A few weeks ago, I saw a mom at the gym. She was wearing a newborn, carrying a duffel bag of gear. I watched her walk over to the elliptical, bypassing childcare. She placed the bag on the floor next to the machine and hopped on. As her legs started moving, she used one arm to balance her baby’s head and another to hold on to the machine.
Something about the scene felt both desperate and beautiful to me. I remember those days so clearly - when Chris was traveling and Mac was too little to go to childcare (read: I wasn’t ready for it.) I felt desperate to find time to exercise and it often seemed impossible.
I yearned for space from him - for time to myself - and absolutely dreaded the thought of him being out of reach.
On my first run without him, I cried. It was a mile! I was a few blocks from the house and something smelled like him and I called Chris to make sure they were OK, asking through tears. I had been gone, maybe, three minutes.
The beginning is so tenuous and tender. It’s beautiful and exhausting and short, but feels long. The raw, whole love you feel for your baby is completely, beautifully, overwhelming. And yet, the way they need oh-so much can be a little panic inducing.
I felt caught in a cycle of praying for time to slow down and also yearning for milestones ahead - like more four hour stretches of sleep and an actual, intentional smile.
I don’t know, exactly, when things started feeling easier. But I know they did. At some point, your baby starts sleeping and your schedule forms and, before you know it, you feel like yourself again. Not your pre-baby self; she’s gone. But, one, I think, who is a better version. One with more perspective and tenderness and grace.
Years ago, I talked to a girl who is a professional log roller (for reference). She said the sport had taught her about life because, when you get on the log, if you don’t just start going - putting one foot in front of the other - you fall off. The more you step forward with confidence and intention, the more stable you become on the log, less likely to fall off.
I’ve noticed motherhood is a lot like this. You wake up one day and you’re on the log in the middle of the lake. If you stand up, putting one foot in front of the other, you gain a little more confidence in each step. You mostly have no idea what you’re doing, but you keep trying.
Before you know it, you’re growing and going forward and all of those tender, tiny days seem so far behind. Those shaky middle-of-the-night feeds seem like a distant memory. Was that really my baby crying at 2 a.m., totally inconsolable? No way. Not my happy guy!
There will always be hard days ahead, no doubt. But today, here’s to celebrating you, mama! You survived those newborn days. Here’s to standing up, putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how unstable you felt.