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.