This has been an incredibly hard week on the mom-front. My husband has been working an insane amount of forced overtime where we have very limited contact, my youngest developed a nasty stomach bug (in the middle of the H-E-B produce section while my 3-year-old was running around like a mad person smelling and taste-testing all the produce), my oldest had a horrible cough that kept him and I up multiple nights in a row, having to deal with rude customer service people on the phone (twice) while trying to handle normal adult stuff with screaming kids in the background destroying every square inch of our house....you know, the usual.
Last night, in the middle of cleaning up more vomit, I asked my husband if he had to work the next day, daring him with a death-glare to say "yes". When he ashamedly said he did, I immediately unleashed my disapproval, lashing out at him and those responsible for taking him away from me. I started telling him how hard this has been on me and that I didn't think I could take another day. He let me finish and then, in his usual gentle manner, said, "I know babe. This is hard on all of us." I realized immediately that I hadn't even taken time to think about how hard this was on him. He was the one getting up at 4:30 every morning, working 12 hour shifts in the Texas heat for the 7th day in a row, coming home to a complaining wife and sick, fussy kids that he had to help feed, bathe and put to bed with only minutes of down time before he collapsed himself.
All of a sudden my eyes were opened to my pity party that I'd been wallowing in all week (and much longer, actually) and I realized that this was why it had been such a hard week. Not because of the circumstances, although they were a little harder than usual, but because of my attitude. I started thinking about all of those who have it harder than me. I started thinking about the mom on Facebook who has been living in a hospital room with her 8-month-old almost since the day she was born with a rare heart defect. I started thinking of military wives who have to send their husbands off, many times not knowing where they're going and not knowing if they'll ever come home, going days without any contact at all. Or the single mom having to do it all by herself, day after day. Or those longing to be a mommy, but battling infertility and loss, years on end. When I think about my problems in light of these women, and so many more, I am changed. My perspective of my life and my attitude is changed.
But the thing about it is, being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, and there are no rule books that teach you how to do it. Every day is a new, harder challenge than the day before. Mom instinct is not really something that has come naturally to me. I have second-guessed (and googled) almost every decision I've ever made as a mom. And just when I start to think I might have made a good decision as a parent, someone posts an article on Facebook telling me that it was wrong and that my child was going to have long-term brain damage and probably grow up to be an addict because I...let them sleep in their bed, let them sleep in my bed, let them cry while I went to the bathroom, sternly told them "no-no" for grabbing a knife out of the dish-washer, made them sit in time-out because they slammed baby brother's hands in the toy box, (fill-in-the-blank and insert eye-roll).
Yes, being a mommy is hard. But I realized this week, the thing that often makes it so much harder is my attitude. Attitude is everything! Somewhere along the way, and I don't think it's just me, our culture has decided that everything needs to be easy. And, when it's not, we start blaming others and feeling sorry for ourselves, oftentimes exacerbating our problems. I teach new mommies and daddies in birth class how much our mind and our attitude about birth can affect our labors. Sure, labor is hard, and I am the first to admit that. But when we are stressed and fearful, we release stress hormones that can actually make it harder, slowing the labor process and even reversing dilation, leading to the need for medical interventions. I know this is a hard concept to grasp but when we are able to really shift our thinking about labor from thoughts of how hard it is, how much it hurts, etc...to how natural it is, that our body was meant for it, that we ARE strong enough, and that the pain has purpose...then oftentimes (not always but oftentimes) it starts to become more manageable. And I must mention that sometimes we need help in this process where our attitude about labor is concerned. There are many tools that we talk about in class that can help a laboring mom do this, from having a good supportive team, relaxation, training in different comfort measures, different laboring positions, etc...
And what an incredible preparation lesson labor is for being a mommy. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's painful. But I was meant for this role and I am strong enough! And the pain, the challenges, and the hardships are all a natural part of this life with so much reward at the end of the day.