I saw a therapist after having Charlie to check in on whether I might have post partum depression. Her assessment was that I was depressed but in no way in need of clinical intervention. I was just really tired. Charlie slept in 25-45 minute intervals for his first 3 months of life stretching to maybe an hour by 6 months of age. (yes, we tried that) You get a little weird when you haven't met a REM cycle in 6 months.
None of the 3 was a sleeper but the thing that struck me as we rolled through Noah's infancy was that while I was frustrated and tired and overwhelmed I had a tool that made all the difference... The tool of perspective. I had personally experienced a baby who Would Not Sleep and had seen the other side. I had that to cling to when I was most despondent about the idea that I would never, ever, sleep for 6 hours in a row, ever again.
This happens over and over as my children grow a bit older. I have personal experience that one day I really will have no knowledge of the state of Noah's bowels. I will one day, be able to tell Noah to get dressed and he will. One day, Noah will wake up in the morning and not have a temper tantrum due to the fact it's not Saturday.
The thing that drove me most crazy as a very new mother was the way that other mothers would tell me that it doesn't really get any easier nor do you have any more time to yourself. As a not so new mom, I can tell you that's a lie. Our culture values "busy" and sacrifice and persecution and "I'm so stressed." That's what those moms bought into. I don't. I found the issue is not so much pockets of "me time" or pursuits of your interests as it is pockets of choice. When you only have tinies, your choices are oh, so, limited. I came across a housekeeping tip that if you are in a time of clutter, it's vital to have at least clear surface for your eyes to "land;" a little bay of tranquility. When you are on the Island of Teeny Tinies, that bay doesn't exist. When they are ALL tiny, they are ALL in crisis, All The Time. They have no perspective, you have no perspective, everyone is new to the game. You can, perhaps, sneak very small bits of your interests into your day but it's rarely really what you chose so much as what you managed. You can read a book while you rock the baby but it has to be a book you can hold while rocking as well as one you can follow on 3 hours of broken sleep.
Figuring out how to put in those pockets of your interests takes time and support and seriously, if you have 3 under 4, it's not happening. It becomes that one more thing that someone told you, you should be doing. You haven't learned all the tricks. You don't have the resource of older children. You don't have the advantage of having a bigger child you can count on to let you know things are going south downstairs. It's hard. A mom of just tinies has it hard. It's grueling. It's full-on. It's a steep learning curve. And most of us lack the social resources that might make it palatable.
Yes, there are still times that it's hard with older ones or even older ones mixed with tinies. But, it's not hard in the same way. The learning curve is leveling out. While there are still daily crises, they don't generally occur more than once an hour. I have a lot more choices about what must be responded to and then what my response will be. Sure, there are times blood is drawn and the wrath of mommy comes down upon your head, swiftly and surely. But, saying "I'm hungry" is a very different sort of thing than a baby desperately howling from the car seat for completely unknown reasons and you lacking the experience and perspective to have any real idea what to do about it. If nothing else, I slept for 7 hours In A Row last night.
The thing about perspective was that when I was slogging through the very hard beginning bit, it was easy to lose all sight of why I had ever decided to do this. Motherhood did not look like I had envisioned it. I am a Protestant, we don't do the whole vocation thing. It was hard. I was exhausted. Everyone was crying. And the end game was unclear and that just made it so much harder. There seemed to be no point other than that there was really no way out other than through. I wish I had had an understanding of just why it needed to be so hard when I was in the thick of it.
The thing that I'm slowly coming to understand is that there was point. Motherhood is transformational. In the beginning the transformation is dramatic and violent and forms the larger shape of things. I was pushed to physical limits I would never have encountered had I not been given the children I was. I was taught selflessness. I was taught to believe in myself and my own instincts. I was taught to draw boundaries even while making them more porous. I had to learn to think for myself. I grew closer to God and deepened my understanding of man's relationship with the divine. My body was broken and my blood shed so that someone could experience the mortal plane.
And, yes, motherhood continues to be transformational but the process is becoming more gentle. The shape has been forged. The hard lines drawn. I am moving into a time where my children are becoming a slow, small, persistent force against my human frailties. While one mom characterized this as losing her selfishness, I characterize it more as simply growing.
As my children become older, they become a more finely hewn mirror, showing me where I can perfect myself. I have often found myself sneaking a cookie only to ask myself why I love my children enough to deny them excessive sugar but not myself. My children absorb so much love and parenting that it spills back out onto me. I learn to take care of myself as I take care of them.
So, what I'm really saying is that the words from moms who have been there to take care of yourself either by going beyond what you once were or finding her again, were written with the advantage of hind-sight. We forget just how very hard it is when you are on the Island of Teeny Tinies. Remind us so that we can be a better servant to you and our daughters in turn. We offer the dual assurance that yes, there is a point and more importantly,
it gets easier.