Tuesday, October 27, 2015

random acts of kindness

When I feel stressed, I know it secretly seeps over into my littles. With a giant work project looming (and overdue) and some required travel lately, I have felt my fuse get a bit shorter. So I was determined that we would make today special.

Every Tuesday before Halloween, Cheekwood hosts an adorable little trick-or-treating event. It's usually a perfect opportunity to get out into nature, get some free candy, and snag some adorable pictures. But this year, of course, it was POURING. Having already promised we would go, we decided to brave the rain--and luckily got a bit of help from Andrew. We made it in, through the craft, around the indoor trick-or-treat loop, and back to the car with no major incidents. Ellis even woke up in time to dress up. Major success. Since the event was a bit shorter than normal, we decided to go crazy and have breakfast for lunch at our favorite pancake place. Everyone ate and behaved decently--another success.

As we were getting up to pay, our server told us that a couple next to us had paid for our lunch. They told her that they had four children, and while they wouldn't want to go back, we reminded them of the days their kids were young. We have no idea who they were--they didn't come over and say hi, they didn't ask us any questions. They just quietly treated us and made a sweet day that much sweeter.

As a mom in a big family, I get so tired of hearing "Are they all yours?" I am never sure what the questioner wants...an apology that I have so many children so close in age? And while I would love to believe I am misinterpreting their intentions, for almost everyone that asks that question that is the entire thought. It's not followed up with anything. No "how nice" or "they're adorable." Sometimes a "well you've got your hands full," which also seems a bit condescending. But the one thing I never tire of is the older couples or the moms or dads that come and, with such sweetness, tell us about their own family. Tell us that they have three or four kids, grown now. Tell us that we remind them of themselves. That they remember how crazy life was. That life will eventually become less chaotic.

So a huge thank you to the precious couple that bought us lunch. Thanks for reminding us that our children bring joy to people other than ourselves. And for giving me an example of the kind of person I hope to grow into.

Friday, October 16, 2015

life cycles

Ellis just turned 5 months old. It's been almost a month since I posted anything here. I still feel like we are getting our footing, figuring out the balance of four very young children. I still feel like I am recovering from his birth, getting back into my body (which is still not really in the normal range since I almost constantly have a baby attached to me). I was getting ready to post a quick blog to say "we're here, we're alive, we're just fine, we're simply behind in life." And then I looked through my blog archives and found a post from somewhere around Shep's 5 month mark. A post where I said I was behind in writing, that we were okay but still figuring things out, that life seemed to be moving too quickly to keep up.

Y'all. Adding a new baby to a family is hard. It is so extraordinarily wonderful and so unbelievably hard. Every single time, at least for me, the house things and the life things and the work things and the friend things pile up...and up and up and up. I get so behind on life that I feel I may never catch up. Finding the time to meet a friend for a taco feels like a real victory...or a defeat because maybe I could have used that hour to do some laundry.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we all feel this way. Moms and dads both, to varying degrees, take longer to come out of the newborn fog than we feel is appropriate to admit. One of my dear friends and I recently had a chat about how backwards the postpartum period is viewed now. Somewhere along the way our country decided that the "best" postpartum period is the shortest one. Moms who get back to normal--normal size, normal activity level, normal sanity level--those are the moms that nailed the postpartum period. The mom who posts a picture of herself back at the gym two weeks after giving birth, the family that manages to make handmade Christmas cards with intricate beadwork for everyone in their neighborhood when they just had their third kid on December 1st--those are the Facebook posts that get all the likes, that lend themselves to comments like "super mom" and "you can do it all."

And here's the thing...if you feel like running 20 miles after your six-week check up, more power to you. There's nothing wrong with that. But...maybe there's nothing wrong with just wanting to cuddle your baby either. Maybe it's okay to still need to lose those last ten pounds as you celebrate your little one's first birthday. Maybe it's okay to say no a lot that first year--and not have to come up with a reason other than having a fairly young baby. Maybe it's okay to accept help and not apologize for needing it. Maybe it's okay to take months to get back to a close-to-normal pace. Maybe it's okay to never get back to the same pace you enjoyed before your newest addition.

In my dream world, by the time Frances has her own children we will have learned to value postpartum rest again. While I'm thankful we aren't forced to "lie in" for a month, it would be nice to be met with societal grace for a period. To be expected to be slower to respond, perhaps a bit more flakey and less reliable, and in need of support and assistance at times. Wouldn't it be fabulous if a mom posted a photo to instagram of herself just cuddling with her 6-month-old and the comments were full of affirmation, lots of "good for you for taking your time" and "remember to continue taking it slow, giving your body and mind the necessary time for healing?" Wouldn't it be nice if moms could truly believe that they should be kind to themselves as they adjust to the new life they have entered?

So. We're here. We're fine (most days). In fact, many days we are doing really well. But we're still adjusting. And non-immediate needs are piling up, right along with our mountain of clean but never put away laundry. And that's okay. Because we may have a five-month-old, but we still also have a postpartum momma who is learning to offer herself grace.