New mommyhood. That fog in which many of us find ourselves. Diapers, sleep (the baby, not you), spit-up, blowouts, tiny clothes that need washing, smiles, crying, gas, more crying...
Funky smells, engorgement and/or bottle sterilizing, sleepless nights, 3 am articles about SIDS, hair loss...
It's a magical time.
One, that oddly enough, even as a mother of two (woah!)...
I'm almost doing for the first time. "What?", you say? I'll explain.
When we had Aidan, I was working as a Kindergarten teacher in the US. I was employed full-time for most of my pregnancy and birth, but was only employed part-time at the time of getting pregnant. This meant that I was not eligible for any kind of paid maternity leave. Legally I was allowed 6 weeks of unpaid leave. Which is what I had. It absolutely broke my heart the first day back at work, when Dan took our teeny tiny baby to the babysitter (an amazing mama from our church, who watched him Tuesday-Friday, for about 8-9 hours/day). Although I was thankful for a job (without which we wouldn't have been able to live), and for someone who loved my baby enough to watch him, it was not easy.
Every day, when Aidan came home, he smelled like the babysitter's house (which was actually a wonderful essential oil smell, but still), not our home. I think that is the most tangible image of what I felt. My baby didn't even smell like he lived with me. My husband actually spent more waking hours with him than I did - he had Mondays off. I pumped at work twice a day, because I was determined to breastfeed. When he came home, around 5, he basically cluster-fed until bedtime. He was/is an AMAZING sleeper, so then he would sleep from about 8:00-6:30. Then, I nursed him, got him and I both ready, and Dan would take him to the babysitter again. Every day.
Whenever I decided to sit down and do the math, about how many hours a day I actually spent with him... I just couldn't do it. I stopped myself before I actually got to the answer. Even now, I'm getting emotional. But we did what we had to do.
When he turned one, he started going to the preschool at my school. That was a little better - because of less of a commute, I got probably an extra hour a day with him. I could also check in on him throughout the day, if I needed.
Then, when he turned 2, our lives took a drastic turn, we were commissioned to be missionaries. All of a sudden, I became a stay-at-home-mom to a toddler. It was a huge shock to the system. The first few weeks were heaven! After that, I started to realize more and more what the positives of being a working mom were.
I had a professional life, people actually cared about what I had to say. Adult conversations. Feeling fulfilled on a non-mommy level. Feeling like I'd accomplished things in my day. "New" experiences every day. Putting on real clothes (don't laugh, it's true!). Getting a "break". Not having to change all the diapers in the world.
Thankfully, Aidan was already 2, so he was active enough, and fun enough to do things with. We were a one-car family, and Dan traveled a lot, so I did have to get creative about how to keep his busy self occupied, but overall it was a good experience. We had fun, I felt like I got to really know him, and we adjusted.
And now here we are. I'm now (as of 8 weeks ago), a stay-at-home-mom to a newborn. This is new territory for me. It feels so strange to say that, but it really is true. I'm so blessed to have a job where I can be involved in ministry, and still be a SAHM, I am so thankful for that! But this is nearly all new to me.
For example - going out with her TERRIFIES me! I'm getting together with a friend tomorrow morning, and it'll be our first real outing just the two of us - by ourselves, riding the bus, going into the center of town. AAAHHHH!
Also, how do I fill my days? We live according to her schedule, so I'm not actually in "want" of things to do, but what do I do with her when she's awake? How do I stimulate her growing mind? How do I break up the mundane, never-ending slew of laundry? What do I do when she won't stop crying? (By the way, the answer is nurse her. Always nurse her.)
Thankfully, the culture here in Slovenia is very mommy-friendly. I have mommy friends to go on walks with, get coffee with, or who come over. But it can also be very lonely, and all-consuming. I often crave a professional conversation, where my education is of use to me. I nurse on demand, so I'm very "tethered" to the baby. She's not always a happy baby, and needs lots of holding. Or baby wearing. I love the cuddles, and closeness... but I also love hot coffee, and lunch. And sleep.
Basically, my rambling doesn't have much of a point, or conclusion, except to say that mommyhood is a complete devotion of self; whether you are a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom or any combination of those.
There are positives and negatives to each situation. In my experience, both are hard, but in very different ways. For me though, the ability to stay home with Jocelyn is priceless. I am beyond thankful for our current situation, and ability to mother they way I'd like.
I am so thankful that Aidan was such an easygoing baby, and that he loves and adores me. Even with his first year the way that it was, he has always loved me (a very real mama-fear), he is healthy and happy, and now that he is 4 and back in school (Slovenian kindergarten), he loves it, and is excited to go every day!
In the afternoons, when I get to have both of them with me, and we're having a snack, playing or watching TV, I'm so thankful that I don't have to do lesson planning, or prep for a parent-teacher conference. But I do kind of pine for a lunch break, donuts on Friday, morning chats with coworkers and looking professional.
So if I seem very "new mother-y", please understand.
I kind of am.