Strong Like a Mother

Nights are always the hardest.

It’s been a long day. You wake up before the sun does with tired eyes. You change your crying baby and put her to your breast, looking at her with eyes full of wonder and a heart full of love.

You put her back down and you make a choice: Do I start my day or get more sleep? Sometimes you choose sleep. Some days, you get up and make a cup of coffee and read in silence. Or you hop on the treadmill or Peloton and start your day off on “the right foot.” Most days, you choose sleep, because you can always exercise later. You can get that quiet time to yourself later. You are exhausted.

You are exhausted because even when you are sleeping, you are not sleeping. Your ears are always listening to the baby sleeping beside you. Is she breathing? Is she crying? Is she hungry? Does she need me? Or your mind races. Is my baby going to die? Am I going to die? What if I died? She wouldn’t remember me. I’d be nothing to her. Toss. Turn. Toss. Turn.

If you choose sleep, you wake up 30-45 minutes later and get dressed. You feed the cats, make coffee, and head back upstairs to log on for work. Throughout the day, you answer to many people: boss, friends, family, husband, nanny, baby. You put their needs first. You forget to drink water. You forget to eat. Luckily you have a husband to remind you to do those things and who brings you food. You breastfeed your baby in-between meetings and tasks. You are exhausted.

When work is over, you head downstairs and take care of your baby. You laugh at her giggles and smile big at her smiles. You make dinner and clean up after. You change that load of laundry you forgot you put in the washer 12 hours before. You wipe down the counters and the knobs and every surface, because your 4-month-old baby has already been sick three times, and you’re afraid. You pick up around the house, after the cats, after your husband, after yourself. You and your husband are such a good team but you often feel alone.

It is early evening, and your baby is fussy. It is too early for bedtime, so you do what you can to calm her down. You play, you read, you rock, you walk, you sing. You are exhausted.

You bring your baby upstairs for a bath. You scrub your baby and watch her kick and squeal because she loves the bath. You splash, you sing, you smile, you dance. You are exhausted.

But you still take care of her. You put her pajamas on, bring her into her nursery, and give her a bottle. When she’s done, you sing a little as you put her down to sleep.

You put her down and you make a choice: Do I have some time to myself or do I go to sleep? Sometimes you choose to shower and go to sleep. Some days you change into your workout clothes at 8:30 p.m. and go for a run on the treadmill because it’s the only time you have to do this. Your body is tired, but you are tired of hating your body. You are exhausted.

Some nights you choose to sit on the couch. And that’s OK. But sometimes, it’s hard to tell yourself that. Sometimes, the dark thoughts creep in and you cannot stop them. You are a failure. You are nothing. You are fat. You are ugly. You are incompetent. You cannot do this.

Nights are always the hardest.

Motherhood is hard. You know you made this choice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be tired. That you can’t complain. Society makes you feel that way. Makes you feel guilty. You just have to remind yourself that you are strong. Strong like a mother.

3 thoughts on “Strong Like a Mother

  1. This was a beautiful piece of writing that really just…hits to the core. My boy is 14 mos now, and I can promise you with my whole heart that it gets easier. (For us, it was around 6 months that he really started to get fun/easier.) You’re still in the thick of it, still in the survival stages of babyhood. I chose sleep 90% of the time, and I don’t regret it one single bit. This is such a short period in their lives — laundry can wait, cleaning can wait, chores can wait. Do what YOU have to do to survive. If that means sleeping instead of working out, then sleep. The treadmill/bike/weights/whatever will be there later. So will the dishes/the dust/the crumbs on the floor. Enjoy your daughter when she’s this little, even if it feels a little like pouring from an empty cup sometimes. I wish/hope that I could give you the boost you need to get through the week. I understand 100% how you feel. BTW, those intrusive thoughts are the absolute worst. You are not a failure. You are not ugly. You are not fat.

    You are a mom.

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