I don’t know if it was the exhaustion of having two, the four months of postpartum bleeding, and/or what seemed like the never-ending Detroit winter, but I was a hot mess after having my son. And I’m not sure if it was my mom’s battle with cancer, my close friends’ and family members’ struggle to conceive, or simply my big ego, but I pretended I was just fine.
Mind over matter, I told myself and just kept on going. Well, that is, until I couldn’t go on this way any longer…
You’d think that maybe my dizzy spells while driving (with two children!!!) would’ve concerned me or perhaps maybe even my constant stomachache would’ve triggered some concern. Nope. Instead, it took three words (and a little more clarification) from my three-year-old daughter for that me to snap back to this me again:
“Are you happy?” she asked a couple months ago, right around when my son posed for a picture with his six-month baby board.
“What do you mean, baby girl?” I replied, confused.
“Are you happy today, Mom?” she asked again, this time holding my face between her Play-Doh-smelling hands.
“Of course I’m happy, sweetie!” I responded, thinking this “scene” must have occurred on a TV show she had watched earlier in the day− or something?
“Let me see your happy face then!” she insisted.
I smiled, still extremely lost.
“I love your happy face so much, Mom!” she said, grinning back. “It makes me so happy. Can you just be happy all of the time?”
…the worst, right? Yep, it stung. Yes, it made me sob. But yeah, I totally needed to hear that.
It was then while lying on her purple bed sheets and holding her teddy bear when I realized she hadn’t seen much of that face lately. Was I unhappy? Not at all. But was I feeling myself? Definitely not, which made sense as to why she didn’t think I was acting like me.
Looking back on it now, I was literally drained those months. Like all new moms, I wasn’t sleeping much. I wasn’t able to nap either like many mothers with small children. It was not rare for me to look at a clock at 3 p.m. and realize I didn’t take the time to eat anything all day, let alone drink even one glass of water.
In the past, I had always felt like Eleanor Brownn’s quote “Self-care is not selfish; you cannot serve from an empty vessel.” was referring to massages or weekend-getaways, which I thought was a little ridiculous, especially for a mom of little ones. After having my son though, this quote has actually become my motto.
For the first time in my life, I started prioritizing water, food, and sleep over a clean house and a completed to-do list for work. Within only a few days, my bleeding stopped, and although it took a few weeks to get back into my normal routine, I would constantly catch myself smiling, something I’ll never again take for granted.
Neither my kiddos nor I deserved those “off” six months, but at the same time, I wouldn’t have wanted them to see a fake-happy me either. Over the years, we will all go through challenging times, some that may, unfortunately, last a while. Nevertheless, this conversation with my daughter proved not only how much our children need us but really how much we, as moms, thrive because of them.