Our kids were sitting in the sandbox, shoes off and wriggling their toes in the sand. My friend, Justine, sat beside me on the closest park bench, and we attempted conversation while keeping our eyes on them. My huge belly held my second baby inside, and I was grateful for the nice breeze on that warm fall day.
We had been talking about life as moms, and she looked at me quite seriously and blurted out, “Having two little people is REALLY HARD.”
I looked at her with confusion and replied as if she was joking. “Don’t tell me that!”
She persisted, “No, it really is. No one told me how hard it can be, and I assumed adding another little one to our family would be ‘easy’- but has been really hard and I want you to know that going in so that one day when you are juggling an infant seat, a toddler, a diaper bag, grocery bags, and your car keys, and think to yourself, ‘this is hard’, you won’t beat yourself up for not having it more together. I want you to know it is hard at times for every mom, and if you find yourself there, you’ll be able to give yourself grace in the moment.”
I filed these words away, quite certain that I wouldn’t need to refer back to them. After all, my first baby was a piece of cake. She slept well, ate well, didn’t fuss, and rarely cried. Surely my second baby would be the same.
Then Hayden arrived. He was his own little self—a very demanding baby—and a huge Mama’s boy. We struggled with breastfeeding. He had tummy aches every night, and getting him to go to sleep and be able to lie down was a challenge in itself. I was exhausted. My husband Jarred, stepped up to the challenge like a boss, carrying all of us- newborn, a toddler, and post-partum wife, through the first weeks. He insisted I rest as much as possible, brought me meals and snacks in bed, and changed every diaper while he was home with me. He had the laundry going, the dishwasher running, and my daughter bathed and ready for bed one night, and he came and laid down on the bed almost in tears. I could see he was exhausted.
All the excitement—the emotions that come from welcoming a new baby into our hearts and home—was taking a toll on him. On us. Our daughter was also slow to adjust, testing the boundaries, and trying out some new attitudes. I was wrestling with all the same things, only feeling it all so much stronger thanks to the hormones. I felt incapable of helping my family adjust.
The tears came rolling down my cheeks. They were not nice tears, but were more like heart-heavy sobs, as if they had been held in for far too long. I insisted Jarred stop all the busy for the night, lay down with me so we could cuddle our little loves and just be close and still…together.
I remembered the conversation I had with my friend in the park and decided to let grace wash over me. I didn’t beat myself up for acknowledging how hard this transition was for us. I refused to feel like a failure for struggling through this stretch of time. The laundry could stay just as it was in the washer. We could finish it tomorrow. All that mattered at that moment, was making space to let our feelings catch up with our reality. That was the moment I realized that parenting is hard. It is a million other things as well, but I became aware that in order to see how we could manage our way out of survival mode and move forward, grace would need to be a central part of the plan.
Sometimes, our perception of whatever we think is ‘normal’ is not totally accurate. We compare ourselves to an ideal that may not be realistic and beat ourselves up for not living up to it. That night, I learned that there is no ‘normal’ when welcoming a new baby. Every family is different, every baby has different needs, and we all process the post-partum time in different ways.
New mama, let go of your expectations of what your days after birth will be like. Let grace be present, and spend your energy resting, bonding, and loving those in your home. The dishes, laundry, trash, and every other household task can hobble along until you’re back on your feet, or better yet: let your friends and family take care of that stuff. Take all the time you need to adjust, even if it takes months to get there. The emotional, physical, and relational changes that have come about with the arrival of your little one are not going to be settled in the first days or weeks. What feels hard right now may not be quite so hard six months from now or one year from now. You’ll find your confidence, your strength, and your new way of life, all in good time.
Chelsea Smith lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband Jarred and their two children. She is a full time mom, homeschools her children, and works her essential oils business on the side. Chelsea loves spending time with her family, and being able to be home with her little ones. You can follow her journey on Instagram.