And being kind to yourself along the way.
I am a mama, hear me roar. I think I am invincible. I think I can do it all. I think I can be everything to everyone. I think I can be in 10 places at once. I think I can do everything with one hand.
Basically, I think I can do...
All. The. Things.
That is until my second son was born via emergency C-section. (Which was a humbling experience, to say the least.) I could barely care for myself, let alone my newborn and toddler.
Before our second son's arrival, I was extra mindful to include my older son in our baby prep to ensure he did not feel like he was being left out, or brushed aside, or worst of all, replaced. I wanted him to feel as loved and cared for as he typically did.
I wanted to carve out special "Mommy and Me" time. I wanted to be cautious of the language I used, never saying things like "I can't do ____ because of the baby." This was me trying to do all the things. I felt it was attainable. And it all seemed great in theory, but then my C-section threw me for a loop.
I underestimated it all. The surgery, the recovery, the limitations.
It pained me every time I said, "Be gentle with Mommy because my belly is tender." Or "I'm sorry Mommy can't do that." In the beginning, I didn't realize how many requests I would have to give that response to. Or how many questions I'd receive from my inquisitive toddler about it all like, "How did my brother get here?" I didn't want to scare him. Or scar him, too, for that matter. Because I was the one who wore the scar, not him.
I wanted him to know that Mommy was okay. Mommy could be all the things, to all the people. Mommy had not changed.
(But in reality, Mommy had changed.)
I found myself feeling helpless, hopeless, and worst of all, like a terrible mother.
Both boys needed me. They needed their mama. So I soldiered on, like every mother does. I would grin and bear those tackle hugs from my toddler. I would pick up the baby and wince in pain, but only in private.
I would take deep cleansing breaths before bending down to get my older son dressed as if that would really help. I would get on the floor to play board games, as slowly as a human could possibly move. I would attempt to keep life as "normal" as possible for everyone around me.
I would hide the pain behind a smile. A smile I hoped only I would notice how fake it was. Hoping it was not as transparent to the outside world.
Everyone in my life was so eager to help, that wasn't an issue whatsoever. It was about me, and my boys. I felt the grace period of being understanding and patient lasted only a small time—a week felt like months to my older son.
He wanted his mama to be back to normal. He wanted me to run and jump and play, like I always did. But the truth was, it took me a long time to get back there. I had to be kind to myself. I had to remind myself—I just brought a baby into this world. Via a major surgery.
The muscles that were used to birth my baby are used for everything. Everything. I am not expected to bounce back. I had to put less pressure on myself. As long as that first week felt to my toddler, it would really just be a blip on his radar in the coming months—it would not be something he would remember forever.
Motherhood has taught me so many lessons, too many to count, really. But I think this, this experience, was the most eye-opening of them all. It taught me about self-care and showing myself grace. And, probably the hardest lesson to learn—the fact that I cannot do it all. And maybe most importantly—that no one expects me to.
A friend of mine always says that the mother is the trunk of the tree, and her partner, children, friends, are the branches. If the trunk of the tree is not healthy, the branches cannot flourish. THIS is motherhood, I have learned.
You can't help others, until you help yourself. So, mama, be kind to yourself—be gentle, be compassionate You deserve it.
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