Small Victories: Sometimes We’re All Stupid

Sometimes we’re stupid. Sometimes we’re brilliant. Sometimes this is a victory in and of itself.


You see this cup of coffee? It was hard won. After a week of shoddy sleep — thanks to a wakeful, nursing toddler — and a morning of wack-a-mole style kid meltdowns, I was running of fumes by noon. Mama. Needed. Coffee.

I put my toddler down for a nap while my older two played on the deck. Then, I began to ready the coffee maker. My sleep-deprived mind filled with all of the glorious possibilities ahead of me — the boundless energy and amplified patience, the miraculously well-behaved brood and angelic giggles — that this cup of coffee would provide.

First, I poured the grounds into the water tank. Damn! Next, while cleaning the machine, I turned the entire device upside down over the sink just to have all of the unsecured parts fall directly onto my bare feet. Ouch! Then, machine cleansed and grounds ready to be properly inserted, I fumbled the cup of coffee grounds and poured the entire mound of caffeination granules all over the kitchen counter. GAH! After extracting coffee grounds from underneath every counter-dwelling appliance, I carefully — carefully — prepared my cup of coffee. Taking excess caution not to mangle my own efforts this time.

I did it! I was not stupid.  (This time.)

I loaded the dishwasher, listening to the coffee drip into my mug, feeling quite accomplished in my remedial coffee brewing success. I collected my mug of sweet liquid energy and grinned. I sat down on the sofa to take a much-needed break, stretching my stumpy legs and bare feet out onto the cushions, and sinking back into the pillows. Then: “WAH!!!!”

My 4-year-old tried to close the deck door behind himself while holding the interior door handle. Yes, he closed the door on his own hand. Like mother like son.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll be smarter. But for now, I’ll take my luke-warm coffee as my participation award.

When Mommy is caffeinated, everyone wins. Small victories.

The Loneliness of Motherhood

Motherhood is lonely. As moms, there’s always someone clinging to us, following us, needing us, demanding of us. Even when our children are not physically present, their needs are still in the forefront of our minds.

As mothers, we are constantly surrounded by humans — big and small — but rarely do we truly get to connect with them. We are too busy chasing and aiding our little herds to meaningfully socialize. No matter the size of our “village” or quality of our friends, we will have periods during which we feel alone. We are lonely amongst the madness, isolated amidst the crowd.

When we try to converse with others, it’s guaranteed that a majority of our thoughts and sentences will go uncompleted. “Mommy, I need to go potty!” “Mommy he’s not sharing!” “Mommy, watch this!” “Mommy, I’m stuck!” Each intercession permanently derails a line of conversation. Then there are the maternal sensors that ping every few moments interrupting you just as your child licks the floor, crawls towards power cords, attempts to fly, tackles her sibling, or uses a public drinking fountain as his own personal splash pad.

For many of us, social media becomes a form of self-medication. We use it to camouflage the isolation. We like, post, comment, pin, and tweet to feel less alone… to connect. But it falls flat. It’s not the same.

Occasionally some of us can break free and revel in a mom date. We order adult drinks and savor the ability to eat our meal without having to simultaneously referee. We chat and laugh, we feel human again. Then it’s time to go home to the children we adore and miss, despite knowing full well the level of chaos that awaits us.

We arrive home with our emotional tank closer to full. We’re refreshed and replenished from our social outing. This is temporary, and we know it.

Every tantrum, every meltdown, every sleepless night, every departure debacle and bedtime battle drains our emotional tank. Sweet moments and tender cuddles reverse a bit of the loss, but the loneliness is an emotional hemorrhage that will leave us empty if unattended. The sense of isolation will render us shriveled, aggitated, overwhemed, fatigued, and depleted. We cannot pour from an empty cup, but we must.

Motherhood is joyous and stressful, love-drenched and tumultuous, priceless and taxing. It’s a beautiful gift but it’s lonely.

My Superpower

#3 nursing away a fever (10mo)

#3 nursing away a fever

Nourish, comfort, protect, heal… breastfeeding is my super power. It’s amazing to be able help my little one fight off viruses, regulate a feverish body temperature, and provide nutrient-dense, easily digestible food straight from my body when teething makes chewing painful or an upset tummy doesn’t allow anything else to stay down.

One does not realize the full-body effort of nursing until the morning after an all-night nursing binge. Despite providing sustenance for hours straight, your breasts are engorged and ready for more.You wake up exhausted in every way, starving, thirsty, sore, achey… it’s as if you ran an overnight marathon. What did you really do? Lie on your side as your little one nursed like a piglet All. Night. Long.

Breastfeeding is messy, it’s laborious, it’s taxing, it’s beautiful, it’s miraculous, it’s a gift. Keep on nursing on!

“All I Wanted…”

“Gahhhh!” “But whyyy???” “Nooo!” The moment of agitation and defeat when your seemingly innocuous plans have been thwarted by your own offspring.

“All I wanted was to…” it could anything: nap, pee in peace, make one phone call without stopping to referee or assist small humans, sleep, prepare a meal without having to drop everything to feed or wipe someone, exercise, have just one bedtime when everyone stays in their bed on the first try, arrive on time, have one drama-free playdate, pump, sit on my butt for five straight minutes, poop, wear clothes without stains, drink a hot beverage at its intended temperature, etc. Some days the plan change is easier to accept than others. Then there are those days when one untimely potty joke or one predigested milk deluge is beyond your patience level. You’re tapped out, the well is dry… and they can sense it.

As if driven by predatory instincts, our cherished offspring will claw, tantrum, and spew us into submission. Then, when we mourn the shattered want before us, they look at us with their saucer-like eyes in inocent bewilderment. As if they had no part in our mommy meltdown.

You have been defeated. Perhaps tomorrow you will be victorious… perhaps.

Nearly Human

#3 used to be a decent sleeper — he was somewhere between the torturous night-grazing of #1 and the dependable slumber of #2 — but the 4-month sleep regression changed all of that. He never quite got the hang of regularly sleeping through the night after that sleepless tailspin.

For the last two weeks, #3 (9-months-old) has been in some sort of sleep crapiness. He awakes to nurse — we’re talking competitive eating here, no “human pacifier” stuff — 6 times each night. I’ve forgotten what being rested or having a functioning mind feels like.

HOWEVER, last night he only awoke three times. That means I got REM sleep. Oh holy sleep gods, I feel as if I can do anything!

I actually remembered to put my tea in the kettle to steep. I didn’t groan like an old ship as I pulled myself out of bed this morning. I didn’t zone out in the middle of assembling my pump parts trying to remember what day it was. I feel nearly human! 

**Third-time-mom disclaimer: I know full well the danger of claiming one’s baby is sleeping better or well. I am not expecting REM sleep to be repeated, but it was nice last night. Be kind sleep gods!**

Lowered Standards

Sleeping in used to mean an 11am wake-up and perhaps even a post-shower nap on notably lazy mornings. Now — after 4+ nighttime nursing wake-ups — if I make it to 6:30am I’m pleased (tired, but pleased) and 7am is downright luxurious.

After a long day and a nursing-heavy night, all I wanted to do was sleep until 7am on this Saturday morning. 6am I’m awoken to nurse, 6:15am my nursling dozes off, 6:17 am I am out of bed and heading down to pump because I am engorged, 6:45am #3 and #1 are awake. 7:15am #2 is awake.

Maybe I’ll just try for 6:30am tomorrow.

What is Sleep?

Pregnancy-related insomnia is common. Between hormones and a squished bladder, you’re awake frequently at night. It’s nature’s way of preparing us for the sleeplessness ahead.

The sleep deprivation from your firstborn is the hardest. You’re delirious, confused, so exhausted it hurts. As time goes by, you somehow adjust to the reduced and broken sleep pattern. It becomes your new norm.

With subsequent children, the newborn phase isn’t painless, and certainly isn’t flush with sleep, but you’re better able to cope. You’ve learned tricks to help you and baby sleep at bit more, your nerves are calmer, you’re so tired from chasing an older child and nurturing an infant during the day that there’s no room for mind-spinning wakefulness at night. You savor the sleep you get; you know this pain is momentary in life.

Sleep deprivation isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, but it’s temporary. Your baby needs you. You’re all he or she has in this world. In a few short years, you’ll sleep again. Then you’ll miss the nighttime neediness… because mom guilt and parenthood is twisted like that.