Finding My Footing As A Mother

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It’s been a little over seven months that Henry has been in our lives and I continue to be amazed not only with every little thing he does, but how bringing him into our lives has changed us in the most profound ways. To say I was jaded and skeptical about just how dramatically a baby can shift your perspective on life is an understatement. I figured that I’d change, of course, but not that I’d end up one of these people who was all “ I wasn’t really living fully until I became a mom”. That phrase would send me into a fit of exaggerated eye rolls two years ago. How cliché.

But guess what? I wasn’t really living fully until I became a mom. Yup, it happened. Now I’m rolling my eyes at myself.

Now, this in no way means you need to have a child in order to live fully. Not at all. It’s just that for me, it took having Henry to get my head out of my ass and be able to live in the moment and appreciate the amazing blessings I have- a loving family, good health, a beautiful home, a caring nanny for Henry, a job I love and a fully stocked wine rack (because wine is the fuel on which mommy runs. Also, coffee). I never really realized just how focused I was on the wrong things and how stressed I’d get about total bullshit until I had something BIG jostle me awake to the fact.   For some people it’s another kind of catalyst that does it, for me it was Henry. Of course in the early days of motherhood I feared that I had ruined my perfectly curated life with this screaming, needy, terrifyingly vulnerable baby. But in the last two months Henry has developed into a magical little person whose smile and giggle could potentially save the world (in my eyes, at least). No longer a sleepy lump, he’s giving back, sitting up, discovering the world and developing new skills every second! He’s made me recognize what is truly important by giving me a powerful frame of reference. Is my son happy and healthy? Yes. Ok, great- so am I going to get all upset about a light fixture being backordered AGAIN for another ten weeks? Nope, not that important (although still epically annoying). I have so much more patience and empathy than I did before, which is truly a game changer when it comes to my daily happiness.  The little things like watching tv in bed with Andrew at the end of the day or taking a walk as a family fill me with gratitude, where as before I may have just gone about these kinds of things in a stress fog.

Now, I’m not skipping down the street like a moron being all “isn’t the world just AMAZING? Tra-la-la” Hardly. In fact for every ounce of gratitude and joy this child has brought me, there is a pound of cold, hard fear. Especially after a week like last week. I have struggled all my life with anxiety- WebMD being my drug of choice. And when I hit it hard, I spiral into a dark, endless ditch of worry. It’s how my anxiety manifests itself for some reason. And while now I don’t worry about my own health anymore at all, I do worry about Henry’s. A lot. ( In fact I was up with him last night from 10:30-1:30 as he cried from an earache/fever/teething and I wanted to go right to the ER!) I have to work hard not to allow my own anxiety issues to be transferred onto him.  My patient pediatrician, mother and friends who are experienced in the ways of epic spit up/ rashes/ baby drama have kept me on the straight and narrow for the most part. But when I look at him and think about something happening to him or an illness befalling him I get the feeling that seven elephants are sitting on my chest.

And that’s not all. Now we have a scary world to contend with too- one with violence and terrorism, hate and bullying, unrest and uncertainty. And now even alligators. And that scares me more than ever for him and what his future holds. I was talking to my therapist the other day about how I feel like a walking exposed nerve when it comes to Henry and how I vacillate between complete joy and sheer terror when I think about him in this big world. And she said something rather profound to me- she has three sons and has decided the only way to get through the day as a mother of young children during times of violence and darkness is to think of our children not as potential victims, but future heroes. To look at it like “I am raising a wonderful man who will go out and do good things in this world. Someone who will offset some of the evil being put out there”. And that made me feel a little better. I’m going to work hard to make Henry a source of light, change and strength in this world as best I can.

I’m finding motherhood to be one of the biggest emotional roller coasters there is. I can’t wait to get home and see him at the end of the day, but there are also nights I count the seconds until bedtime. I’ve gone from not understanding why anyone would have a second child to texting Andrew that I want another one (whaaaaaaaat?).   I miss my freedom, but I also love my new responsibility as Henry’s mom. I wanted to alert the media the other day when he got his first tooth, but I also wish he’d stop growing up so fast. I miss the nights he’d fall asleep on my chest for hours, but I cannot wait to hear what his voice sounds like and what he thinks.  I’m physically exhausted from working and parenting but feel more fulfilled than ever. Some days I am a pathetic hot mess that gets nothing accomplished, and others I feel like Super Mom, kicking ass and taking names on all fronts.  And I’m understanding that is just the norm for parents everywhere- we do what we can, try to enjoy the ride and take everything one day at a time.

This journey has just begun for us, and more than ever, I am grateful to be on it.

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A bunch of you have asked me on Instagram what Henry’s favorite toys are right now, so here’s a little roundup!

henry

  1. Omg, these bongos. They make him instantly happy. We have to take them with us everywhere. The music haunts my dreams.
  2. Crabby Rattle“- super for teething, and he loved it as a newborn too because it lights up (battery has since died and he still likes it)
  3. Henry LOVES food. And mommy LOVES her 4 Moms High Chair. The magnetic tray is genius.
  4. We only have the “Q” of these teethers, but Henry loves it. We thought we lost it on a flight a few months ago and serious panic ensued.
  5. We have every Jellycat made I think, but this puppy always gets a smile and a snuggle from the little man.
  6. I had plans to make all Henry’s food. Those plans went out the window when I realized how little time I have. These pouches from Oh Baby (found at Whole Foods) have interesting combinations he likes and I feel good about giving him.
  7. Holy hell, I hate having this thing in my living room but boy does it prove to be a savior most days! A.K.A “Baby Vegas” and/ or the Circle of Neglect. ;)
  8. I was given a few Angel Dear blankies at my shower and little did I know, they are magical! He is instantly soothed by grabbing one of the tiny ones in his crib or snuggling with the big “Froggy Blankie” when awake/taking a bottle.

36 comments

  1. You are right where you should be, with this whole parenthood thing. And guess what, you will be right here with your feelings for a long, long time. It’s a new part of you. Part of the journey is learning this new you, and all these new feelings, but Love will always be the feeling that beats all!

  2. Yes! My baby boy, Jamie, is 8 months and I feel the same. My husband was stressed out this morning because he was running late for work and I just pointed out how happy and healthy our little one is and how could anything else matter…I’m not sure he thought his boss would agree with me. Also, we now have a Jumperoo AND a V-Tech baby walker in our home, pretty sure we’re not going to be featured in ELLEDECO anytime soon, but it does mean I can get s*** done.

      1. Oh wait until no one calls you Erin any longer. In school you’ll be “Henry’s mom”
        and at home “Mom” to everyone. Yet, it goes down like oil – I still love it and my kid is almost 21 !!!

  3. There’s nothing like a small human who is utterly dependent on you to set priorities straight. I have many friends who don’t have kids, and I applaud them for doing what’s right for them. Too many people don’t think it through, and the kids are the ones who suffer. But for those who truly want kids, the late nights/early mornings, diapers, puke and all the rest are totally worth all the moments of discovery and magic and love.
    It’s hard to write about, isn’t it? I don’t want to sound as if having children is the path to enlightenment. I certainly know some parents who feel mostly resentment toward their kids and who look at me like I have three eyes when I comment about how fun they are. I just know that for me, it was life-altering in the best possible way.

  4. Hmm, this is like reading my own journal from four years ago when my son was born (now have a daughter too). I’ve suffered with anxiety my entire life and once I had Max, it was transformed from worrying about myself to worrying about him constantly. It was paralyzing. But you know what? Being forced to face it head on for the good of my children was like pulling a monster out of the closet. Many months of therapy gave me some good coping tools and while the anxiety will always be there, now I know what to do when it flares up. And like you, I am making a conscious effort not to transfer it over to my kids.

    My main trigger was germs and my children getting sick. Aaaand like clockwork, they both ended up coming down with respiratory bugs as babies and stayed in the hospital for a few days. One of my worst fears had come true! So what was I going to do?? I just kept moving. Kept rocking the babies. Kept eating. Kept nursing. Kept laughing. Kept crying. Told myself that every minute that ticked by was one minute closer to health. Tried like hell to avoid the paralyzed feeling that had haunted me my whole life during bad anxiety flares. I guess it was two giant doses of exposure therapy and the universe telling me that I can’t run from things – I have to face them…that really woke me up.

    It’s a work in progress. Everything in parenting is. I appreciate you being so open about your feelings. Keep yanking that monster out of the closet and keep moving. It truly does get easier with time.

    1. Beautiful! As true for those of us with undiagnosed anxiety or depression. What you wrote could have come from me. What I will add is that I would have totally screwed my son up if I hadn’t had another. In itself, not a reason to have another child, but the greatest gift we can give to our child/ren is a sibling/s b/c, well, we are always a day closer to our own deaths. I have always considered myself a morbid Pollyanna. My mom was orphaned young and she always said her brothers were her gifts…she raised them alone and ran the farm (milked cows, fed, got all ready for school each day) at AGE 12 (for six whole weeks until relatives showed up to move them to another state)!!! And then she died young after a long bout with a rare, incurable form of cancer. My siblings and I are so close. I thank God she gave us each other. Go for it! You will never regret another (or more). And I was raised with Lysol as our best friend. I took her to college with me and sprayed each exterior door knob on the entire hallway each and every night – you’re welcome. And then we adopted two sons from Ethiopia. Our layover at JFK was me trying not to vomit in my mouth as my new sons ran the hallways and stairs while licking the handrails. They, to this day, have NEVER been sick with a cold or stomach virus….6 years later. They are far healthier than my biological, breastfed until 24 months-HOLY-CRAP babies. So, every virus and horrid thing going into Henry’s mouth is just making him stronger! You are doing super…be proud!

  5. Three kids in, all I can say is, it only gets better…and worse! The roller coaster goes on but the joy and gratitude deepen with every day. It is the most humbling and demanding job on earth, but undoubtedly, my proudest accomplishment. Enjoy this!

  6. Erin, OMG check out EBT Connect for your anxiety. It’s through UCSF Med School and Cornell Med School. You learn simple exercises to retrain the brain to not go into those spirals. The brain is plastic and we can create new neural pathways that lead to a higher more rewarding state rather than spiraling down into anxiety (or depression or over eating, drinking etc)

    Love the photos and news about Henry!

  7. I appreciate how introspective you are and how much of yourself you share to the world. So many of the people I know seem so flat and devoid of complex feelings and thoughts.

  8. I have been reading your blog for years (and met you and Andrew on your book tour when you stopped through Houston!) but have never commented. As a new mother myself, I find myself relating to this post so much. I was very content in my marriage of almost 4 years before we got pregnant and worried if motherhood would suit me. Being an aunt? I was great at that. But actually being responsible for a little life threw me for a loop, especially now in the days of bad news around every corner. Now that Everett is going on 3 months old, I find myself giddy as ever for every milestone (grabbing my fingers, deep belly laughs and toothless smiles). Balancing motherhood with my own career in Interior Design (and realizing I needed to work in order to feel like myself) was tough to work out in those early months but understanding that you can do both and be a better mother for it has been a peaceful realization in my life. Anywho, loved this post and love your candor when speaking about your own journey. xoxo

  9. Lovely and honest post; thank you for sharing! Henry is adorable and amazing. One other thing that blew me away as a parent was realizing how much/in what way my own parents loved me…I knew they loved me, but becoming a parent also changed my perspective on being someone’s child. What a ride!

  10. Thank you so much for posting this. I have related to you so much through your posts over the years, as I am also an anxious, Type-A, career-driven woman who can’t imagine how a child is going to rock my world. I am 29 weeks pregnant with my first child and am getting pretty nervous about how I’ll adjust to it all. This post gives me hope! Thank you for being real, noting that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that it is so worth it and is [eventually] manageable. I hope to find some balance with it all as well when my time comes!

  11. I found this post so enlightening today on so many levels! Our first born son will be 1 year old Saturday and I am experiencing so many emotions this week about what the past year has been about. And what a good perspective on teaching our children to be future heros, not potential victims. Thank you for sharing this side of your life. I always look forward to reading these types of posts!

  12. Yup! Well said, friend. Watching them grow up is so damn hard and brings up so many conflicting emotions. Each stage has its highs and lows. My neighbor’s oldest just graduated from high school, and she’s felt the same as I felt watching mine graduate from kindergarten! It’s all just a circle of amazement, pride, frustration, and anxiety that doesn’t end until we do.

  13. Hi Erin!
    I have recently come across your blog and started following you because we have so many similarities! I have also struggled with Infertility and was finally blessed with a baby boy after a couple rounds of IVF. He is only a few weeks younger than Henry so I love seeing how much Henry grows and changes on Instagram posts as it is a preview for what my son will be doing :). Like you, I also struggle with anxiety and have my whole life. This whole post about anxiety and how the focus has shifted from you to your son couldn’t be more true for myself (I’ve had to swear on our marriage to my husband that I won’t go on webmd :| ) It’s a daily struggle as we have also gone through baby rashes, formula changes etc. thank goodness for moms! And of course amazingly supportive, hands on husbands. It truly is an emotional roller coaster but really- what were we doing before these little angels came into our lives!?

  14. What a lovely post, Erin. As another commenter said, I appreciate & admire how honest & transparent you are on your blog. We don’t have kids yet, but we have experienced some significant events in the last few years that have really opened my eyes to what is important in life. We are currently going through fertility treatments (3 years of trying + 1 miscarriage, which I know you can relate to) and our dog passed away on Christmas. These are both incredibly tough things, but we are coming through them with a positive outlook and truly focusing on real priorities, like time with our family & friends vs material things. I can only imagine how much perspective will be gained once we have kids.

  15. Erin, your post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Stone: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” It’s so true. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on motherhood. My daughter is six already, but even still, hearing her say, “Momma” is everything.

  16. My two year old now says “I love you very much mommy!” – and THAT is the best! Just wait :)

  17. You are definitely not alone – the worst for any mother is to see her child in pain. I’ve driven to the ER at 10 pm at night and sat there until 2 am in the morning, just to get pathetic looks from the staff and pediatricians, but I didn’t care – it made me feel better to know my kid was semi okay. You do what’s right for you and Henry and all I can tell you is that the anxiety subsides – at least when you get called to school to pick up your kid because he’s sick and you find out he’s faking it big time.
    They catch on so fast that you’re an anxious mother. It’s kind of funny too to see how creative they can get :-))

  18. I prefer the “ring of neglect”. Its more Game of Thrones-ish. But yes, #7 is essential.

  19. i couldn’t wait to put them down at night, and i was ecstatic to see them again in the morning. it’s vicious, lovely circle.

  20. I love this post!!! So honest and raw. I am 15weeks preggo and couldn’t be more scared/terrified.
    I love you blog-you inspire me so much!!! xxxxxx

  21. Being a mom will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Like you I too struggled with infertility. I had to end up having surgery in order to get pregnant the first time. I got pregnant the second time in record time. My point is that having gone through infertility made me realize that we’re not immune from things happening to us, which made me realize that there very ugly things out there that could reach my children. This realization has paralyzed me at times. Both my kids suffer from chronic ear infections and my oldest had reflux as a baby. I ended up in the ER with him when he was just 2 weeks old. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I choose to focus on the cute and silly things they do instead. I focus on their laughter and simply have faith that they will grow up healthy and happy. Anything that comes our way we can handle as a family.

    Wine helps too………………Just kidding!!!!

  22. Thank you so much for this post and sharing your experiences! My husband and I are planning to start a family in the next couple years and the idea terrifies me! I too have bad anxiety and am already nervous about how I will emotionally change once having a child. Not to mention how much our lives will change in general! I don’t think I will ever be fully ready for kids (is anybody really?), but it’s always comforting to hear from others. Again, thank you for sharing!

  23. “Not seeing children as potential victims, but future heroes.” You just changed my whole outlook. Thank you.

  24. I appreciate the honesty of this post. I, too, have been honest with myself lately about my motherhood journey when I realized that I did not enjoy being a mother of young children. Did I love them? More than anything in this world. But it was hard, and the almost total loss of my independence was even harder. And saying so out loud does not make me a bad mother or a bad person. Now that my children are older, I enjoy them so much more. It gets easier in some ways but definitely more challenging in others. Even though motherhood is my most important role in life, I’ve never felt like it completes me. And it’s okay to say that out loud too.

  25. Angel Babies! My 12 year old still sleeps with hers, takes me back when I see her with it. I’ve bought extras to give to her babies one day.

  26. Angel Dear blankies rock! We were told to buy 2 or 3 and rotate them so they wear evenly and if one is lost or needing a bath you are all set. It worked wonders and “Little Elephants” is still with us.–although the eyes are slightly different and he would always ask what was up–Hysterical! When my Henry, who is now 10, was old enough we confessed to the rouse. It backfired slightly as he STILL (at 10!!) now sleeps with them both–even at sleepovers!

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