here, this family LOVES to be outside. In fact, I think it’s baby’s absolutely favorite place to be. With spending time outdoors comes concern about too much sun exposure. Although that can be dangerous, traditional sunscreens are also dangerous and in my opinion, do more harm than good. The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Laboratory studies of several sunscreen chemicals indicate that they may mimic hormones and disrupt the hormone system (Krause 2012, Schlumpf 2001, 2004, 2008). Some research on animals suggests that oxybenzone and other sunscreen chemicals can be toxic to reproductive systems or interfere with normal development. You can find a list of these ingredients and the hormone disruption they cause here.

Definitely don’t want the side effects listed in that table anywhere near my baby, so I had to find another alternative. I opted for a super simple yet effective sun protection method for my baby. Carrot seed oil and coconut oil – THAT’S IT! Carrot seed oil has an SPF of 38-40! You can also add a little bit of bees wax to make the cream water resistant. Please remember that consistent application is the key in any type of sun protection!

SUNSCREEN v1.1Ready to order Carrot Seed?

Why I Chose Homemade Formula – And Why You Should Too

Homemade Baby Formula - by EarthyCrunchyMama

Before we dive into this, please know that I think all mothers should exclusively breastfeed. This was my goal and dream since the moment we found out about baby. I have struggled since day one with breastfeeding and if you missed the beginning of my journey, you can find it here. I also want you to understand that this is my personal journey, I do not judge other mamas who have chosen different paths, just encourage you to research before accepting that what’s popular is the best/only option.

Formula is such a touchy subject and not one I ever planned on having to research for myself. However, going back to work and being apart from baby for hours a day has presented it’s challenges with pumping and breastfeeding. I find pumping is so uncomfortable and obviously completely unnatural. Unfortunately, at this point in my mama journey, pumping is a necessity if I want to continue to breastfeed.

I was pumping at work for about a month when I realized I wasn’t getting any more milk out at the end of that month than I did at the beginning, and obviously baby is still growing. The flip side to that is baby had been nursing between 4-6 times a night to compensate for lack of milk through the day. While I want him to exclusively have breast milk and am willing to breastfeed all night, even the 6 times a night wasn’t enough for his growing body. Supplementation has become a necessity. I’ve have been blessed with several mama friends who have so generously given me their extra stash of milk, but baby has plowed through that very quickly and we’re now having to look at other options.

Powered formula – while being the most popular type among mamas – was never an option for us. After my extensive research, I came to the conclusion that there is no good commercial infant formula available. Commercial infant formulas are highly fabricated concoctions composed of milk or soy powders produced by high-temperature processes that overdenature proteins and add many carcinogens. If you haven’t researched the dangers of this type of formula, I encourage you to do you own extensive research before choosing this for your baby. Some parents mistakenly believe that genetically modified soy is the main problem and that buying organic soy formula is protective for their infant. Nothing could be further from the truth.  While organic soy formula does indeed provide a better quality source of soy, organic soy still has the same problems as GM soy – trypsin inhibitors, high levels of phytic acid, and large amounts of hormone disrupting plant estrogens that can devastate baby’s development and hormonal system. Parents wishing to provide the highest quality formula for their baby should breastfeeding not be an option should consider a homemade formula from grassfed raw milk.  Most babies allergic to commercial dairy formula surprisingly have no problem with a homemade raw milk formula and in the rare case where a dairy allergy presents with the homemade milk based formula, a hypoallergenic formula based on homemade broth and pureed meat can be utilized.

After my extensive research, I came to the conclusion that there is no good commercial infant formula available. I became determined to find a healthier alternative for my baby.

With awesome support from our sweet friend Corrie, we decided to go with a variation of the Weston A Price recipe. We found this recipe had a nice balance of essential milk fats, oil fats, and omegas. There is more to the recipe than we’re using, because I’m mixing the bottles half breastmilk/ half formula and baby is almost 5 months old, I wasn’t as concerned about the few dry ingredients listed. If you are solely feeding baby with this recipe, I would recommend the entire full version of the Weston Price recipe.  You can find the full variation of the recipe here.

homemade baby formula - earthycrunchymama.coSo far we’ve been using the formula for a week and have been loving it! As I mentioned above, we are mixing each bottle half with breastmilk so baby is still getting breastmilk in every feeding. He has loved the formula and we haven’t had any adverse effects from it. He’s been sleeping through the night most nights since starting the formula which has been awesome for mama!

 

 

What’s So Hard About Covering Up to Breastfeed in Public?

*this post is  from Motherhood and More. Please visit Annie’s blog for other great articles on mommyhood.

what's so hard about covering up to breastfeed - earthy crunchy mama

By Annie Reneau at Motherhood and More

Any time a breastfeeding story comes up in the news, especially one in which a breastfeeding mom is asked to leave an area to feed her baby, I break my own rule about not reading online comments out of sheer, morbid curiosity. In real life, I’m surrounded by people who are very supportive of breastfeeding, so it interests me to read comments and questions about the appropriateness of breastfeeding in public.

Of course, there are always some unnecessarily mean people, but some sentiments that come up frequently are legitimately well-meaning. As a mom who nursed three kids in all kinds of situations, I thought I’d address a few of these:
“I totally support breastfeeding, but what’s so hard about covering up to breastfeed in public?”That’s great that you support breastfeeding. I actually would love to get to the stage when we stop calling it breastfeeding, and just call it feeding. That’s all it is. You’re not feeding a breast, you’re feeding a baby. It’s babyfeeding. Should women have to cover their babies to feed them in public? That sounds a little silly, doesn’t it?But to answer your question, there are several reasons why moms might not cover up in public:

1) It actually is hard to cover up and feed a baby at the same time. Especially when you’re a new mom, and you’re trying to wrangle a squishy baby into a comfortable position where they can latch on correctly. Even with my third baby, keeping a cover over my shoulder while latching on wasn’t easy. And really, the only time one would “need” to cover up due to possible nipple exposure (if that’s the reason you think moms should cover up) is during the latch-on. And balancing a blanket on your shoulder while trying to see what you’re doing to get the baby latched is a big pain in the butt. Truly.

2) Some babies hate being covered. Most of the time, my babies would try to pull the cover off. I wouldn’t want to eat with a blanket over my head, would you? Especially when it’s hot. Ugh, it makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.

3) One of the benefits of breastfeeding is the eye contact between mom and baby. The location of the breast is designed to put the baby within the vision range of mom’s face. Yes, you can have the same eye contact when you’re bottle feeding, which begs the question – would you cover up your baby’s face while cradling and bottle feeding, rather than looking at your baby and smiling at him/her at regular intervals? That would be silly.

4) When I was nursing, I actually felt like using a cover drew more attention to what I was doing. Uncovered, most of the time, it just looked like I had a baby cradled in my arms, sleeping. No breast could be seen once baby was latched. Nothing screams, “Hey, I’m breastfeeding over here!” like a draping a blanket over your shoulder while awkwardly trying to get your baby into a comfortable breastfeeding position.

5) Covering up implies that there’s something inappropriate about feeding a baby. There’s not. It’s feeding a baby. That’s it.

“I breastfed all my babies, but I never did it in public. Why don’t women just pump if they’re going out?”

That’s great that you breastfed all your babies. That’s also great if you were able to pump and that your baby took a bottle. Not all moms can pump successfully. Not all babies will take a bottle. After working at it for a while, I could pump, but my babies never took a bottle. That wasn’t for lack of trying – they just wouldn’t. I’m sure if their lives depended on it, and if I wasn’t around for a long time, they would eventually take one, but having a baby is hard enough. I wasn’t about to go through that much unnecessary effort so that I could bottle feed in public.

I’ve known some women who couldn’t get anything from pumping. Some women can’t relax enough with a machine hooked up to their body to get a letdown. Totally understandable.

But the real answer to this question is, they shouldn’t have to. Think about what you’re suggesting: that a mother skip a feeding to pump, or pump regularly enough to have the extra milk to pump outside of a feeding, then find a way to keep the milk cold in transport, then find a way to warm up the milk once she is where she’s going, then feed the baby with the bottled milk, then deal with the leakage or discomfort of the full breasts she has from feeding with the bottle instead of the breast for that feeding, and then wash and sterilize the bottle afterward–all instead of just taking her baby with her and feeding the ready-to-go milk she has on hand in her own body?

Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous?

Most women who successfully pump have a system and a routine for it, and usually it’s because they’re away from their babies for a certain amount of time on a regular basis. More power to them. I’ve known lot of working, pumping moms, and I think they’re amazing.

But the idea of pumping just to go out in public with your baby, when your breasts are right there with you, is goofy to me. How long have breast pumps been around? How long have humans been feeding babies? When did we get to the mindset that feeding babies in public is better done with machinery and accessories than with mom?

“I don’t mind if moms breastfeed in public, as long as they do it modestly. Especially if there are kids or teens around.”

That’s great that you don’t mind if moms breastfeed in public. But let’s discuss the modesty idea. I hope you have the same feelings about modesty when you see a woman in a bathing suit, or a low-cut top, because 99% of the time, that’s all you can see of a woman’s breast when she breastfeeds.

Granted, there might be a couple of seconds of nipple showing. If you really don’t want to see that, pay close attention to moms with babies. Here are the cues that a mom is getting ready to breastfeed:

1. She starts to lift her shirt or adjust her bra.

There you go. As soon as you see that starting to happen, look away. If you’re really concerned about your children seeing a woman breastfeeding, take that cue to show them something in the other direction.

But really, if kids are going to have any exposure to breasts (and they already have, if you have ever taken them to the grocery store and waited at the checkout stand where they keep the magazines), isn’t that the kind of exposure they should have? Don’t you want your children to see what breasts are primarily for? They’re getting plenty of messages on billboards, television, and other media that breasts are sexual. Seeing them used in a decidedly and awesomely unsexual way can only be good, in my opinion.

“Can’t you just go to the bathroom to breastfeed?”

1) Bathrooms are gross. Would you want to eat in there?

2) Many bathrooms don’t have a chair to sit in, which leaves Mom with the option of sitting on the floor (yuck) or on the toilet (double yuck).

3) If a mom wants privacy to nurse because she feels more comfortable that way, that’s great. I’m a big fan of having lounge areas for nursing moms. But it should be for her comfort, not for yours. When I was nursing, I occasionally removed myself to nurse because it was too loud or I wanted a little space, but the times I removed myself because of my worries about other people, I felt exiled. When a mom feels that she needs to hide to breastfeed, the message is that there’s something shameful or wrong with what she’s doing. And that’s not right.

Along with the presumably well-meaning comments, I’ve also seen a few more, ahem, “strongly-worded” sentiments I’d like to address:

“Breastfeeding is totally natural, but so is going to the bathroom / having sex, and people don’t do that in public.”

Going to the bathroom is gross, stinky, and unsanitary to do in public, which is why we don’t do it. Feeding a baby is none of those things. Sex is an incredibly private, intimate act. Feeding a baby can be intimate in that it’s a bonding experience between baby and mom, but it’s more of a holding hands kind of intimacy–not something that needs to be confined to the privacy of a bedroom or home. The comparisons are apples and oranges.

“If you want to breastfeed, that’s fine, but I don’t want to / shouldn’t have to see it.”

Then don’t look. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. You really don’t have to watch a mom breastfeed. (See cues in third question above.) Just look the other way and move on.

“Women who breastfeed in public are just trying to get attention / make a statement.”

Actually, 99% of women who feed their babies in public are just trying to feed their babies. Having been around hundreds of women who breastfeed, including dozens at a recent La Leche League conference, I can attest to the fact that most women are very matter-of-fact about feeding their babies.

I’ve known one mom who exposed much more breast for much longer than any other moms I’ve known, but she was raised in Africa, so that explains it. I’ve known of one other mom (don’t know her personally) who sounds like she has some exhibition issues and takes the opportunity to show more breast than necessary any old time she can. That’s by far an exception, and not the norm. Most breastfeeding mothers don’t “let it all hang out.” They do what they need to do to feed their babies, no more, no less.

“This isn’t a village in Africa. It’s culturally inappropriate to bare your breasts in public here.”

I’m curious about what this says about villages in Africa, or other places where breasts are common sights. Why is it culturally inappropriate here? I don’t necessarily think it should be, I just want to walk through the reasoning for our cultural views of breasts. Is it because our society views breasts as primarily sexual in nature? Are African breasts not sexual in nature as well? Would you shield your eyes from a National Geographic magazine showing bare-breasted women in Africa? Would you hide that from your children? If so, why? Are African women inappropriate? Is there some kind of fear that if we start accepting breastfeeding in public without freaking out about covering up, women will eventually start walking around bare-breasted all the time? Lots of questions pop up from this statement that are worth examining.

I personally think it should be culturally appropriate for women to bare a breast for a brief second in order to latch a baby on, no matter where in the world they are. There’s nothing sexual or inappropriate in that act. I think it should be way more culturally appropriate than, say, going to Hooters. Our priorities are a tad bit skewed when it comes to what’s culturally appropriate regarding breasts. If we want to get all righteous about the appropriateness of breast exposure, let’s direct our energies at movies, music videos, billboards, magazines, and other popular media. Leave moms who are trying to feed their babies out of it.

And if you really don’t want to see a woman feed her baby in public, don’t look. Don’t make her feel ashamed, don’t exile her to the bathroom, don’t make erroneous assumptions about her motives, don’t compare feeding her baby to defecating, don’t make hypocritical cultural statements, don’t make it harder to do than it already is. Just don’t look. It really is that simple.

AnnieReneau
Post originally appeared on Motherhood and More. You can find it here.

My Breastfeeding Journey

Breastfeeding – the most natural, beautiful thing a mother can do with her baby and I was ready – ready to experience this beautiful cherished gift together with my baby. I was ready to love it and embrace it as so many of my mommy friends insisted I would. I was even mentally prepared for the first two week soreness that everyone warned me about, but also gave me hope would pass quickly. However, I would find out that such a journey wasn’t mine to walk. No amount of reading or classes could have prepared me for those first several weeks (or months) of breastfeeding.

The first two weeks came and went with minimal soreness, and I often thought to myself ‘I got this!’. I pressed on and was filled with hope that each day would get better. At about three weeks in, my hope was waning and my nipples were getting more and more tender, cracked, and consistently bleeding with each passing day. My sweet mom would tell me to stay strong and keep going, that soon we would get this. And I did, I stayed strong and determined through each toe curling breastfeeding sessions praying it would be over quickly.

At about four weeks, I wasn’t sleeping at night because I knew as soon as I woke up another painful breastfeeding session would start. I hated feeding my baby. I cringed at every hungry cry he made. He thrashed at my breast as he ate, ripping my nipples in the process. They cracked and bled, and, at one point, entire chunks were gone, seriously, gone. I was slathering on nipple creams, coconut oil, and salt water rinses, the whole time believing they would never be the same again.

I knew I needed help and saw several different lactation consultations and OB nurses. Each of whom assured me baby’s latch was perfect. I cried after each one, knowing something wasn’t right. At about six weeks, right as I was ready to give up and throw in the towel, I would hear my sweet Mom’s voice tell me to hang in there, that I could do this, and that soon, baby and I will figure this whole thing out and love it.

Around eight weeks, my mom encouraged me to see another lactation consultant. Through the tears I told her I would try again. I would see person number six who would tell me I was doing everything right and baby’s latch was strong. I knew exactly how the consultation would go and could almost play it out in my mind. However, this time I was wrong. This sweet, tiny, gentle, compassionate lady told me baby had a tie problem. Baby’s upper lip was so tightly tied that he couldn’t open up enough to encourage proper nipple placement. His hard gums were chomping down directly on my nipple. I immediately felt relief upon hearing those words. The diagnosis was so freeing. There was a reason- a reason for all of this discomfort and heartache.

five days into our journey

five days into our journey

I do wish I had realized that just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it automatically comes without struggle. It’s such a simple thought really, but somehow I didn’t grasp it those first days when I was short on sleep and high on anxiety. I thought I was doing something wrong, because I didn’t have that beautiful experience early on that I’d heard about. But I’m so thankful we stuck it out, we are 16 weeks along in our journey and have no plans of stopping any time soon.

Photo taken by Jen Conway – http://jenconwayphotography.com/

A Letter to My Friend, About to Be a Mom

By Sarah Powers

To my first-time pregnant friend,

You’ve been on my mind lately — a couple of you, actually — dearest longtime friends of mine, about to become moms for the first time. I sent one of you a box of old maternity clothes, the few surviving pieces in good shape after my own three pregnancies in five years. To the other I sent a few books (at your request). Toward you both I find my thoughts wandering daily.

2014-03-11-IMG_8604.JPG

With a 3-month-old of my own, I am partly of the world into which you are about to enter; but mine is a third and final babe, riding in a car seat that held her brother and sister before her, pushed in a stroller that is not only no longer fashionable but also probably no longer on the market. I am experienced, yes; but I’m out of touch, too, with the trends of new motherhood.

I want to say the right things to you, offer words that mean something and aren’t just clichés (though, as you’ll find, so many of the clichés are true). I want to be helpful. I want to make it wonderful for you, this thing that is about to happen. I want to save you from some of the parts that aren’t wonderful, and from the disappointment that comes when you realize that some of it sucks, sometimes.

This morning at the breakfast table I thought of you. Big kids slurped cereal, Bryan and I passed the baby back and forth as we refilled our coffee and managed our own breakfasts. When she fussed I lifted my shirt and offered her a meal of her own. A quick latch, the familiar let-down and then after only a minute or so, she pulled off with a grin, a mess of dripping milk and toothlessness as if to say, “No thanks, Mom. I’m good for now.”

And at that moment I saw myself as a new mom and felt the weight of all the things that would have gone through my head back then. Why isn’t she hungry? How long has it been since she last nursed? If she doesn’t complete a full feeding on one side, she won’t get the hindmilk. And I might get engorged. Should I try again, force her to make it to the arbitrary 12 minutes I’ve decided is an adequate feed? And, if not, which side should I offer next time? And will next time be sooner than 2.5-3 hours? 

2014-03-11-IMG_9009.jpg

For just an instant I marveled at the vast distance between that new mom that I was and the one I am now. Five years ago I would have been seated on the couch in proper breastfeeding posture, a nursing pillow on my lap and the TV remote by my side, watching the clock as if it held the answers to all my feeding questions; this morning I sat at the kitchen table surrounded by chaos, drinking coffee and eating cereal while nursing this third and final babe without a clue (or a care) about the clock.

And in that instant I was thankful for both of those versions of me (for one allowed the other to become, of course). And I thought of you.

Because it wasn’t really about nursing at the breakfast table at all, was it? It was about the beautiful way that mothering gets more automatic with every baby and each passing year. And that’s the part I wish I could send to you in a package — that feeling of knowing what you’re doing, of autopilot, of security, of believing in your heart of hearts that you have what your baby needs.

Do I feel that feeling all the time? Oh my goodness, no. I’m in uncharted waters with my oldest and even with her brother, who is a different kid altogether (go figure) than his predecessor. But in this familiar stage of babyhood, I’m in my element. I get all the deliciousness of giggles and snuggles without the worrying, the wondering, the figuring out. I get the rewards without trying so hard to remember all the rules.

If I could bottle that feeling up for you, I would. But I cannot. Your own new motherhood experience awaits, and I can’t make yours easier or better any more than I can change the one I went through. All the wise words in all the books in the world won’t clear from your path its own disturbances, or prepare you for how you will handle them (and you will handle them — better and more capably than you can even imagine).

2014-03-11-IMG_7884.JPG

And so I hold back when we talk on the phone, sometimes. I ask questions, I listen, and I make silent wishes for you. I wish for simple things, like an easy delivery and a healthy baby. I also wish for things that will happen on their own in due time, whether I wish them or not (but I do it anyway): like a good night’s sleep, and new friendships with other moms, and a pair of jeans that fit again.

Unless you ask, I don’t give advice. And when you ask, I find myself saying things like,“Well, there are lots of different ways to think about it” or “I think everyone is different, so it depends on what you believe,” which I realize is completely frustrating when all you want to know is The Answer. And then I make another silent wish that you discover as soon as possible that there is no one right answer.

I wish that as you read the books and listen to the nurses and your mom and your mother-in-law — all of whom have wisdom but none of whom have the answer — you will also read your baby and listen to your heart. That combination of looking outward for information and inward for intuition is magical, I have found.

I wish that when you find yourself clinging to The Rules — of feeding, or sleep schedules, or developmental milestones, or anything else we’re supposed to Learn All The Things About — you understand that those rules are meant to give you structure, to educate you, to guide you, and the world will not fall apart if you choose to throw them out the window.

I wish for you to know that it’s OK to pick your battles. It’s easy to get sucked into believing we have to care passionately about everything from diapers to discipline, that every choice somehow makes a statement about who we are as a parent. But sometimes, I think, finding your way is more of a series of happy accidents than a carefully thought-out process.

My biggest wish, though, the one before I blow out all the candles while holding a lucky penny and a four-leaf clover at 11:11, is that you find satisfaction and worthiness in this work of mothering. I don’t mean that you find it enjoyable all the time, or that it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. I mean that in the middle of the really ugly parts when doubt rages and fear snarls and the tears spill out over the edges of everywhere, that you feel like what you’re doing matters, and that you are the right one to do it, here, now, for this baby.

I know that’s not really a sentiment that fits well on a greeting card, but it’s what I’ve got. And while part of me wants to wave a magic wand and whisk you right to this sweet place I’m in, five years later, where three kids feels do-able and life makes a bit of sense, I won’t. I’d rather walk this path beside you as a friend who is just enough further along to know that none of us has all the answers, and be here when you call to say “I hate this!” and also when you call to say “I love him!”

I’d rather be a real-life lifeline than a fairy godsister. Because, you know what?You’ve got this. I know you do.

Love,
Sarah

2014-03-11-handsfull.jpg

This post appeared first at The Happiest Home.

“Mommy, Somebody Needs You”

By Megan Morton – Home stylist and baby planner

 

Ever since we brought our new daughter home, her older brothers have been the first to tell me when she is crying, whimpering or smelling a little suspicious. “Somebody needs you,” they say. I have no idea how this little saying started, but at first it sort of annoyed me. I could be enjoying a quick shower… “Mommy, somebody needs you. The baby is crying.” Or, sitting down for a second, quite aware that the baby was beginning to stir from a nap…. “Mama, somebody needs you!” OK! I get it already! And not to mention that the newborn’s needs pale in comparison to the needs of two little boys. Somebody always needs a snack, a band-aid, a different sock, ice cubes in their water, a NEW Paw Patrol, a stream of snot wiped, a hug, a story, a kiss. Some days never seem to end, and the monotony of being “needed” can really take its toll. Then, it all started to hit me, they need ME. Not anybody else. Not a single other person in the whole world. They need their Mommy.

The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life. That “Mommy” is my duty, privilege and honor. I am ready to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night. Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her 4 a.m. feeding when a 3-year-old has a nightmare. Mommy means I am surviving on coffee and toddler leftovers. Mommy means my husband and I haven’t had a real conversation in weeks. Mommy means I put their needs before my own, without a thought. Mommy means that my body is full of aches and my heart is full of love.

I am sure there will come a day when no one needs me. My babies will all be long gone and consumed with their own lives. I may sit alone in some assisted living facility watching my body fade away. No one will need me then. I may even be a burden. Sure, they will come visit, but my arms will no longer be their home. My kisses no longer their cure. There will be no more tiny boots to wipe the slush from or seat belts to be buckled. I will have read my last bedtime story, seven times in a row. I will no longer enforce time-outs. There will be no more bags to pack and unpack or snack cups to fill. I am sure my heart will yearn to hear those tiny voices calling out to me, “Mommy, somebody needs you!”

So for now, I find beauty in the peaceful 4 a.m. feedings in our cozy little nursery. We are perched above the naked oak trees in our own lavender nest. We watch the silent snow fall and a bunny scampering across its perfect white canvas. It’s just me and my little baby, the neighborhood is dark and still. We alone are up to watch the pale moon rise and the shadows dance along the nursery wall. She and I are the only ones to hear the barn owl hooting in the distance. We snuggle together under a blanket and I rock her back to sleep. It’s 4am and I am exhausted and frustrated, but it’s OK, she needs me. Just me. And maybe, I need her too. Because she makes me Mommy. Someday she will sleep through the night. Someday I will sit in my wheelchair, my arms empty, dreaming of those quiet nights in the nursery. When she needed me and we were the only two people in the world.

2014-03-06-morton.JPG

Can I enjoy being needed? Sometimes, sure, but often it is tiring. Exhausting. But, it isn’t meant to be enjoyed every moment. It is a duty. God made me their Mom. It is a position I yearned for long before I would ever understand it. Over a three-day weekend, my husband couldn’t believe how many times our boys kept saying, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy!” “Are they always like this?” he asked, not able to hide his terror and sympathy. “Yep. All day, everyday. That’s my job.” And I have to admit that it is the toughest job I have ever had. In a previous life, I was a restaurant manager for a high volume and very popular chain in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. A Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. with the expo window overflowing with dishes, a two-hour wait and the electricity inexplicably going out has got nothing on a Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. at the Morton house. And let me tell ya, South Florida diners are some of the toughest to please. But they are a cake walk compared to sleep-deprived toddlers with low blood sugar.

Once upon a time, I had time. For myself. Now, my toenails need some love. My bra fits a little differently. My curling iron might not even work anymore, I don’t know. I can’t take a shower without an audience. I’ve started using eye cream. I don’t get carded anymore. My proof of motherhood. Proof that somebody needs me. That right now, somebody always needs me. Like last night…

At 3 a.m. I hear the little footsteps entering my room. I lay still, barely breathing. Maybe he will retreat to his room. Yeah right.

“Mommy.”

“Mommy.” A little louder.

“Yes,” I barely whisper.

He pauses, his giant eyes flashing in the dim light.

“I love you.”

And just like that, he is gone. Scampered back to his room. But, his words still hang in the cool night air. If I could reach out and snatch them, I would grab his words and hug them to my chest. His soft voice whispering the best sentence in the world. I love you. A smile curls across my lips and I slowly exhale, almost afraid to blow the memory away. I drift back to sleep and let his words settle into my heart.

One day that little boy will be a big man. There will no longer be any sweet words whispered to me in the wee hours. Just the whir of the sound machine and the snoring husband. I will sleep peacefully through the night, never a worry of a sick child or a crying baby. It will be but a memory. These years of being needed are exhausting, yet fleeting. I have to stop dreaming of “one day” when things will be easier. Because the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today. Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit-up. Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck. Today is perfect. “One day” I will get pedicures and showers alone. “One day” I will get myself back. But, today I give myself away, and I am tired and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go. Somebody needs me.

This post originally appeared on Your Best Nest.