On Clare’s 2nd birthday, I find myself reflecting on what a different place I am than I was a year ago. Yesterday I became officially certified as a Childbirth Educator. Last year I was wondering how I was ever going to finish the daunting task of all that coursework. Perhaps this is also because I am reflecting as I read through submissions for my anthology, The Postpartum Year, and I am remembering how hard those early days were. The uncertainty, the strain. These stories are transporting me back to that time, and also making me entirely grateful for what a better place I am in, mentally and physically.
Her birthday falls in the space between two weekends that I am going through the Yoga Assistant program at the yoga studio that has quickly become such a big space in my life over the last several months. On the 2nd day of the program, our teachers asked us to raise our hands if we felt like we were good at self care and good at balance, and I didn’t raise mine. I’m not really sure why. I feel like I still question whether I am good at those things, or that I feel like somehow I am not a good enough mother if I AM good at those things. (Which is ludicrous, I know.) But in a culture that values busy, bottom lines, overworking, super moms and perfection, it’s really hard to put your hand up and say “YES! I’m good at self care,” without feeling weirdly guilty.
But when I really take a good look at what my life looks like right now, I would say I AM pretty good at those things. And part of that is because in these first two years of parenthood, I’ve learned that I HAVE to be for the sake of my mental health. If you've been reading for a while or you know me, you’ve heard me talk so many times on this blog about how a mental breakdown following the cessation of birth control caused me to turn my life upside down and rebuild with a better foundation in place. And because of that, I’ve learned to prioritize self-care, to sleep, to meditate, to do yoga as much as possible, to not neglect exercise, to get regular massages, to read, write and pursue passions that make me happy. To get up earlier than my family to journal, or just drink my coffee and read The Skimm in peace. I don’t do these things out of selfishness. I do these things because I am a better mother, wife, friend and person if I’m doing them. I do them because I know – unfortunately from much experience – that if I’m NOT doing them – I’m at a huge risk for mental health spiral.
Am I perfect with them? Of course not. There are weeks that I get too many nights in a row of less than 6 hours of sleep or I don’t get to yoga enough. And I FEEL it. I get anxious. I snap at Chris and at Clare. It’s all bad.
But while her birthday comes in the midst of a very busy season for me, wrapping up birth and lactation certifications plus this yoga program, looking at her 2nd birthday compared to her 1st, it no longer looks like “Holy crap we survived that year” – it looks like “Wow, we are managing and sometimes even thriving with where everything is at right now.” Of course a big portion of that is owed to the childcare help of my parents - couldn’t do it without you mom & dad - and a bit of relaxation and confidence on our part as parents, and a whole lot of self-awareness on my part. Not to mention Chris currently having a set schedule (which likely won’t last after the next few months, sadly)
Clare is a big, brilliant, bright, ball of energy and personality these days. She is exploding with language and understanding, which is both magical and utterly exhausting. They say a huge part of parenting is that the second you get comfortable, everything changes. And I’d say that’s pretty much been our experience so far. But it’s nice, at least in this snapshot moment of time, to feel like we are in a sweet place of comfort and relative balance.
Happy birthday my sweet girl, mama & dada love you so much.