December 19, 2016: Members Only – Part II
I’m Finally a Part of The Club
Photo Date: December 6, 2016
…Continued from Part I – http://shadesofrae.com/members-only-part-i/
My sister received the weight of my calls and text messages throughout my pregnancy and postpartum. With four kids of her own ranging in ages 2 through 14, she’s an expert in nearly everything child-related. Besides that, she’s my sister and can, like, read my mind, feel my emotions, and is probably the only person on this entire planet that truly knows and understands me. It’s a sister thing, and if you are lucky enough to have one, you know exactly what I’m talking about. She’s my #1 go-to speed dial for anything and everything; if phone companies still charged for long distance calls I’d be up shit’s creek right now.
“What the heck is happening to my [insert body part here]?” She’d always let out a little laugh and would patiently explain how normal it was to see and feel that specific change while pregnant. A week after I had my baby, she flew down and was THE BESTEST sister-auntie-teacher-caregiver-nurse-mom-partner a girl could ever dream of. She got me out of the house, we drove everywhere, even to The Florida Keys just to get lunch one afternoon. She taught me how to take my baby out in public and get errands done, to take myself places “just because,” and how to slowly get a new routine in my life even on days I just want to stay in bed snuggling and crying with my baby. Don’t get me wrong, those days are super important to allow yourself and I definitely give myself grace when experiencing a postpartum day of melancholy, but in the end we get out of bed and keep moving forward. One diaper change at a time.
As soon as Emerson was born I had a cesarean scar, my boobs swelled with milk, and dark circles from lack of sleep appeared under my eyes (and aren’t going away anytime soon) as proof that I had a child. But I still didn’t feel part of The Club yet. In my postpartum baby bubble, it was just a world of Em and I discovering each other and figuring out who we each were and are to each other now that we are no longer sharing one body. It’s a crazy high and the rest of the world disappears from sight as nights and days blend together into a blur of time filled with frenzied feedings.
I was feeling like I could do it all: wake up every two hours to feed and change her; rock or walk her back to sleep; clean the house; make meals for Jon and I; do the dishes, tackle the vast amount of laundry; photograph her newborn and one-month and our first family photo; prepare for Christmas; communicate to both sides of the family and friends – giving updates on how we are all doing and how she is developing what the doctor says about her; keep up on all the thank you cards for the incredible many gifts Em has received from all over the world (for real – THANK YOU to the many friends for blessing us with so much! We are so incredibly grateful for your extreme generosity!); arrange visitors at home and out of the home; grocery shop and meal plan; attempt to remember to shower and put on makeup every few days at best; get gas in the car; take a walk to remain healthy; give our poor dog and cats a little love and attention; restock the diapers, wipes, outgrown clothing, formula, and keep the bottles all washed; appear online to keep in touch on social media; track paperwork and bills; do tummy time, play time, talking, singing, snuggling, loving; go out by myself without the baby; and attempt to go back to work… Who the heck can do all of that? I honestly sometimes feel like I should be able to do all of that but that’s setting myself up for failure and why do that to myself. Seriously?
The moment the shit hit the fan – the moment when I knew I was finally in The Club – came a couple weeks ago when Jon was working nights for a special event. Em was between 7-8 weeks old and going through an insanely frustrating I-don’t-want-to-be-put-down-or-I’ll-scream-for-hours phase, all the “new baby” adrenaline had dumped from my system, and extreme prolonged sleep deprivation had sunk in. I was exhausted and tackling 24-hour parenting alone for the first time; oy vey! On the second night, Em had been screaming at the top of her lungs and refusing to go to sleep for hours on end. I had tried everything in my arsenal and in every Google search and baby book. Nothing took. She was just hysterical and I just sat there looking at my baby, feeling helpless and defeated as a woman and mother. I didn’t know what to do. It was 12:38am on the East Coast as I hit the #1 person on my speed dial and silently prayed, “God, please let her answer because I don’t know how I’ll get through this night without hearing her voice.”
On the second ring, my sister’s cheerful voice greeted “Heyyyyyyy!” and my shoulders immediately relaxed. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind just listening to me for a second and I broke down bawling my eyes out telling her how I can’t get my baby to stop crying; how much I love her and it’s killing me to see her so upset and not know what to do to help her discomfort; how I my body feels so jiggly and fat now; how nothing fits anymore; how even when I shower and put on makeup I feel utterly disgusting and gross – like I have layers of grease on me all the time; how I feel like I failure as a woman and mother not being able to keep up everything; how I’m so so so soooo tired and just want a block of 4-hours of sleep and things might feel a little better….
When my sobbing prevented me from speaking any more, my sister took a big breath and said the first words since answering the phone, “I’ve been waiting for this call.”
“Huh?” I muffled.
“Yah. ALL us moms go through it at least once. Usually between 6-8 weeks after the baby is born. Every baby. Every one of us has this moment where we realize we need each other. In fact, you’ll probably make at least one more of these calls in the next few weeks. Everything you are saying, yes yes yes, it’s completely normal and I remember every one of those feelings.” She again reassured me, “it’s absolutely normal to be thinking all of those things, and it’s the normal time to be feeling those feelings.” Somehow, the word normal rang through true to me. I’m normal.
She proceeded to listen to all the things I had been trying to get Em to sleep then gave suggestions and sound advice on what I could try next. She reminded me to let the house go, to start asking for help for specific things that needed to actually get done, and to remember to sleep when she sleeps (no house work!). That at the end of the day, if all I got done was making sure my daughter was fed, changed, healthy, and happy, then I succeeded. And most importantly, to remember that this is only one short phase Em was going through and that it will get better!
It gets better. I had forgotten about that part, how fast all my nieces and nephews grew up and out of their crying phases.
After about an hour, I got off the phone, and immediately realized I was in The Club. I had reached out and connected. Because the most cardinal rule of motherhood is not to give advice unless asked, she had waited for me to call her at my most raw moment, the moment when it really counts. I asked advice from another mother that had earned her sacred badge and title as “mom” through many years of trials and errors of her own. A mother who had gone to others for advice, and now was there offering advice to a new mother. She is mother I admire above all, who has felt and thought the same things I do. The feeling of connection with my sister and family flooded through me as memories of them all going through this same moment rushed over me.
I had made it.