What do you remember from your childhood? Tom Petty said, “I’m not really sure but it seems I remember the good times with just a little bit more in focus.” Do you? Or is it the trauma and difficulties that are really clear, remembering them in vivid detail? I am a visual learner but some hard things have made it really difficult to bring childhood images into focus. I remember really good trips to Disney which has made it my Happy Place ever since. My parents seemed to be different there. Away from their difficulties they could spend real time with us, distracted only by the magic. They smiled more, we laughed more. This is in sharp focus for me.
I also now realize, as an adult, how much they tried to keep from me. I know it was not appropriate for me to know most of it, but I felt it all. I am a highly sensitive person. Nature or nurture? Probably both. I felt a lot of things growing up and had very little training in how to deal with them. I think this is why I love Mr. Rogers' mission so much. Fred said, "“Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” I try to share what I can now with my teens. I know they can read me like a book. I wonder what memories will be in sharp focus for them. I think we as moms try very hard to engineer all these memories for our kids. I don’t know that older generations did it as much as we do.
Take for example, free play, I think (and am convinced by much research) that playtime is very formative for young brains and experimenting with your world is a good gift to give children of any age. Give and take in playtime is great for building relationships. We work so hard and often pay for structured playtime but I wonder if it is the best way. It seems this current pandemic and our long quarantine time has shown us what are the more necessary things. One thing I feel it has revealed is the need for the arts in our lives for restoration. I am willing to bet that you listened to music, watched a show or other broadcast of some live entertainment. If not, I am sure you did something creative. Designing your space differently or making something from scratch is creative and restorative. So if you have read this far you are probably waiting for me to get to the part about your newborn. Well, I do ramble but I also have a purpose for this topic. It is this, I want you to build joyful memories starting now. A big smile when you pick them up from a caregiver, no matter how your day was, is a start. Begin a bedtime song tradition with your newborn. Each of my three daughters had a song all through childhood, my 12 year old is the only one who allows me to still sing it. It is not a kids song. I sing a little piece of a Frankie Vallie song to her, “who loves you pretty baby, who’s gonna help you through the night, who loves you pretty (baby), who’s always there to make it right?” It became part of our bedtime routine and it was a comfort and a signal to get ready for sleep and something just between us. You don’t have to be a good singer, it can be a song most wouldn’t sing to a baby, or you can pick something other than a song. I have another thing I do with my middle daughter. It was really cute until Mother Gothel in Tangled did something similar and kinda ruined it for me. We then adapted it as my daughter got older and we still say it sometimes,
Me: “I love you.”
Middle Daughter: “I loved you first.”
Me: “Can’t be, I loved you the minute I knew I was having you.”
MD: “I loved you before that. You loved me first tech-nic-cally, but I loved you first for real-ly.”
And I let her win.
It just kind of grew from a game we played. You will find your own ways. As you change a diaper, maybe you sing, "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." And it makes the change a little easier because it is a distraction. Find the joy in the little moments and one day you will have a memory and so will your child of the fun things you did in the day to day. They will be a little more in focus and maybe the harder ones you could not orchestrate will be in the background. Maybe mask wearing and long days at home without friends will be in the background. But long uninterrupted time with mom or dad was a memory in sharp focus, when you had time to play and smile and laugh with them. Hang in there, I see you and your valiant efforts to take care of your children. It will bear fruit in time.
I watched an “old” movie last night. 27 Dresses. If you don’t know or recall the plot, here’s the quick version. Jane spends her life caring for everyone else. Primarily as a bridesmaid/ wedding planner, she thinks she has no needs of her own. She is holding out for the day when she gets married and every one of those 27 weddings she had been in would be reciprocated by her friends being that caring person for her. She realizes this is a problem through a reporter who is also the love interest. He sees her value in just being herself and she begins to show some assertiveness. However, since she has no experience doing this, self-care and getting her needs met stuff, she swings really far the other way, hurting people she loves.
Why am I telling you about this movie? What could this possibly have to do with a postpartum blog? Much in every way!
It has to do with my absence and it has to do with your showing up for your baby.
Let’s start with my long absence from blogging. I am Jane. Not in the wedding sense but in life. I spent a crap ton of time, at least 25 years, but possibly my whole life, people pleasing. I actually prided myself in the ability to make people like me. I could not fathom a person that I could not turn into a friend. Well, I was very good at it but at a cost to myself. A big cost. I would make sure I went above and beyond in everything I did. (Now I still do that professionally but I have learned my boundaries are important so it is healthy…I think?!?) I was authentic to a point but I could say something in a way that made it seem like I agreed with you but I really did not. Not good, very unhealthy.
So I did this for years in my marriage too. I tried very hard to have no needs. In a narcissistic marriage that is important. I gave all I had to make our life work. I asked for very little for myself. I advocated hard for my children but often lost and got manipulated. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, get counseling, seek others who can help you see the truth! Please! I waited too long and it cost me so much. Anyway, all that to say, I spent so much time and energy pulling for something that was not working because I was pulling alone. I am now divorced and recovering, it is a long road back up because it was a long road to the bottom of that relationship. The last year was spent in that process. Being a single mom of 3 young women, I had lots of work to do. Now that I am working from home and promoting my course and online coaching for moms, I have more time to write. I completed my course during our 3 month quarantine. I also had a daughter graduate and several birthdays. It has been a very full time period. Moms work so hard, you guys! I hope I can regain you as readers of my blog, if you are out of this stage in life, pass my site on to a friend. She needs support, just like you did. Maybe even more in this time of isolation.
Now, how does 27 Dresses have any thing to do with showing up for your baby? What did Jane forget? She did not remember how important it is to take care of yourself. I have met many moms who get so caught up in the day to day drudge that they do not even know what makes them feel good and cared for. Self-care and getting needs met is so important. When Jane finally realized her needs, she swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of caring for everyone else, she became self-righteous. She hurt people she cared about, some of her closest relationships. I have seen this time and again with people that love each other. The baby takes a lot of work and the baby care becomes a chore instead of a joy. Get the baby quiet so you can have time for… usually work, in my experience.
If you can be present with your baby when she needs you and when she doesn’t (nap, enjoying a bouncy seat or tummy time in a baby proof area) get what you need, a special drink, a phone call to an adult you love, a nap yourself. Oh it makes such a difference in how you show up in the relationship with your baby. If you have support people, losen your reigns a bit, ask for help tidying up, or doing laundry (if they wash a little different than you , its ok). Please, take a drive or walk alone for a breather. These times are hard already, in quarantine with your family can be even harder. Especially if you are not taking the time and joyful activities you need to get refreshed. Please make it a priority. You won’t swing so far in the other direction if you balance your needs with the needs of others before it gets bad.
Mommies, you are amazing. Keep doing your important job with joy! The future is counting on you.
My dear tired and unsure mommies, come sit with me a while. Here's a steaming cup of decaf tea with fall flavors. Take a deep breath in. aaand out. You are alive, so is your baby, you survived. Yes, today was most likely hard, as was yesterday. If you had a blissful day, thank God for your hormones and expect that a hard day is coming but you can face it. I was going to do some teaching today but I feel that the better route today is encouragement. Something that I feel is crucial for all moms to understand is this.... YOU are the best mom for YOUR baby! This baby is not accidental and it isn't someone else's. As a mom, you are perfectly made for child and vice versa. Your quirks and imperfections are exactly what they need to grow. You will always know your child best. So I want you to trust yourself. If you are reading this, you want to be a good mom. Most likely you feel like you are stumbling in the dark. WHy? because you don't have the support you need to grow. You are extremely blessed (and unusual) if you live around a nurturing mother figure who wants to help, has the knowledge to help and has time to help you. Keep coming back because I so want to help you grow into the mom you want to be.
I have struggled for a long time with negative self talk. That voice in your head that constantly tells you that you are not good enough and why would anyone allow you to be responsible for another life. This voice can be oppressive and get in the way of relationships and bonding. Try to remind yourself this: you can make new pathways that say, "this is hard, but I can do it." I have success over negative self talk by reminding myself that I am in Christ and I have all His help and strength. I therefore can do all things. Replace the lies and defeat with truth and practice it daily, moment by moment. And return here so I can teach and encourage you in all things postpartum and baby. You can do this and I can help.
Its September. I have expectations. I want cool weather, cozy sweatshirts, warm pumpkin spice and apple cider. But today, sigh, today is humid and a high of 81 and I am blue. I have expectations that are not met and I want to find a way to fix that. Now here is where my analogy falls short, because I can hide in my house and ignore the weather, crank the AC and get some pumpkin Chai tea brewing. I can make my circumstances similar to my expectations. But let's look a little bit deeper, what expectations did you have? What imaginative pictures flooded into your brain when you learned you were pregnant? You were probably even daydreaming this time in your life from childhood. What did those pictures look like?
And is this your reality right now? I'm just guessing but probably not. I think it probably looks more like a sleep deprived, coffee deprived, moment of feeling more like a dairy cow than a glowing angel mom. Its okay. Take a deep breath, grab some herbal calming tea and let's take a minute to mourn that. You are normal. You heard right. Normal new moms don't wake up smiling when baby cries. Sometimes new moms don't even get to wake up because they never went to sleep. So, take a minute to mourn that. You will not meet even your own expectations of motherhood. Probably not even on your best day. What do you do about this? If you are a follower of Jesus, like me, you remind yourself that His expectations are the only ones that matter here. He has love and patience for you as you learn this new life. The other wonderful thing about motherhood is that BABIES ARE SO VERY RESILIENT. And they are created to help you know when something is wrong. They cannot tell you why they are crying but you will keep trying until you figure it out. You are designed to. Please remember, I know you are a caring, nurturing Mom. How do I know? You have read this far trying to figure out things to help you and your baby bond. One thing I hope desperately that you hear from me clearly and repeatedly, your baby needs YOU, no other mom can nurture your baby the way you can. No one else knows your baby like you do and you have the instinctual knowledge of how to care for your individual baby. Now that word is important too. Individual! You and your baby are both unique and have your own ways of doing things built in. A demanding baby may one day become a strong adult. A gentle, quiet, baby may need extra care with startling now but will be a kind and caring grown-up. SO this is the trouble with expectations, it doesn't leave room for personality, yours or baby's! But soon, you will begin to discover that those personalities are some of the things you enjoy most. You are on an adventure to learn more about each other. You will see traits of your spouse, yourself but miraculously,this baby is more than the sum of two people. I hope you enjoy this adventure as you let go of your expectations and begin to see reality is so much better, relationship so much deeper than all the expectations in the world. If I can help you to get there, I would love to. Message, text, call, comment, find me on Social Media. I'm here to help.
Paula is a single mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula