Thursday, May 20, 2010

Greeting the Dawn

Katie and I greeted the dawn this morning. She had her eyes fully open and lay peacefully in my arms as I rocked her this morning at 5 a.m. My eyes were not so alert, after waking up two previous times during the night to tend to her and one time to rock and hold Harmony. It was a tough night that followed a tough day.

But as the light from the sun began to fill the nursery with softness and warmth, I felt two emotions simultaneously. The first, an awe at the beautiful gift I held in my arms and a gratitude for the privilege of being her mother and being able to sacrifice for her. The second, exhaustion and fear about my ability to handle the demands of the day and maintain my patience with my children.

And thus is the postpartum roller coaster. Either I feel on top of the world, or I feel that the world is on top of me.

Yesterday, I was at my wit's end. My feeble attempts at a nap had been thwarted by interruptions and my night sleep is so disjointed and interrupted as to rip my nerves to shreds. None of my babies have been good sleepers, but Katie has been one of my worst. At least some of the others could give me four or five hours at a time. Up until this week, Katie wanted to be fed every two hours like clockwork, day or night. This week, I was pleased when she extended that to three hours before her first night waking. The last baby I had who slept so poorly was Joey, my second.

I might as well admit it: When I'm tired, I'm cranky.

On a normal day, irritations can pile up and I roll with the punches. On a day like yesterday, I just can't handle the toys, blankets, clothes, and legos that are STILL on the floor (despite three kids being asked three times to clean them up), the two loads of laundry I discovered in the washer and dryer after I'd finally folded and started to put away all the rest of it, the defiance and disrespect from a child who wants to do the minimum amount of work for the maximum reward, the garbage and dirty tissues piled up next to the garbage can but not inside, the comments about how dinner should have been improved instead of thanks for a darn good meal, the arguments between children, the missing toothpaste from the kids' bathroom, the sticky kitchen floors, and the feeling that everything depends on me.

My kids were actually rather nice when I lost it last night, yelling and crying in frustration. A couple of them helped me clean up and Joey brought me a glass of ice water just to be nice. DH jumped in with suggestions (not really appreciated), sent me on a sanity-saving trip to the library (very much appreciated) and pulled Lillian in to help fold the last loads of laundry. After dropping off the books that were due two days ago and wandering the quiet aisles, feeling like a failure for losing my temper, I ran to the grocery store for Katie-size diapers (we only had one left) and a cheesecake that looked divine but tasted only so-so (I'm sorry, but if you're going to charge me $12, I expect decadent indulgence to come with all those extra calories).

Then I went home and hoped for a good night's rest.

I didn't get it.

But I did get some lovely moments this morning as I waited for the dawn. I had the time to prepare myself for some tough hours, to pray for help and guidance and to strengthen my resolve to be kind and patient no matter how I felt.

The morning was a challenge, and it took until 10:00 just to get the kitchen clean. Then I got my floors mopped, which brightened my spirits tremendously. And I was pretty patient as I waited for nap time to approach. I didn't even lose it when Sarah bumped the container of strawberry jam and it poured (yes, poured -- this particular container hadn't set up just right) all over my newly-mopped kitchen floor. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

And this afternoon, I got a long, nourishing nap, courtesy of my wonderful neighbor. I called her this morning and asked if the the twins and Eliza could come over during nap time this afternoon. She is a grandma and a great-grandma with plenty of reasons to say no to her tired neighbor but who still has enough time and love for us, and she welcomed them graciously. They planted flowers in her backyard and caught water-skippers in the stream that runs through her yard and I got some glorious sleep.

And once again, I'm on top of the world. I even felt good enough to clean Joey's zone, the family room, and empty a dishwasher for Michael, to thank them for the extra help they gave me last night.

My mom feels overwhelmed with my life. It was wonderful to have her here last week to help me get some rest and to give the little girls some attention, but I think we tired her out. At one point, as we discussed my menu plan, she said she really wanted to help me get it organized, "just anything to make your life easier. . . it's just so overwhelming!" I laughed about that, because usually, I don't find my life overwhelming. And later, I pointed out to her all the wonderful blessings I enjoy that already make my life easier. I have a helpful husband, an oldest daughter who is not only an amazing babysitter but also likes to cook, wonderful neighbors, good friends, a comfortable home, sweet children, a baby with amazing patience and very few fussy times, good health generally, and I love what I do.

But that doesn't mean I don't have my moments. Sometimes I wish it didn't require so much sacrifice of my time and my sleep and my efforts. I worry about how much I can handle, how much I can take before I reach my wit's end again.

Then other times, like when I hold a little piece of heaven in my arms as I rock and nurture a precious new daughter of God, I look forward to the dawn. I can feel myself stretching and becoming more than I was before, and it is worth the growing pains and the stressful times.

11 comments:

Kimmie said...

Oh, you certainly do have your hands full. Praying for you friend.

Glad you have such a sweet neighbor too.

Would setting a timer and making clean up a 15 minute game help any? (maybe with a small prize after so many 15 minute games...like a lollipop from a jar you hide away??)

Asking God, through the Holy Spirit to minister to you-may you find encouragement surrounding you both at day and by night.

xoxo
Kimmie
mama to 8
one homemade and 7 adopted

3in3mom said...

I am glad to hear that you've had a chance to get some needed rest. You have some wonderful assets as you pointed out and a gentle spirit to match. I admire the thoughts you share.

I had not nearly your day and yet mine was a doozy too. My health has not been good lately and I know that when you aren't your best the rest struggles.

Many prayers for you as you all settle in for this change of #8. You are such a great Momma and it's wonderful to her the joys and the challenges.

I wish I was nearby to cuddle that baby and take those girls to play for you so you could rest. I know that is crucial for a new Momma (whether #1 or #8) Maybe I can do that for you while I am there in a couple of weeks.

Hugs and love,
Chalice

ps to Kimmie (I love your tagline--we have two homemade and one adopted--such blessings)

Mostly Diane said...

I love your positive attitude. I love how, while you acknowledge that having a large family is tough you emphasize your love for your family, and just how good it is. You are amazing.

Jen said...

What an inspiring post. My baby is 15 mos now but yesterday was a rough one for me as well. Little sleep, faaling like a failure for losing my temper. I am glad to know I'm not alone.

I especially loved your line that even small victories are victories. I don't need to beat myself up for my shortcomings. I can also rejoice at tiny baby steps taken toward the woman I want to be.

Joy For Your Journey said...

Oh wow. I felt overwhelmed just taking care of my grandbaby for four days--and I had plenty of help--just a lot of other things to do. But I can see why your mother would be overhwhelmed by your life--and why you would lose your patience occasionally.

I am thankful to your neighbor!! While reading your post I kept wishing I could do something to help you and then wishing someone would help you. I was so grateful someone did.

And I had to laugh at your comment about your husband. My husband would often come home, find me at wits end and then get after the kids, or tell me what I can do better. I finally had to tell him that neither was appreciated. But his help would be great. He finally got it. :-)

Good luck!! I wish I were closer, but since I am not, I will pray for you.

Courtney said...

Thanks for sharing what it's really like. The more we have the more nervous I get about being able to stay afloat.

3in3mom said...

love your new header!

swedemom said...

Christina, I love you. Thanks for this post. I've experienced the same roller-coaster.

acte gratuit said...

Amen!
:)

Maryanne said...

I'd consider not losing it over jam poured on a newly-mopped floor a BIG victory! I'm glad you got a nap and am inspired by your gratitude for being a mom. I need more of that!

Aislinn said...

That was so beautifully written, Christina. I'm glad you got a nap finally...it's amazing what a little sleep can do for a mother! Your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes...each child is indeed so precious and unique. You're a great mom!

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