When things are hard

by Lesley on August 28, 2013 · 29 comments

in motherhood,owen

owen crying

The first two weeks with Owen were, well, awesome. My happy hormones carried me through the sleepless nights and it wasn’t uncommon to find me fighting back tears of joy in the early morning light as I nursed him. I reveled in the gifts and cards, the flowers, the sweet cuddles, and the fact he napped ALMOST CONSTANTLY.

Raising two children is easy when one of them sleeps 22 hours a day.

But then Owen woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep. (As in he rarely sleeps during the day. Period.) This wouldn’t be terrible except when babies don’t sleep, they get fussy. Plus, I only have two arms.  It’s really hard to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or use the bathroom when you’re holding a screaming baby.

I’m just going to come out and admit something. This whole raising two kids thing is hard. Like, really hard.  Each week has been harder than the week before. I’m sleep deprived and have no time to myself. Writing this blog post took much, much longer than it normally would. I value productivity, and I can usually get a lot done. These days, I’m not getting much done.

Do you want to know something that’s even harder for me to say? I’m embarrassed, humbled and shameful about where I’m at right now.  

In fact, as much as I’ve known for weeks that I should hop onto this blog space and admit we’re in the trenches, silly things have been holding me back.

I’ve worried you’ll think I’m a whiner.

I’m worried it will seem I’m not grateful for the good and wonderful gift of children.

I’ve worried you’ll think I’m weak.

I’ve worried you’ll wonder why I haven’t figured things out by now—after all, this is our second baby. Shouldn’t we know a few things about sleeping and reflux and gas and nursing?

I’m worried moms of one child will read this and not want to have a second child.

I’ve worried you’ll respond by offering advice about how to fix things, which will just frustrate me because we’ve tried almost everything to get this kid to sleep more and cry less.

Combined with all these worries, I’m also struggling with guilt. Guilt is an emotion I’ve always battled. I’m not paying as much attention to Anna, not loving my husband in the ways I’d like to, and letting Owen cry more than I ever let Anna.

Guilt, guilt and guilt.

Can you see why I’m having such a hard time admitting my struggles publicly? It’s humbling, this parenting thing.

But then, earlier this week, I read a post from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy. And it was EXACTLY what I needed to read.

“So many women are afraid to speak their struggles, for fear of being perceived as grouchy or even shameful. They feel their life is easy, relatively speaking: they have no cause for complaint, not really. Not compared to what others suffer. Or they’re afraid that if they speak up about the hard in their lives, they’ll deny the good that comes with it.”

I decided after reading Anne’s words that I can’t just present the good and happy parts of our life—that’s not fair to anyone. Community is built on authenticity. I’d never want this place to be THE LESLEY SHOW, but I run the risk of it becoming so if I only present one side of my life.

As French blogger Garance Doré said, we put an edited version of ourselves online.

I show a more idealized version of my life and the things I see. I was never trying to show reality, but rather the world as I want to see it and myself as I want to be. So we’re all the same, we edit ourselves, we show the best things, but it’s also sometimes good to say, “Okay, there’s also crap happening and it’s fine.

There are a few things I’m doing to help survive this newborn season. One is making a daily short list of our successes that day, and things I’m grateful for. Some days the list says: Took a long shower / Owen fell asleep on his own and stayed sleeping for an hour!/Jonathan and I had a great spaghetti dinner together / Went to bed early.

I’m also looking at things with a new perspective…

In Anne’s post (which you should read!) she talks about watching an Ironman competition. Anne notes that when an athlete is on the incline, it gets harder before it gets easier.

I realized that right now we’re still on the incline. We’re in the middle of the crazy marathon of newborn days, and we’re not exactly sure when we’ll reach the summit. We know, from doing this before, the summit comes faster than we think. (I’m hoping by the 3 month mark!) But even though we’ve run this type of race, the course is different. Our children are unique people and there are stages and phases with Owen that won’t look like they did with Anna.

When it comes down to it, there’s no need to compare my racecourse to other people’s racecourses. They all have inclines and valleys so I don’t have to be embarrassed when I’m running slower, or taking another water break, or laying comatose at the first aid station.

If you’re in a season of parenting that feels hard, I hope you’ll feel safe to speak your struggles just like I’m learning to do. There’s freedom in being honest. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, a person on the racecourse sidelines will jump in and run with you.

Thanks for running with me.

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26 comments
marisaloper
marisaloper

Lesley I was Facebook stalking and came across your blog. This one - amen sister!! We were blessed with our #2 in may (stole her big brother's birthday actually) and she is an easy baby. I say this not to make you feel bad but to tell you THIS IS THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER DONE. I want this season to be over and I as much as I want to experience all of the joy God has for me in this season, I am struggling. Thanks for being honest. You are not alone!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@marisaloper I can't tell you how much it means that you stopped by and took time to comment. It's nice to hear other mamas say it's hard. (That's not to say I want it to feel hard for you anyone--but just that I feel less alone.) There are many days when I look at the calendar and pine for his 4-5 month mark in hopes it will feel easier then. 

marisaloper
marisaloper

@LesleyM ha! 4-5 month mark?! I'm pining for the 4-5 YEAR mark!! hahaha i'm only sort of kidding. I will say it got much easier after 2.5/3 months but this. is. hard. hang in there and pray for the gospel to be really real because that is the only thing I can offer you (and myself)!

ssawyer
ssawyer

Two is hard!! (We have a 3.5 yr old, 1.5 yr old and are expecting #3 in Feb- I've already started praying because i tend to become a crazy lady when in newborn mode. My mantra last time around became, "Sleep is not my Savior!")   Thank you for your honesty and summit analogy; it is so true that one gift of the second time around is perspective that this crazy season, too, shall pass.  I pray you be able to show yourself, and your husband and kids, much of the Lord's grace in this time.  I also found it helpful, in those moments when I found both children AND myself in tears, that I really can't meet ALL their needs ALL the time and constantly had to pick which storm to enter into first. Thankful HE is the great need- meeter. Having a glass of wine each evening didn't hurt, either.  :)   I've followed your blog for quite some time (my husband and i did campus ministry in China for 7 years up until last year when we returned to the States -- I think you wrote an article for Relevant awhile back on your own trip there that first pointed me to your wonderfully refreshing blog! ) and am wondering why I've taken so long to comment!?  Blessings to your crew of 4!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@ssawyer Oh my goodness-- I am JUST seeing this comment today. Wow- you've been reading all this time! I am so thankful you said hello. I'm sure we'd have lots to talk about if we ever met in person. I wish I could hear more about your time in China. And I'd certainly grill you with parenting questions. I am very hopeful that #3 is your easiest, just as I hope that someday for myself. We'd like another, but I really can't imagine how that will work just yet. Had a glass of wine tonight... and chocolate! Blessings to you guys too. 

san_in_ca
san_in_ca

I literally have no freakin' clue what you're going through (to be honest, because I don't have children .. yet?), but I want to say that you're brave for putting your struggles out there because they're valid and don't diminish the immense luck you also have to have such a beautiful family.

I loved the running analogy btw! 

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@san_in_ca I'm a sucker for running analogies! :) Thanks for your sweet compliments. 

Jenni Dugan
Jenni Dugan

Lesley,

I think about this ALL the time, how Facebook and blogs only show the good side of life and how we all have a tendency to compare and be hard on ourselves. I had a reallllly tough first 4 months with Sawyer. Colic, gas, constant screaming, no sleeping, (he still doesn't nap but we sleep trained at 4 months so he sleeps more at night!) and I definitely got some PPD from all of our struggles. I felt so alone and awful for not appreciating every second with this gorgeous baby we had prayed for, and I was SO hard on myself! One day I shared a comment in Facebook about colic driving me to the edge of sanity, and was shocked when 30 random friends shared that they went through that with their kids! I couldn't believe how much better I felt and why I had tried so hard for so long to paint a picture of new parent bliss instead of trying honesty. It honestly got me through those next few months until life got sunnier and Sawyer became an interactive humanoid instead of a purple ball of anger! I hope this post makes you realize that you're not alone, and you're doing the best you can, and that babies are so hard! And you don't sound ungrateful, any mom understands that sometimes you just have to survive for awhile. Anyways lots of rambling but I remember being in your shoes so clearly (and sometimes I still am!) but hang in there and be kind to yourself! No need to be perfect, my counselor always reminded me that during tough times you just need to try for good enough instead of perfection, and be gentle to yourself! You will get back to a new normal soon! Xoxo Jenni

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@Jenni Dugan Your words mean so much to me, Jenni. Thank you! And thanks for reminding me they do turn more into humans as the months go on. You'd think, since I have a toddler, I'd be reminded daily just how much they grow but in the moment it's hard to believe they'll ever become anything but little balls of neediness. He's starting to smile a lot after I feed him and that is helping to give me joy in him. 

Anna Jordan
Anna Jordan

I'm reading this as Baby2 is hiccuping wildly inside me, and I feel thankful to have friends who are honest and share the truth about their parenting experience. While I'm super terrified that this sweet girl will be a sleepless baby the way Mason was a sleepless baby (and girl, I feel your pain. Mason didn't nap for longer than 20 min until he was 9 months old!), and I worry that she'll be colicky or have reflux or any number of things, I also take comfort in the fact that I'm not doing it alone. We're all parenting alongside each other, in the trenches, running the uphills, catching our breath on the downhills and loving our kids together. xoxo

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@Anna Jordan I can't wait for your little girl to be here. You are a great mama, and I love being "in it" with you. 

alyssabaconliu
alyssabaconliu

Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share! I'm not a parent yet, but I appreciate reading all of these perspectives now so that when I do have kids, I can remind myself that so many strong women before me went through the same thing :) 

ashleegadd
ashleegadd

I am grateful for this post for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of what you admitted regarding your fears of posting these words. I will be the first (or, I guess, the second) person to admit that I often struggle to write about some of my daily struggles because they seem insignificant in a way. I remember when I blogged about needing a c-section with Everett, I was inundated with love and support from readers and friends, and got SO many sweet comments and e-mails from that post. And you know the comment that stuck with me the most? The one that said, "I don't know why you're complaining about needing a c-section. There are so many people who struggle to get pregnant or have sick children. You should be grateful to be having a baby in the first place." I literally OBSESSED over that remark, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't let it impact my writing going forward. I did, and that sucks. Now every time I sit down to write about "the hard things" I find myself debating whether or not I should post it publicly. I hate that I let her words have so much power over MY words, but I did. So, thanks for keeping it real and talking about the hard things. You are inadvertently holding me accountable to do the same. Love you, friend!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@ashleegadd Ouch. I can see why that comment stuck with you. Something I learned when Jonathan was going through cancer is this: my hard experience does not negate your hard experience. So many people would say to me, "I shouldn't complain about this because you're life is so much harder right now." But if people didn't tell me about the hard things they were going through, I would have felt even more alone in my grief. Keep writing about the hard mom moments, Ash! 

Andrea Zundel
Andrea Zundel

Thanks for sharing honestly, Lesley.  It's a gift.  I find perfection completely intimidating, but the exposure of imperfection to be a sigh of relief, somehow.  Thanks for the sigh.  You are a wonderful mom, imperfections and all!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@Andrea Zundel That's a high compliment coming from a supermom like yourself. xoxo

KatieAtSquawCreek
KatieAtSquawCreek

Yep.  You are so right.  Parenting any number of children is hard, but immensely harder without sleep (and I've blogged about that before, too.  I had a reflux baby and ppd.  Then, I had a constipated baby who never slept.  And I have hypothyroidism that gives me debilitating fatique anyway.)


But, I absolutely ADORE the names of your children.  I love vowel names - Adam and Isaac are my boys. :)

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@KatieAtSquawCreek Yes! Exactly! It's the sleep deprivation that can really throw a woman over the edge. Whenever a stranger says to me, "Enjoy these days--they go by too fast" I want to say, "Obviously they went by so fast, and you were so sleep deprived, that you don't remember them clearly." That's not to say I don't cherish these months in their own way, but they are certainly tough. 

kelseywilliams
kelseywilliams

As a mom of one child, I am worried about having another. I had a hard, hard time with the first and can't imagine what it's like to have two. I thank you for being honest because it helps me process and set realistic expectations for the future.

I'm at home with a grumpy kid today - she's cutting new teeth. :( I'm so so lucky in how much she sleeps when she doesn't feel good, but it's still really hard! Hope you have a great day!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@kelseywilliams Well, the good news is that every kid is totally different...and even pregnancy and childbirth is different too. Some women have a similar time with each child, but I know so many gals who have very, very different experiences. Maybe your second will be a piece of cake! :) 

Feel better, Rooney!

tim_fall
tim_fall

Here's my parental math, Lesley: when two parents have two kids, the parents are outnumbered. But you can be really sure that being real about all this is not going to do anything but let us see that you're also being normal.

Blessings,

Tim

Christina K
Christina K

I've been thinking about you! Missing your words, but realizing it's probably tougher these days to schedule you time, let alone write. Even with one child I can absolutely relate. For me, it was the opposite, the first two weeks after Benjamin was born was the hardest. I was dealing with so many emotions and ups and downs, I didn't even realize what was happening. People would come to visit and just marvel at how perfect he was, and I wanted to feel the same but I just felt so empty. Looking back now, I definitely had the baby blues, but I was so ashamed to admit it. I even remember one of the first times I opened up about it to someone and I will never forget the blank stare, she didn't get it. But then I opened up again, and found the comfort I needed because that someone else had gone through it too. I think it's difficult to admit when times are hard and for a number of reasons, but as women and mothers we need it. We need honesty for help - whether it's advice or just a shoulder - and so we can help one another. In such a public space I can see why it would be especially difficult, but I'm sure you have a number of readers who are taking comfort in your words because they are experiencing similar situations. Hang in there, lean on those who you're close to and take comfort that you're doing everything you can even when it might not feel like it. Big hugs!

LesleyM
LesleyM moderator

@Christina K Thanks, Christina! Can't believe your little guy is almost 1! I saw his birthday invite at Ashlee's house. So, so cute. 

Michelleackerperez
Michelleackerperez

Oh, Lesley. I get it. Funny how in hard seasons we think if we share it, then it will deny the good. I think having a newborn is hard....period. Whether you have just one or three or five. Hang in there. Thanks for being honest.

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