About two weeks after Ellerie was born, a mom friend of mine posted a photo of pancakes on Instagram. I remember thinking - HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?! The photographer had a few kiddos. Not only was she able to raise them but she was able to make pancakes to feed them. I wasn't jealous, exactly. I felt instead like I was watching a magic show. You're not jealous of the magician who stands on stage and pulls a rabbit out of his hat. You're in a state of awe and disbelief.
I didn't get it.
You see, I was deep in newborn. Deep in the middle of the mess where yes, of course, I loved the baby, but I was also struggling. I couldn't add it up. I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't know how I was ever going to balance having a life with having a child. I had no idea how my story would play out. It was, at the moment, impossible.
Those early weeks were hard. It would be easy to blame c-section recovery or the fact that Paul was deployed but honestly, I think I would have dealt with this overwhelming panic regardless. It was a tough transition. Oh man, was it tough. I cried everyday. And not just minor tears, but real, panicky tears. I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into and I was worried that I would never get out.
That sounds so dramatic! Especially now, thirteen weeks in. I want to go back and hug that version of myself. I want to tell her it's going to be okay - that it will be so much better than okay. She wouldn't believe me, of course, she's wallowing too deep. But I still want to let her know I'm rooting for her.
A friend of mine, who knew I was having a hard time, sent me a link to a blog post from another mother that discussed how difficult the first few days are. It was helpful except that it said things started to look better at ten days. That ten days is considered "normal" for baby blues. Quick addition in my head told me I had long passed the ten day window.
This, obviously, gave me more reason to panic.
But, thank God, the tide began to turn. I can pinpoint the exact day that my spiral started to twist up instead of down. It was a Wednesday morning. Ellerie was a day shy of four weeks old. My phone rang and when I answered it, it was a girl calling from Etsy. I had totally forgotten, but I had agreed via email to chat over the phone about my experience using Etsy and my thoughts on the platform.
The girl on the line asked if now was a good time.
I shrugged because no time felt like a good time, but yes, I could talk. I jotted a note on scratch paper to Paul (it was that in-between time where he was home from deployment and hadn't yet started at work) that I would be a half hour or so and he took the baby into another room. And then, I stood in my kitchen and for twenty-five minutes, I talked "shop." We discussed what I loved and didn't like about Etsy. We talked about how I had transitioned out and into my own self-hosted shop site. We talked about newsletters and customer loyalty. We discussed fees and price points.
In those twenty-five minutes I saw the spark of something. During that phone call I remembered that I could do other things in addition to being mom. I saw that I would do other things in addition to being a mom.
Later that night, Paul and I went to dinner and we talked while the baby slept soundly in the carseat next to us. We talked about what sort of pizzas we could make next. We chatted about ways we could fix up the backyard. We made a list of restaurants in the area we were excited to check out. Suddenly, I could picture a future that didn't just involve getting a baby to sleep. I could see something besides breastfeeding filling my days.
It took 27 days for me to see more light than dark. I still cried after that. I still had tough days after that. But overall, the mood was shifted. I was getting through it. We were all getting through it. I could imagine thriving again instead of just surviving. Each day and night since has gotten a bit easier as what we have really needed is time.
Motherhood knocked me over. It took me by surprise. I felt a much deeper, fiercer love than I have ever known. But in turning over so much love, I felt myself get a little hollow. Prior to Ellerie, I may have thought that I worked for the money. Or that I baked bread and decorated my house for the blog. I may have thought that I ran to burn calories. Or that I made pancakes for something to eat.
But when every second of my time those early weeks was devoted to the baby, I learned that I do all of those things because I love them too. I have found my passions in making stuff and writing and even in running. I need them to not just make me feel like me, but to keep me whole. And I need to be whole for this little one. I need to be whole for Paul. I am a happier mama, wife and human when I am.
As anticipated, my schedule is different now. My days run at a completely different pace and sometimes this drives me crazy. But I get it. It's taking time but I have begun to grasp that I can be a good mama and be a good me. I love being a mama and being me. I respect that it's a juggling act and I see the value of the juggle. I understand that I have to continue to work for both.
On Sunday, we made pancakes. I mixed the batter and Paul made coffee. For the first time ever, we enjoyed breakfast as a family of three at the table. Ellerie grinned at us from her bunny chair, delighted as always to be a part of the group. I grinned back, feeling so grateful for her and for the passing of time. My heart is so very full.
And the pancakes were amazing. Well worth the twelve week wait.