This month I am honored to share another Mama Story, this time from a mama who I’ve known for nearly 10 years ago! Of course, we weren’t mamas at the time…
Angie is a fellow health researcher, we met in Los Angeles while we were both students. I was completing my first training fellowship with the US Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), and Angie was working on a variety of maternal health projects as part of her doctoral work with the infamous Dr. Michael Lu, now head administrator of the MCHB. She was a public health kindred spirit, and over the years, we sporadically kept in touch.
But it was reading some of her musings after the birth of her first child that made me realize that even the women who seem to be juggling a million balls in the air and making it look easy are…well…human! And all humans have ups and downs. Especially during the transition to motherhood.
Angie’s writing is that mix of vulnerability, motivation, and camaraderie that has you nodding your head as you read. I hope you enjoy her unique take on motherhood as a mixtape.
From the beginning of my motherhood journey, I have enjoyed the flexible schedule that comes with an academic position.
This flexible schedule allows me to structure my week to where I can spend the majority of my time with Micaela and Mateo, the two little people who mean the most to me.
It is these moments with the two of them — at home, in the park, at the museum, at the grocery store, at the library, in the car or wherever — that I cherish the most, because it’s just me with them.
Mami and me and me too.
On occasion, friends, family, and sometimes strangers will tell me they don’t know how I do it.
That I am amazing.
That I make it look easy with two.
Sometimes, I truly am proud of myself.
I embody those words, radiating empowerment as I wear my twenty-something pound baby and hoist my thirty-something pound toddler in the air to sit her in the shopping cart.
And when asked if I need help to unload my groceries, “oh no, I got it, thanks”, I say with a gaze that would make even the most righteous say that I slay.
Oh, but let me tell you, there are other times.
Those times where I am so exhausted.
Exhausted as in I don’t remember how old I am.
My body aches, my hair hurts… is that even possible?
And then I remember when Micaela was just a few months old.
I was a mother of one, and I used to wonder how on Earth do single mothers do it?
How do mothers with more than one child do it?
How do mothers with a real 9-5 schedule do it?
Well, we all just do it, without a Nike endorsement.
We all have our own unique circumstances, different family dynamics, different babies and different postpartum experiences that shape the beginning of our journey into motherhood.
We don’t become the mothers we want to be over night, it is an ongoing process of growth.
We all have our own instincts and learn what works best for our family.
When I had Micaela I became a mother of one who had a peaceful incredible birth, but who had not anticipated the post partum recovery.
I did not anticipate not being able to sit properly or being able to walk at a regular pace for a few weeks.
I did not anticipate the importance of getting a good latch, the engorgement, and just how much time a newborn can spend at the breast.
While I was pregnant with Mateo, I wanted to become a mother of two who physically and mentally prepared herself not only for childbirth but for what came after as well.
I made sure to have my placenta encapsulated.
I had and knew how to use various baby carriers, wraps, and slings.
I knew that I would spend the bulk of my time breastfeeding.
I am still a work in progress but becoming a mother of two has been easier for me than becoming a mother of one.
Mainly because I anticipated a lot of things, but also because my body was kinder to me the second time around.
The breastfeeding experience from round one paid off in round two, so I didn’t have to relearn techniques.
I was able to sit and walk around like normal right away.
There were plenty of things that I didn’t anticipate though.
I didn’t know that the hardest part about the newborn phase with Mateo would be missing Micaela and feeling guilty that I could no longer give her my undivided attention.
But seeing how much she loves her little brother and watching them play together fills my heart with so much love.
So that eases my guilt because I know he is the greatest gift I could ever give her.
So after two postpartum experiences, if I were to make a mixtape using song titles to reference what I learned about the first few months with a new baby (because who doesn’t like mixtapes!) this would be it:
1. Be Real. Kid Ink ft. DeJ Loaf
The art of keeping it real should be applied to yourself and with others.
I really wish I could be a better sister, daughter, cousin, granddaughter, friend, professor, researcher, runner, yogi, etc but right now I am content just trying to be the best mother I can be.
I’m sure there are mothers who are able to maintain their level of productivity, their relationships with others, even their pre-mom identity – I’m just not one of them and I am okay with that.
Coming to terms with that really helps to set realistic expectations for myself.
Similarly, it’s helpful to tell friends and family what you can and can’t do, if you are even open to having visitors in the first month.
For some parents, meeting up with friends for dinner within the first few months may not be a big deal, whereas for others it is.
Everyone’s situation is different.
It’s also helpful to tell others exactly what you want, particularly when they ask you what they can do to help.
Which leads to me song number two…
2. What About Your Friends. TLC.
Ahhh the elusive village.
Sure, we’ve all heard it takes a village to raise a child, but it definitely takes a village to support that child’s mother.
I really don’t know what I would do or what I would have done without so many wonderful people in my life.
I have friends that are lactation consultants.
Friends that I can talk to about attachment parenting, raising multiethnic children, balancing mom life with academia, friends that live on different continents that will read my long winded texts and respond with enthusiasm.
Friends who are child free and genuinely interested in having a play date at a park.
Friends who have us over to do a photoshoot so the only pictures I have with my children aren’t just selfies.
I may not get to see everyone as often as I would like, but the nice thing about technology is text messaging has helped to keep me connected and not isolated from the people I love.
There are certain messages that stay with me, the power of written words: trust your instincts, you’ve been preparing for this moment [motherhood] for many lifetimes, motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love.
3. Changes. Tupac.
I haven’t even been a mother for three years and I already feel like time is flying by.
And let me tell you, I cry for everything.
I cry because Mateo is getting his first tooth and he won’t have his toothless smile anymore.
I cry because Micaela doesn’t need me to fall asleep anymore.
They change and grow so much and I cry a lot.
I am lucky that I get to spend a lot of time with my children, but even then I wish I had more time.
The first few months they are incredibly dependent on you and it’s challenging because you are juggling that with trying to find who you are as a mother.
But once those months are gone, you can’t get them back.
I’ve heard so many mothers say they would give anything to be able to go back in time when they could carry their little ones in their arms and snuggle with them.
Motherhood is a process of growth for you and your children. You all change and you all grow together.
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t really a mixtape, more like an EP.
Regardless of where you are on your journey to or throughout motherhood, I send you love and peace so you are able to create a space that enables you to practice mindfulness and enjoy the moment you are currently in.
I know the first weeks, even the first months, can be exhausting and challenging, but it gets better and you get stronger.
Angie is a professor and researcher as well as a mami of two. Her academic passions include exploring the effects of discrimination on health and integrating community work in the classroom. Becoming a mother has reignited her love of maternal and child health as well as fueled new interests such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and running with a double stroller. She blogs at www.phdmami.wordpress.com