By far, the hardest part of becoming a mother with my first born was bringing him home. My recovery was long and difficult. My expectations of what having a new baby would be like and what it was actually like couldn’t have been further apart. And my marriage was ill prepared for how to adjust to the new demands of parenthood. It was “survival mode.”
In preparing for baby no. 2, we were told starkly different things. As is the case with everything else in pregnancy. “You’re carrying high! “You’re carrying low!” “You look huge!” “You look tiny!” “Eat seafood!” “Stay away from seafood!” … you get the idea. By some, we were told having number two will be a piece of cake. By others, we were told having two will be absolute chaos. At least by now, we knew to take outside advice with a grain of salt. It would be whatever it would be.
As we find ourselves once again in the thick of the infamous fourth trimester, I can’t believe how different this stage feels. It’s not necessarily easier. Not necessarily harder. It’s just different. It’s both relaxing and chaotic all in the same breath. And I’m so happy that I get a “re-do” of this unique chapter.
My first born made me a mother, and that was one of the most incredible, life-changing but also terrifying transitions of my life. It was difficult for me to slow down and fully embrace his baby days because I was often consumed by figuring out how to do the baby days. Knowing the kind of mother I aspire to be and having the experience to back that up has given me such a powerful confidence that frees me in many ways.
I am free from the expectations, including other people’s expectations of how they think I should raise my children. I do expect both hard days and good days. I expect mistakes and successes. And I expect that others respect my role as mother through these highs and lows.
I am free from the “mom guilt.” Guilt of trying to be everything to everyone. Guilt of trying to hang onto both pre-kid life and kid life. In place of guilt, I make time for gratitude of my current life, in all its messy, humble glory. I’m grateful that I have two healthy babies who I get to stay home with for now, and who wake up every day thinking I am the best person in the world no matter how much more I think I should be capable of doing.
I am free from my own self-doubt. Where I once questioned myself, I now have trust. Trust that I know my babies best and that this alone is one of the best pieces of guidance I will need. Trust to follow my intuition, both when it tells me that I am right and when I am wrong. Trust to know when I am not enough and when it’s time to call in the village.
These new-found freedoms have given me such a gift. I am finally, for once, doing nothing more than I need to be doing other than embracing this precious new life that we created. I am truly present with my family, holding these exhausting and rewarding moments close to my heart. I am using this time to heal, and it has completely transformed how I experience this fragile time of bringing new life into the world.
Last time, the fourth trimester broke me down. And in reflection, it had a purpose. I needed to come apart in order to find my new identity. This time, the fourth trimester is making me whole. It’s mending the pieces that were still broken from last time.
Is it that motherhood gets easier? No. There’s a special kind of chaos in being outnumbered by mini versions of you and your partner. The difference is that you get stronger and wiser. Your heart gets fuller. You become the best that you can be, prioritizing what matters and what doesn’t. You free yourself of all that extra noise, because you really don’t have time for it anymore.
I realize now, I want more for myself than just “surviving” new parenthood. I want to really live it. So I will.