Monday, February 9, 2015

Three Babies

I heard so many cautions, warnings, tips, and concerns before having Molly. All of the wonderful advice was quickly followed by congratulations and well-wishes, but the cautions always came first. Even before I was old enough to have children, I remember my dad saying that three was the hardest, and once you had three you could have nine, it really didn't make a huge difference. I felt like I'd heard it all.

I also agreed with it all. I had babysat. I had dozens of nieces and nephews. I had a husband starting medical school and the vision of me doing it all by myself. Just me. It'd be hard.

The thing about people telling you it will be hard is that, it's still going to be hard. Whether you agree and are prepared or you are winging it, it's still hard. But different hard. It's like when people tell you marriage is hard. You can never truly understand until you've been married. And then you start to realize that even though you've been married two years, it's different than another person who's been married for seven years. Or once you've been married for five years and feel much more advanced into the field of marriage, it has nothing on those who have been married forty years.

I feel much the same way about motherhood. The first child, obviously, brings the start of a whole new world. Not because you can't tote a child along on all of your adventures, or because it is so drastically hard (I didn't find having Ruth that hard to adjust to, or that difficult, or that earth-shattering) but it still changes your life. You are no longer a couple. You are a family. Even if you have a go-with-the-flow baby, some changes have to be made. With the second, the changes may be more minor, but they are still there. Two carseats in the car. Two high chairs at the table. (On second thought, if you weren't crazy like us you might not have two of those things simultaneously, but I'm just going to go with it.) Nap schedules that might not coordinate.

The third. The much anticipated, much cautioned about third baby. For me, it has been hard. I've been meaning to write this post for months. Several of my friends keep asking me about the change to three kids. It's really hard to say how I feel about this change. Having our third child corresponded with moving to a drastically bigger city than I have ever experienced, 2,000 miles away from my comfortable home, quitting my job, my husband starting his first year at a very rigorous dual degree medical school program, and I hadn't even figured out where to go grocery shopping so I could speak to someone in English!!!! Oh yeah, AND my oldest had just turned three. Three in three years.

Much like marriage, I anticipated it being hard but I didn't know HOW it would be hard. I thought it would be hard to go grocery shopping. Well, it took a couple of times going, a few 'I-timed-that-so-wrong' mistakes, and then it was just like normal. It didn't feel like I had loads more laundry, or not enough arms to corral everyone, or a lot of the everyday things that I had worried about. It's the lack of sleep and lack of alone time and the sudden lack of any ability to keep up on any world subject outside of my babies. All of those things, and so many more things, meant that-with a suddenness-I had to take a good, hard look inside my heart and realize how incredibly imperfect I was--no matter how great I was at juggling--and submit my whole self to my Heavenly Father's will. So that He could help.

Sleep. Lack of sleep. Oh goodness, the tricks this plays on me. (Colic, babies teething, kids taking no naps, kids cutting down on naps, etc.) Then the way that plays with your stamina. The exhaustion it leads to.  The everyday attitude I have when tired(not a good attitude, I can tell ya). When you have three babies that won't sleep, there's really just no cure. No way to suddenly feel invigorated and ready to tackle the day. But prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

So....I've spent the last six months adjusting my attitude to what I can handle on low sleep and still be the happy mom I want to be. I basically took everything that I deemed 'necessary-for-survival' and threw it out the window and started again.

It has it's moments, it's days. I feel like, more than any other time in my life, I have looked the ugly parts of myself in the eye and we now battle regularly. I have a much stronger and much more sincere desire to be a specific kind of mom, a specific kind of woman--one who is aware and happy and listens to the spirit throughout the day to best mother her children.

Basically, when people asked me 'what is hard about being a mother of three?' I thought: learning all the ugly things about myself. I juggled a job, two kids, a husband who worked and was in school, babysitting, teaching piano...without too much of a problem. I had my meltdowns and it definitely wasn't easy. But I didn't get to know myself quite so starkly as I did this go-round. I am figuring out how to be the best woman I can be. I thought I was a selfless mother, but for some reason, having my third child has repeatedly brought an image to my mind:

My mom, getting ready for church, looking gorgeous as always (she is such a classy lady), and wearing a dress that I thought was less than beautiful. It had 80's shoulder pads. I always wondered why she still wore that dress. As I grew older, and less stuck on current fashion, I saw the beauty in it. The beauty it held when it was new and trendy and thought that maybe my mom still saw it that way. But now, I think about that dress and I see a whole new kind of beauty. A selfless beauty. A woman who was so devoted to her children, she didn't even think twice about putting on that old dress. In fact, she might not have even noticed.  It was because she was a mother, first and foremost and always. It was her definition. She wasn't balancing herself and motherhood, she was motherhood and she was herself because that is God's intention.  But I didn't understand it until now. Even with two kids I had time to care about me, even to be selfish. I've realized--that's the incredible wealth of womanhood. The selflessness. The making of something so much bigger than yourself. Isn't that why the Relief Society is such an incredible force for good? We are born with a charity that is unending, but it has to be cultivated. Some mornings that means giving your kids dry cereal in a cup while you huddle on the couch because you might have had two hours of sleep that night and it's better to snuggle your kids than to try your patience with cooking breakfast. Other times that means wearing a dress with shoulder pads long past it's time. More times, it means holding your tongue before you scold a tender child. Breathing instead of yelling when the fifth glass of milk in one meal is spilled and the baby is screaming while you mop the floor. It's so much more than that-even though it's hard to see. Maybe other mother's figure out that depth and incredible, heart-hurting love before they have their third child. But for me, it took having three. Because it's so dang hard, it's inexplicably worth it. I am a mother. It's my definition. I'm not lost in it, I'm completed in it. And I'll happily go a little crazy with all those other wonderful mothers out there because it's all God's plan. He makes the very best plans.

That's my input on having three children.


Lindsey said...

Great post, Lindsay. I've been struggling with feeling like I've lost my identity. I can't really do anything for myself and I've had a hard time recently. I'm still trying to figure out how to change that but it is nice that all other mother's struggle with a lot of the same things. Thanks for posting this and good luck! I can't imagine having a third right now! You go girl!

Sara said...

I'm feeling a flavor of your feelings right now with two kids, and I can see how three kids could create these thoughts and feelings. And amazingly-this post doesn't make me want to avoid a third child. :) (But at the same time, I'm glad my kids aren't quite as close in age as yours. :) )

The Haws Family said...

I'm glad it wasn't discouraging, I didn't mean it to be at all! I love having three and I love seeing the improvements I'm making-I wouldn't want to rewind these past six months, because right now feels so good-but I wouldn't change them ever. It doesn't discourage me from wanting more either, ha ha, amazingly! :)

Carlie said...

Beautifully said Lindsay! Thanks for being an inspiration to us other mothers of 3 out there.

Bridget Cunningham said...

Love! I will have to write post about what it's like to suddenly gain this mother identity with twins:)

Aleesha Burke said...

I love you!