Am I Going to Miss This Crazy Stage of Life?

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You’re gonna miss this.  That’s what they say, and what Trace Adkins so beautifully sings about, and the exact lyrics that I sing out loud at home any time I think about the absurdity of missing whatever chaotic thing is happening at the moment.  And then I burst into tears.

Tears of exhaustion from sleep deprivation, not knowing what the heck I’m doing and usually not even knowing how to pretend like I do, and frustration.  Tears of deep love for my kids and my life.  And just the smallest amount of guilt that I might not be mom enough because I do not think that I will miss any of this, and I think that real moms do.

Of coimg_4127.jpgurse, we are in the thick of it now.  A super sassy almost-3-year-old and an impossible-to-figure-out 7-week old.  And I keep thinking that maybe this newborn thing will get a little easier and it never does.  I keep telling myself over and over that this is a phase.  And someday I will look back on it.  Probably with relief.

I put it out there to my Facebook friends who are past this time in their lives.  Most said almost the exact same thing, coupled with some great advice – I’ll miss some parts and not others!

Lynne – “I miss the cuddles and sweetness of toddlers. I do not miss diapers, bottles and not sleeping! Each stage is wonderful and awful at the same time. I have enjoyed the stages my boys have gone through and going through now (for the most part!) I think of it more as savor the special moments. Don’t get too busy that you can’t enjoy your children. It’s hard when they’re so little. They demand so much more. Savor those special moments. And try not to let the nitty-grittiness of life get in the way.

Kelli – “There are things I miss and things I don’t–true of every stage. Despite being so demanding and exhausting, enjoy the moments. It really goes fast and contrary to what I thought it did not get easier! The older they get the bigger the issues, more impactful are the choices, hard to let them learn on their own when you have the experience. Keep praying and communicating…and remember you are not alone! Other parents face the same things, even if it doesn’t appear that they do! Talking with a mom who has kids a few years older than yours is a great benefit!”

Elizabeth – “This very particular stage you are in….helpless newborn baby, needy toddler, sleepless nights…NOPE, don’t miss that.  A few months out and the years after…yes I will miss those dearly. Pull my hair out craziness most days, but the toddler to preschool stage is the best in my opinion.”

One said, YES you will miss this! 

Sherree – “Yes, you will miss it terribly. This stage of life is where you still have control and the worries are far smaller than what comes later. It is replaced by attitudes, pimples, a driver’s license and dating.”

And her sentiments were echoed by our Radio Theology listeners when I asked for calls on the topic.   They all agreed that time goes too fast and I will miss this baby/toddler stage.  (You can listen to that below.  Spoiler Alert: at one point in this segment I may or may not get sassy with one of the listeners.  Oops!)

Then there was some talk and agreement that even if I will miss it, that’s the worst possible thing you can say to someone who feels like she is drowning, or maybe on good days doggy paddling in the endless ocean of toddler tears and baby poop.  (Wow, there’s an image for ya.)

lean-in.pngAfter processing and digesting all of this, the point, I’ve decided, is not whether I like or dislike this stage, or whether or not I will miss this stage.  But that I lean into my own life.  Actively participate.  In the good and the bad.  One of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp is this very idea.  “Joy and pain.  They are put two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.”  So when it is tempting to disengage and retreat from my own circumstances, I’ll always try to remember to do the hard work of leaning back in.

I might miss Josie jumping up and down, excited to see me after a day at daycare, but I’ll block out the meltdowns over leaving her at the top of the stairs even though she is fully capable of walking down them herself, not letting her sleep with a toy nut and bolt, or telling her yes for something she asked for and then somehow heard no or decided in a split second that having the very thing she wanted would ruin her life forever.

I will look fondly back at when she took her first steps, but will erase from my memory the months of her spitting up all over the entire world (and somehow always on me and usually down my shirt, her spit up pooling in my bra).

I will try to look back at both Josie and Cal’s newborn phase with joy and gratitude, remembering that they were healthy babies, and will disregard how crazy I felt after the hours of sleep I missed feeding or comforting them in the middle of the night.

I realize in reading back through this that it sounds like I’m absolutely miserable, and that’s just not the case.  We really are doing fine, and much better than the last time I posted.  It’s the moments where I am miserable that all of these emotions come into play.  But I feel like it is so important to say out loud to myself and anyone else who’s in the thick of it, that it is ok to feel however you feel in the moment.  But keep leaning in. 

“How’s It Going?” You Ask? – A 4-Week Postpartum Check In

So everyone is asking me the same question…… “So, how it’s going?!”

I look at them and half smile, take a long pause with an extended sigh, and say, “Good!”

Here’s what I don’t tell most people (some people, of course, get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth).  It all runs through my head in an instant during the sigh.

How’s it going?

Well, let’s see…I’ve got a new tiny baby who, although perfect and adorable and amazing in every way, lives in my house now.  He’s fully dependent on his parents for every little thing.  He doesn’t acknowledge my existence, but demands every ounce of everything I Calhave, making me feel like most days I’ve given all I can give by 10 a.m.  He is sleeping at night, but still up every 3 hours to eat.  And then of course because he has gas and spit up issues and is already rocking a gnarly cold with congestion galore, we have to keep him upright for at least 20 minutes after he eats so he doesn’t die or something — making a simple middle of the night bottle feed feel like an eternity, even though it lasts for only 45 minutes (if I don’t fall asleep holding him in that last 20 minutes – then it’s anyone’s guess when I wake up hoping I haven’t dropped him and get myself back to bed).  And during the day he sleeps best when attached to me in some way, making it impossible to get anything done.  I know I need to just lay him down and let him cry but then there goes my relaxing nap time!  Seriously, my victory at the end of the day is knowing that we are all alive and that I maybe unloaded the dishwasher…or at least had the presence of mind to write it down on the to-do list I never look at anymore. And that’s just Cal.

Then there’s Josie, who has always been amazing and stubborn and goofy and empathetic with a large dose of sass.  Now that she’s almost 3 and simultaneously going Josie and Calthrough a major life change where she has to realize she isn’t the center of the universe, she’s really amped up the stubborn and the sass.  Oh my.  Screaming, disobeying, hitting – you name it – she’s doing it.  Now, in between those meltdowns are amazing memories that I will try to use to block out the other low points she’s bringing me to these days.  Sweet moments where she begs to hold Cal, where he makes a tiny whimper and she sprints from any room in the house to force-feed him his paci.  Every time she talks to him, her voices goes up an extra octave and her smile is ear to ear.  Those are the things I will remember instead of us yelling at each other to stop crying and yelling at each other (Parenting Tip:  This method does not work.  If you find yourself in this situation, immediately question all of your life decisions, and then abort mission.  You’re welcome).

And then there’s Ryan, whom I love but don’t really know right now.  Who walks in from a long day at work and an even longer commute home to me telling him to choose which Ryan josie Calscreaming child he’d like to take a run at comforting.  Josie, locked in her high chair but throwing a world-ending fit because I “started” her string cheese for her.  Or Cal, who was quietly napping in the other room until the string cheese incident occurred.  Ryan, who loses his wife to either tears or sleep between 8 and 9 every night now (thankfully at 4 weeks postpartum, most nights it is sleep, not tears).  And Ryan, who has a million projects to do around the house, but forfeits those most of the time to engage with his family instead.  I mean, watching the relationship between Josie and her Daddy take off these last few weeks has been awesome.  Life-changing and life-saving (because prior to this she was all Mommy, all the time, and right now Mommy ain’t got time for that).

And then there’s me, who just to carve out an hour to write this blog, had to first drop Me and CalJosie off at daycare, let my baby scream while I showered, heat up coffee for the third time this morning, and get a spoonful of leftover chocolate buttercream icing from the fridge.  (*Real life update: Just finishing this 30 hours later.)  Me, who had to make some tough choices in the last few weeks (like going from nursing to pumping to formula, but more on that in another post).  And sometimes the choices were only tough because in the few weeks after having a baby, my mental capacity for decision-making is basically zero.

Week 1 example: Ryan’s sisters wants to order us dinner for delivery all the way from Arizona?  Awesome!  I cry, and then Ryan hands me the menu and I cry harder because I can’t decide what to order.  All the while knowing I won’t enjoy the meal anyway because I have anxiety that hits between 5-7 p.m. the first week or two postpartum for fear of what the night may bring.

Week 2 example: I have Cal sleeping quietly in my arms, but I need to pee, so I decide to put him down.  The time between when the decision was made and the actual putting him down was at least 15 minutes, because I was just paralyzed (until the bathroom thing became a real motivator).

Week 3 example: I get text messages from my Radio Theology peeps and I want to go back sooooooo bad, but I can’t even muster enough courage to text them back to say that I’m not ready yet and feel like I have nothing to offer anyone.  (*Healthy update: by Week 4 I was back in action)

Week 4 example: Shave my legs.  Ok, fine, I didn’t shave all the way up, I stopped at the knee because it was just too big of a commitment.

And me, who admits out loud when I can, to the best moms I know, including my own, that I don’t know how people do this.  They each give the same answer, by the way, and it is this: They just do.  You figure it out.  And keep figuring it out.  You talk to other moms about it so you don’t feel at all alone.  And you let yourself laugh and cry and succeed and fail again and again.

So, to answer your question – how’s it going?  It’s good!  Reeeeaaaalllly good…with all the other tough stuff in between.  And that’s ok.

And a big fat P.S. A HUGE thank you to our amazing family and friends for all of the help they’ve given us – with meals, toddler-watching and baby-holding, cleaning, cooking, and doses and doses of encouragement.  You guys rock.  And are the reason that people can do this.