Before Eleanor, I had frequently heard moms talk about how drastically having a baby had changed their lives - how they can't make dinner or get the housework done or take a shower. How they don't seem to have time for anything or for themselves. How they don't leave the house for weeks.
I would nod my head out of politeness, while wondering what they were talking about. Perhaps they exaggerated, or were pessimists. Maybe they didn't want to do these things. Or they had very challenging babies. I wondered, because that has not been my experience of motherhood. Of course I wouldn't imagine saying that I have never missed a shower in 4 years. Or that I've made a homemade dinner almost every single night since my babies were a week old. Or that rarely a day goes by that we don't go somewhere. Baby goes in the swing/Moby/Ergo/playmat, and they would generally be happy while I did what needed to be done. I've learned many single-handed maneuvers and I can breast-feed while walking around and cooking in the kitchen. Somehow, I have always gotten it done - whatever it is that I feel I want done. And I have not been able to relate to some of the common complaints of parenthood.
Until now. Now, I have this precious, beautiful, baby girl that I absolutely adore. This tiny little creature that I wanted so badly, and who is every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. And sweet little Ellie is so happy and content and smiley, except when things aren't exactly to her liking. And the growing list of dis-likings according to Eleanor include:
-That blasted swing that the cat thinks is it's bed- well, the cat can have it.
-Mama using the bathroom. Or bathing. Or ever leaving me for more than approximately 30 seconds. Which obviously might as well be forever. All alone. In a foreign land. And tigers might eat me. Wail!
-Sleeping, unless held by or in immediate proximity to mama. That's dangerous. Also, what if I get hungry?
-Baby carriers of any kind. Especially the Ergo (unless I'm asleep, and then she sneaks me in thinking I don't know. Oh, but I know, and will remind her of my displeasure as soon as I awake). Why does she keep trying to put me in those straight jackets?
-Mama sitting still while holding me. That's why she has two gliders and legs for that matter! That silly mama.
-That man that mama keeps handing me to...he smiles and seems quite nice. But I'd rather look at him while being held by mama.
-Head rubs. Squirm.
-The crib, which is really unnecessary when I have a mama.
Now I know. I know what all of these women are talking about. This crazy newborn phase where it seems like I can't do anything. Except sit (not still), holding Eleanor. And drinking coffee. And eating snacks (lots and lots of snacks.) And just being. We do leave the house quite a bit, because it's easier (and generally more fun) than staying home all day. But when we are home...
I do the very bare minimum as far as anything that isn't completely necessary. My withering garden causes tears to well up with disappointment when I pay it a rare visit. And my kitchen smells pretty funky most days. Sometimes I just want to pee alone. Or blog. The other night, after an especially exhausting day of keeping up with Dmitri and Damon with Eleanor in tow, I sat in my chair with slumped, aching, shoulders and cried to David. "I need more time alone. I need more time with friends. I need more time to clean the house. I need more time with you. I need more time to cook food. I need more one-on-one time with the boys. And I need more sleep....It's not just one area that's lacking, it's everything."
I do feel overwhelmed sometimes. Especially after a long day on little sleep. (And I do need to make sure taking care of myself is a priority.)
There is nothing wrong with feeling those feelings. I acknowledge them. I cry, or laugh, or meditate. And then, I let them go. I let go of my unrealistic ideals about having a perfect house with perfect meals and me dressed in perfectly coordinating outfits while completing a massive home renovation and then blogging about it all. And I feel such relief.
And then, once I let all of that go, I can do the maximum living and loving. I sit in my rocking chair, watching the boys play at my feet (sometimes I sit on the rug with them). Reading books together on the sofa. Singing songs with them. Being present. Intently listening. Having Eleanor has really changed how I live life. It hasn't been a new revelation. But it's been what's pushed me to take my hopes of connecting more with my children, living each day slowly, and it's allowed me to just be. Be with my children, and fully experience life while letting go of all of the distractions outside of meeting our basic needs.
I am doing what I want to be doing right now, even if it means eating a lot of pizza and Mexican. Because there will be time for big home-cooked meals, a perfectly clean and organized house, new house projects, beautiful gardens, and daily blog posts. But my three little ones? They will never be this little again. This day will go by, and it will never come back. How will they remember it, and how will I?
Today, I am going to sit in my rocking chair, smiling back at this... and feeling so thankful for this tiny little girl that's made me slow down and love more. Especially when it's overwhelming.