Baby comes. We fall immediately in love. Or we don’t.
We take to motherhood like a duck to water. Or our anxiety is so high we are afraid to pick up our new bundle for fear of something horrible happening.
We feel all the changes in our life and just smile because we’re the mama. Or we see the chaos and our mind tells us we must get control, we must make everything perfect, so we lose ourselves in folding the baby’s clothes just so. Over and over.
We sleep when baby sleeps. Or we force ourselves to stay awake and watch the baby so nothing happens to it.
We sleep when baby sleeps. Or we lay wide awake, unable to sleep at all, knowing that in a few short hours baby will be awake and we need to sleep. But we can’t. So we reorganize our Pinterest boards.
We undertake motherhood and feeding baby without a second thought. Or we struggle to breastfeed only to have our stress grow with each attempt. Or we formula feed, kicking ourselves because we are not breastfeeding the baby.
Sometimes, motherhood comes easy. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes, it is the first baby that introduces us to the struggle that is postpartum mood disorders. Sometimes, it’s our third.
As we struggle, we hate ourselves, thinking we are terrible mothers. We judge ourselves because we’re sure everyone else is too.
We fight to get better. We fight to breathe in and out. We fight for each day.
And finally victory is ours. We sort through some memories. We hide others that can’t be dealt with all at once. We breathe. We try to exhale, but in the back of our mind we’re afraid of the pain. We’re afraid of it coming back.
Birthdays are one of the days that threaten to overtake us with the memories. Our mind is naturally drawn to those early days of babyhood. The good, the bad, the really, really ugly. And the thing is, we focus mostly on the bad and the ugly. We don’t give ourselves enough grace to hug the good to ourselves.
Birthdays wake up the hurt, they wake up the feelings of failure. They scare us. And we still don’t let ourselves remember the good.
Yet, there is, so much good. You’ve come through so many battles to be where you are. And that baby that awakened so many fears and struggles–they love you. You are their mama. You are the one that soothes them when they have a fever. You clean up the vomit they project all over the house. You laugh with them. You teach them their alphabet. You teach them to tie their shoes. You teach them to be kind and courteous. You teach them to make friends and to be a friend.
They don’t remember you folding the baby wash cloths over and over. They remember you making them a birthday cake and letting them have friends over to play. They remember you buying the fun band aids to make their boo-boos all better. They remember you buying them fun sunglasses and the coolest backpack. They remember you walking them to school and back home again. They remember your hugs. They remember the love you always had for them that you can now show them with ease.
Mamas, as the birthdays come, give yourself grace. Give yourself permission to know you are a good mama. Give yourself permission to see the love you show now, and the love you had then. Give yourself permission to look at your little one, growing up so beautiful, strong and funny, and say, “I got them here. I got us here.” And know it is true. The journey hasn’t been easy and there may still be days of struggle, but you are here now. You have loved all the way through and you are here now.
To the mamas who read this, I am so proud of you, no matter where you are in your journey, because no matter how hard it is, you are still here. I am proud of you for finding joy again. I am proud of you for growing and becoming a more beautiful you.