How Motherhood Has Wrecked Me
I use these words often to describe what being a mother feels like to me. There is nothing more bittersweet than this season in my life. Bittersweet Mamahood perfectly describes the weight and gravity I have felt during my parenting journey. How when there is a milestone reached, or an era that has begun or ended, I am struck to the core with feeling.
IT’S ALL SO RAW.
Every milestone is both thrilling and breaks my heart at the same time. It’s both a beginning and an end.
It’s truly amazing to me how such seemingly small or "insignificant" changes can tear through my heart and leave me a blubbering mama in a puddle of tears.
Let me paint you a little picture:
The Bittersweet Diaper Upgrade
We started cloth diapering at a few weeks old. We were using prefolds a dear friend of mine had generously gifted us, and Thirsties covers.
We have a small long dresser that we use as a changing table (an awesome garage sale find), which has three drawers down the center where we store all our diapers. After each load of laundry, we carefully folded those prefolds into a newspaper fold and stored them in their drawers, lined up in a row. The Thirsties covers and the thicker (night time) prefolds went in the upper drawer, and the thinner (daytime) prefolds in the middle drawer.
We loved our set up, and it worked well for us until about three months old when all of a sudden he started peeing way more. Suddenly we needed to upgrade our stash.
I found an awesome deal on a resale page of a combination of Buttons & Best Bottoms inserts and covers, and I stripped, bleached, and washed them to get them ready for their new home.
As I went to switch the diapers out, changing the drawers from the prefolds we used with him as a tiny squish to our new (to us) stash of diapers, a wave suddenly came over me.
“I’m never going to see these diapers in these drawers again.” I cried. (As I’m writing this, I’m still upset I don’t have a picture of our beautiful prefold cloth diaper drawers to show you, and I may have a tear in my eye). My husband didn’t quite get my tears or the intense sadness I suddenly had about, well, things that get shit on.
Why? Because Bittersweet Mamahood. It does this to you.
Here's another example:
The Co-sleeper to Crib Debacle
A few months ago, my son decided he was done sleeping in the co sleeper. He had been sleeping next to my side of the bed since he was born, and in the co sleeper since a couple weeks old when we realized he wasn’t a fan of the rock n play and wanted to sleep on a flat surface, on his tummy (gasp! No, really, no need to gasp).
At about three months old, we started napping him in the crib every once in a while when he’d nap outside of my arms or the carrier. It became more frequent and he gradually napped longer in there. Then at about four months or so, we started putting him to bed for the night in the crib and then transferring him into the co sleeper hours later when we actually went to bed.
Suddenly one night he was NOT having us transferring him into the co-sleeper. After hours and hours of getting him to sleep, only to put him down and have him immediately wake up, we realized he was not digging the co sleeper anymore. So we transferred him into the crib after a couple more episodes of frustration, and he slept the rest of the night.
I, on the other hand… couldn’t fall asleep, even though it was nearing 4am and I was exhausted. No, I was missing my sweet little man’s snoring and sleeping sounds that had been close to my ear for over five months. I couldn’t roll over to touch his back and make sure he was breathing, or caress his head, or hear him grunting as I slept. I also couldn’t roll over and grab him to bring him into bed with me to nurse. I had to get up, walk across the hall (though it’s really not far - I can see his crib from my bed), and nurse him there.
And our room looked too empty now. It was just too spacious. It all felt so wrong, so off.
This mama cried a lot that night, and for weeks after. I couldn’t comprehend him being ok being far away from me at night. I mean I wasn’t ok with it, how could he be?
Damn you Bittersweet Mamahood.
Hot Mess Parenthood
This realization can hit you at any time and for any amount of reasons. I mean just recently I had a Bittersweet Mamahood moment when he turned seven months old and I cried because all of a sudden he was “Closer to being a one year old than being a newborn.” Or when his first tooth came in and I realized I’d never see a sweet gummy smile from him ever again.
Let me tell y’all, these bittersweet moments are ruthless! They are unsuspecting little buggers that sneak up on you at the strangest times.
It could be when you are switching their clothing from one size to another (How sad is it when they don't fit in their newborn clothes anymore!?), watching them taste food for the first time or master a new task, realizing they can do something without you, watching them make their first friend or navigate a situation with newfound grace, and a million other situations.
Suddenly life is different. Everything changes.
Your sweet little one is not so little anymore, and it hurts your heart. It both breaks it and expands it. Your love for your precious one grows. You move into a new season of your relationship together, and it is wondrous. But you’ve left a season behind.
It’ll never be the same. They will never be the same.
It's the permanence of it all that really gets me.
And here’s the kicker… these moments are going to continue to happen THEIR WHOLE LIFE. And they are going to inevitably get harder. I want to cry just thinking about when certain seasons will end for Arlo; like the last time he nurses, or needs me to fall asleep, or wants to be worn. Oh, it aches. A moment of silence please for all the mama hearts out there.
I can’t wrap my mind around this feeling, because it’s much bigger than my mind can comprehend. I think it’s much more deeply rooted in the innate, primal connection we have with our offspring, especially as mothers. Buried deep within my consciousness, entangled within the cells we mothers literally still share with our children, even after their birth (or death), lies this heart wrenching feeling when change occurs as they slowly, but surely, move away from us.
The Presence of Wreckage
Let me tell you, Bitersweet Mamahood has wrecked me.
It has wrecked me in the best way possible.
It has opened me up. It has slowed me down. It has taught me to enjoy the mundane, the common, the regular. It has made me not just realize, but sink into, the importance of being present.
During a diaper change, or a breastfeeding session, or a trip to the store where I can cuddle him in a woven, I’m reminded that this will soon pass. That I won’t have these moments forever. And I take advantage of it. I take time to talk and play with him on the changing table instead of treating it as a chore. I sing to him while he's nursing instead of check Facebook. I hold him tighter and wear him longer, instead of rushing through my errands.
I feel more gratitude. I let go. I recognize that this is the moment. Right now. This is the only time he will need me this much. So I'm going to cherish it and dive into it.
The frustrations with long feeding sessions, or random times in the middle of the night when he wants to play, or teething joys, will soon fade away and I'll be left with my Bittersweet Mamahood feelings that those times were really nothing short of pure perfection. They are teaching me how miraculous and special this moment is. Right now.
As I'm writing this, I look over my shoulder and watch him twisting his wrist in amazement, as this is his newest skill. Before I know it, it will be mastered and no longer will I catch that sweet expression of wonderment burst into his big eyes as he watches his hand turn back and forth.
These are the moments. This is parenthood.
I will stop and embrace it. Because it is fleeting. And it is the MOST important thing I've ever done.
If I pay attention, Bittersweet Mamahood has the ability to teach me how to be a more mindful person and parent.
And that, I believe, is it’s gift.
Photo by: Manda's Memories Photography