It’s 2013, and I’m three months pregnant with my first baby. One of our wedding “Give the couple advice!” (from two years earlier) postcards spontaneously shows up in our mailbox. I curiously turn the picture of us dressed up in our wedding clothes around to see who had decided to write a message all these months later. “Congratulations, you are pregnant!!! I never knew what advice to give you as a new couple, but I knew just what to say when I heard you were pregnant. You will get lots of advice over the years about how to be a mom. Some of it you will like, some of it you won’t. Do what feels right to YOU, and throw the rest out. Love, Tana” My heart beat a little faster. It always does when I hear or read something that will stick.
It’s 2014, and I’m nine months pregnant and ready to have that first little baby. I am driving home from work thinking about how different my life will be soon. I cannot seem to think of anything else but that tiny soul completely connected to me. I have never felt so nervous in all my life. What if I can’t do this? I am not a big phone talker, but I decide to call and thank my husband’s hometown neighbor who had just sent us baby boy pajamas. Maybe this will take my mind off the nerves for a minute. She congratulates me. We talk for a minute, and towards the end of the conversation she asks how I am feeling. “I’m pretty nervous,” I say. Suddenly her tone of voice changes, and I can feel her love like she is in the car with me. I do not know her well, but even so I can feel this new, strong connection: mothers. “Tessa, remember this: This baby has never had another mother. You are it! He has no expectations. He just has you. And you are all he needs. He is doing this life thing for the first time while you do the mother thing for the first time. He won’t know how good or bad you are at it. All he wants is you.” My heart beat again, fast and sure. This is truth.
It’s the middle of the night on February 18, 2014, and I’m holding my baby all alone for the first time. He is awake trying to nurse. My body is so tired and sore. The nurse had told me how often I need to check his diaper and how many times he should pee and poop in the next 24 hours to know if he is healthy and how often I should try to feed him and how to keep him warm and what to do if he coughs….what did she say if he coughs? I can’t remember. I’m so in love with this tiny thing in my arms, but I am so tired. And it is up to me now to take care of him for the rest of his life. ME. Every night he wakes up poopy until he is a big boy, it is up to me. Every time he has a cough, it is up to me to be worried. Every time he is hungry, it is up to me. This is a lot. I close my eyes and hug him a little closer. I feel how warm and small he is. I hear him breathing so peacefully. His little lips are still pursed from nursing. Something inside me, something much stronger than a feeling or a thought, something I believe comes from my Heavenly Father says, “You are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you should be doing.” My heart beats.
It’s 2016, and I have a two year old and a five month old. I feel like I am drowning all day long. I am rarely patient or kind. The two year old is yelling at me, and the baby is bawling. I try to stay calm, but I don’t handle anything as well as I used to. How do people do this? I thought I was a good mom. I keep trying to be patient, but it is like a tornado is storming through me, and I am left trying to figure out how to fill my house with love and not be swallowed up whole. I call my mom who lives hundreds of miles away. She is on her way out the door but says, “Tess!!! How are ya??!” I am sitting at my white kitchen table bouncing the crying baby on my knee and trying to force the little toddler to eat a bite. I can barely get out one word without bursting into tears, and my heart feels like it hurts too much to keep going. My breath is fast and short, so I try to talk in between sobs. “Mom….I can’t do it. I sometimes feel like I can’t do this! I am just here all day with a crying baby. I never sleep, and I think I am going crazy. I know nothing is that bad, but for some reason I just feel like I cannot get up to catch a breath. I have these two perfect boys who love me, and I’m not even nice anymore. I’m pretty sure my two year old is wondering where his mom went.” I hear her breathe in deep, and even though I cannot see her I can picture her whole body let go of whatever she was racing to do before the phone rang. That’s what moms do. “Oh, Tess. I remember exactly where you are. I remember the long days and lonely nights. I remember thinking I was doing everything wrong, feeling so overwhelmed. I read a parenting book one year written by one of the most prominent authors dedicated to families. It was his life’s work to figure out how to be the BEST father. He opened the book by saying pilot’s are all off course 90% of the time. Flying a plane is about always correcting the flight path. Adjusting it over and over again so that the 10% you are on course gets you to your destination. Then he quotes his son: ‘My parents got it wrong most of the time, but what I remember most is how they were always trying.’ Tess, if a man dedicated to family communication and world renown for parenting gets it wrong 90% of the time, chances are…so will you. But you just keep trying. Keep trying, sweet girl. I promise that your trying is what is most ‘right’, and that is what they’ll remember.” Just like that my heart felt light again, and it beat.
It is Mother’s Day on Sunday. To all the moms who get caught in the middle of all the voices and advice, or the mom who tries all the “you HAVE to’s” and “NEVERs” but still can’t figure her child out, or the moms who feel guilt for doing it the wrong way …The voices on the internet, in your books, of friends and doctors are just voices. You are the mom to a baby who you know better than anyone else. Each and every baby and child comes packaged with unique circumstances and survival kits. Do what feels right to you, and don’t worry about the rest.
To the moms who feel like they might not be enough, or the mom who is about to hold her baby for the first time, or the mom who gets lost in comparing…Your children will only know “mom” as you. Your love and presence is its own version of perfect. Other moms may seem nicer or more fun, smarter or more diligent but they had a different little baby who grew and formed them into mothers. You might yell a lot or spoil too much, but you are the mom you are for a reason. You and your babies will grow together, and that is what they need most.
To the moms who feel overwhelmed by their love for the humans they are in charge of, or the mom who feels undeserving of those babies whose hearts will be forever connected to her, or the mom who feels the weight of the role she has taken on…Hold those babies a little tighter, and feel the warmth in the powerful hold their hug has on your heart. Wrap yourselves in every sacrifice you have made for that warm little body. There is no higher calling, no stronger love, no more demanding or grueling work. You are doing it. You are wonderful.
To the moms who are drowning in the hard days, or the moms who can’t seem to do it all, or the mom who feels like she is giving everything and nothing seems to be right…You are not alone. Every mom feels lost in moments or months or years. You may not be doing it perfectly, but just keep trying. The trying is what holds your little family together.
Happy Mother’s Day