They, whoever they are -- the ones that make up all the heart string-pulling quotes like "Kids are your heart walking around outside of your body," or, "The days are long and the years are short," once said, "When a child is born, so is a mother."
So, yes. I totally agree with all of this and I get teary-eyed and all goose-bumpy when I hear them, say them or write them. They are all true.
For example, I have felt my heart outside of my body -- I have felt it explode and melt and be broken and frustrated, all in one hour with one 2-year-old walking (sometimes flailing) around right in front of my body. Most days, I would bet my life that when I look at the clock at 9:18 it HAS to be P.M., not A.M., but know the year will go by before I even noticed it started. Yep, the days are long and those years fly by.
Who am I to argue against the romance of "When a child is born, a mother is born"? I get it. I wasn't truly a mother until I was Quinn's chest to lay on. And Harper's arms to hold her. And Gracie's lap to sit on. And now Josie's... well, let's just call a spade a spade -- her boobs to feast on. I would know their cries and laughs anywhere. I am a mother.
But the part they left off, the asterisk to this sweet quote -- does the woman before the mother die when the mother is born? Where does she go?
I get glimpses of that pre-mom girl. Since Jos was born, the glimpses are tiny. Like little peeks over an economy chair into first class. Like oh, this is how the other people are living. Sometimes I go to Target ALONE. Every once in a while, I have a coffee and it tastes so warm and tasty that I forget I'm inhaling it for fuel to get through to noon, where the "will they take a nap or not?" anxiety settles in.
This motherhood stuff is hard. How can you single-handedly feel like you are failing all day and everyday while being solely responsible for investing your heart, time and finances in growing and developing a future well-rounded, loving, unsocially weird, smart, empathetic God fearin' human that will just one day fly the coop?
I feel sad and happy and guilty and fearless every day. If you have ever had an imbalance of hormones, emotions and days that you don't get out of your pajamas and are surrounded by clutter and dirty dishes and clothes that never make it out of "I'm clean and half-folded but will sit here and be used again before I ever see the closet" purgatory, you know how exhausting it is. And how it wreaks havoc on a perfectly balanced state of being. "Balance" is not a word I would use for much during these years of young life in the house.
As a parent of four kids under 3, you can imagine the unsolicited advice and shockingly awkward responses I get. But, I'm not a hater. I find myself saying dumb, unnecessary things to new moms all the time. Later, I always think, Why did I just verbal vomit my own crap on her? Who knows, it's the fault of an overly tired and depleted person, you want others to share your misery sometimes. If I was well-rested I probably wouldn't care that my 2 1/2-year-olds started pooping all over the floor after being potty-trained and your 18-month-old is perfectly trained with no accidents. But guess what? I'm human and I compare and I care. Oh Jesus, help my soul.
Anyway. Some advice and comments along the way from other mothers HAVE helped this newborn mother. After all, babies are born innocent and wide-eyed with no real direction, so a mother must be born the same way. Surely others can help pave the way.
Unsolicited advice I loved no. 1
I was in a waiting room during my triplet pregnancy waiting to see a chiropractor for my tension headaches. There was a new mom there with a tiny and fresh newborn. I was on one side of the fence, like I was black-and-white like pre-OZ Dorothy, and she was color like post-OZ Dorothy (well, those color assignments depend on the day, really ... and as we talked about her new baby and my babies on the way, she looked at me and said, "After you have a baby, you truly discover that you are a superhuman."
Three and a half years later, I get this. Yes. Yes I am superhuman. Every day, I grow back the limbs I lost the day before in battle. And I get back up with amnesia of the words exchanged at bed time. I function on next to no sleep or mental rest. I act calm when lips split open and kids spike fevers. I smile and cry and push past the fears and evils lurking everywhere. And I admit I can't do it all and try anyway. In the moment I often doubt myself and feel like I'm climbing a mountain that is too steep and long for my body and mind, but then all of a sudden I summit and look back and think, Dang, who was that girl that conquered that impossible mission (sometimes the mission is five minutes of trying to brush three mouths of teeth or one minute of three granola bars opened the wrong way)? Oh yeah, it was me, the mom. The superhuman.
Unsolicited advice I loved no. 2
At one of my baby showers, a friend from high school wrote me a really simple note in my card, "Don't read too many parenting books, they screw up your parenting instinct."
If you have ever sleep-trained, potty-trained or just basic human trained... can I hear an amen on this one?
The shoulds and the guilt and the frustration and the worry that goes along with this job can be a thief of joy and sanity all in themselves. And when you add in all those books, the should-be's just get bigger and the gut instinct of a mama bear get more concealed and second guessed. As my friend Kristin says, we, as moms, "should on ourselves" all day, every day. I feel guilty for not developing them more, loving them more, hugging them more and certainly hate myself for my out-of-body "I'm so mad I could explode into a million pieces" moments. As moms, I think this "shoulding on ourselves" would be less if we just trusted all we ever really needed for this job is in there, hiding behind that copy of Baby-Wise.
Unsolicited advice I loved no. 3
Last week, I met a mom at Costco, a grandma now. We talked over play food at the checkout aisle. I asked her how much it cost from behind my two carts of four kids and she came over to show me the details of this really cool plastic box of play food. We walked out together for some reason. I do this often... make new friends like a stray dog while in public. The lonely get desperate sometimes.
We continued to talk and I learned she had four kids in the stair-step manner that so many of you do. See, you all think I am crazy for triplets plus one, but really... how do you all do it, one baby after another? The hormones four times!?! Really?!
So, we talked and somehow I started to cry. I told her how every day, I feel guilty. EVERY DAY. Josie is stuck in her bouncy, the others fight for their needs and at the end of the day, we are all exhausted and often get tucked into bed with no mention of colors or shapes or ABCs... with a short prayer to the good Lord above and sometimes brushed teeth.
She hugged me. This total stranger hugged me and proceeded to tell me how smart and successful and loving her four kids are. And how all of them somedays were ignored, but not unloved. She told me that in her house it was never about equality. It was about love and giving everyone what they needed. That's it. And from this simple equation, everyone was happy and well-loved.
Not about equality? That's what I strive for everyday. As a mother don't we think that everybody deserves a piece of our mother pie cut exactly the same? As my sweet and sassy Gracie has been saying lately, " I don't THINK SO!!!"
All of this mothering advice has been swirling in my head as I weed wack through some of these remarkably uneventful and at the same time wildly entertaining (like reality TV entertaining) days. As I breathe in every day, I try to remember a few simple things...
I am superhuman. Yes I am.
I have all the answers in my gut and my heart, they are not in the books.
And if I love my kids well, all four of them -- with my one heart -- and notice new and lovely things about them every day and praise and honor them for those little and big things, I am equally loving them, even if it's not equal.
And me. What about the needs of that girl before the mother? Well, as I said, balance is a far-off concept for now. I know the before motherhood me didn't die... but for now, I'm in the season of figuring it all out and being a mother with growing pains and pride. But I know one thing. That girl, with all the fun and freedom and lessons and trials before I was a mother is helping me everyday. I pull from her and sometimes she's smart. And some days, I'm jealous of her. I feel longing for the days I had my pie to share with just myself. But for today, I am a mother.
And, speaking of pies and mothers, somebody once said, "A mother* is somebody, after seeing there is one piece of pie left, announces she never liked pie anyway."
*That doesn't mean that same mother won't someday go buy herself her own big pie with crumble on top.. and a bottle of red wine and a good book and sit in a closet, all alone, with no one to share it with...and have her pie and eat it too.