What I didn’t know: Reflections on Motherhood.

I am almost always with my kids. We are together. All. The. Time. Home business, homeschooling, homebody. We rarely go our separate ways. I like it like that. But sometimes I crave a little time alone. Pete recently took them both on a trip for a few days, allowing me a deep silence in which to reflect on how my sense-of-self has been shaped my motherhood. How motherhood has changed me.

Here goes.

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I have been a mother for most of a decade.

Looking back over the past 9-plus years since I became pregnant with my first child I am stunned by what I have discovered and learned so far. I have grown and evolved on account of motherhood more than at any other time in my life.

Even more amazing though is the vast abyss of "what I do not yet know" that lies before me. The foundation of motherhood, perhaps, (aside from unconditional love) is embracing that gap in knowledge while we find gratitude for what we've learned so far. And trusting that we'll find our way.

Really, we know so little, don't we? We can read and research and look at statistics and talk to other parents, but really becoming a parent is one big question mark. We learn as we go, making it up along the way. We're all on this ride together with no telling what comes next or where we'll end up. So we hold tight to trust, lest we get mired in worry and miss all the fun.

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When I was pregnant with Sage there was much that I did know. I knew (and had since childhood) that I wanted to be a mother. I knew that I would someday have a daughter but that this one was going to be a boy. (I thought that Pete, who grew up without a father, needed a son first to be the dad he never had so I decided long before we had kids that we'd have a boy first. We did.)

I knew that I would parent from the heart rather than from the advice of a physician, book, or well-meaning family or friends. (I did not know how hard that would be at times.) I knew that I trusted myself more than I trusted western medicine and I was going to be a relentless questioner when it came to my child's care.

I knew that I wanted to raise my own kids, full-time. Day care and pre-school weren't in our plan. (Neither was school as it turns out.) We'd tighten our belts and cut our income nearly in half. One of us would stay home to raise our baby.

I knew I wanted a homebirth. I knew that my boy would remain intact (un-circumcised). I knew that I would nurse and maybe for a long time and he would sleep in our bed. ("Six months," said Pete. So we borrowed a crib for when he was bigger. We didn't know that almost a decade later we'd still co-sleep with one or both kids most nights.)

Yes. I knew some things that turned out to be true. And yet, there was so much more that I did not know. There still is.

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I didn't know what it would be like to be a mama. Not at all. I knew there would be tears and giggles, diapers and nursing, bedtimes and early mornings. I knew that eventually there would be first smiles, first signs, first words, and first steps.

But I didn't know how different "mama" would be from "papa" in our world. I thought they were interchangeable. Mom. Dad. Same difference. "50/50," I said. From my career mind I rationalized that we'd each have our job during the day – I would stay home to be with Sage and Pete would go to work. But the rest of the week we'd be 50/50. Evenings. Bedtime. Nights. Days off.

But it didn't shake out that way. I didn't know just how much of the parenting would fall to me. Sage, in his baby-way demanded it. And my heart told me to give him what he needed. I remember feeling tired. Resentful. Overwhelmed.

And while I remember being frustrated at not being able to take a shower or finish a meal without a baby fussing his way into in my arms, I also remember surrendering. Releasing the resistance I had to it and embracing – eventually – what was my new life. What a gift that was to learn to let go and be present in what is.

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Sage arrived into our life, born in the front doorway of our house in the middle of a sunny August afternoon, a few feet from a four-way stop. I let the screen door close behind me as I turned back into the house and yelled "F************K!" louder than I had ever yelled before. I was standing there in my bathrobe, my foot on the coffee table, my backside to the street with the midwives and Pete around me in a semi-circle. We were heading to the hospital as our homebirth plan started to unravel but Sage was determined to be born at home.

There we stood – all four of us – the midwife's car idling outside, dumbfounded, staring at this baby who decided not to wait. (I'm so glad.)

I remember his wrinkled forhead, his focused, watchful eyes, and his powerful cry. I can see him perfectly in my mind – born twice the size I expected him to be, red faced and wet, gazing deep into me. The words "Old soul" echoed in my head as he held my stare, the two of us still joined still by his umbilical cord.

Sage, aware of every nuance around him. Sage, with his hair-trigger startle reflex. Sage, with his stunning ability to shake the hell our of everything we thought we knew. Amazing. World-turned-upside-down kind of amazing.

Sage reminded us immediately of how very little we really knew. He cried. A lot. (And so did I.) I was worried about everything and he felt my discord and let me know that he was worried too. It was hard. Really hard. I remember when Sage was two weeks old Pete and I looked at each other wild eyed and one of us whispered, "No one told us it was going to be like this. No one said it would be this hard." And then I think I cried. Again.

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But it was. It was really unbelievably hard. I didn't know it would be like that.

I told my midwife some months later that we would never have another baby. That I didn't know if we could survive. She said she was sad that I would never have "the pleasure of an easy baby" and I remember thinking – did she just use "pleasure" and "baby" in the same sentence?

I didn't know how amazing it was going to be once we hit our groove. I didn't know I would indeed do it again (on purpose) and yes, it would be a pleasure to have an easy baby. And I didn't know that the lessons that I had learned through the teacher of my truly not easy and highly sensitive baby would carry me through motherhood with a clarity I could not have found without that trying time. That hardest time of my life shaped me into a better mother than I every could have been without it. That the struggle would be a bigger blessing in many ways than ease would have been. I didn't know.

Someone bought us a stroller as a baby shower gift. I would push the empty stroller around town with one hand, holding Sage in my arms after just a few moments of riding (and protesting). He wanted to stay close. Finally I gave up on the stroller that I never wanted anyway and put him in the sling that a new mama friend brought me to use. (You know who you are. I still thank you for that.) He settled. I settled. We found our groove.

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I didn't know that he needed my arms. That he needed quiet. That he needed to nurse on a pillow so I didn't overwhelm him with touch. That he needed rhythm and routine and clothes without tags. I didn't know. But I learned. I listened and he taught me.

Sage's crib sat unoccupied, the world's largest laundry basket until we packed it up and gave it back. He never spent a night in it. I didn't know that we didn't need a nursery. Or a stroller. Or a pack-and-play. I didn't know that what I needed was someone to show up with a meal and help with the dishes and tell me to listen to my heart. Someone to tell me to trust my instincts. Someone to tell me that it was really unbelievably hard this mothering business but that actually I did know what I was doing and it would all be okay soon.

I didn't know.

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I didn't know that every priority I thought I had would be shuffled and jumbled up and come out in a new amazing arrangement that would direct the rest of my life. And because of becoming a mother the pieces would begin to fall into place and I would find purpose and meaning in this life beyond anything I had imagined.

I didn't know that becoming a mother would take the identity that I had been working so hard to build for myself and turn it to dust in an instant. And then from that dust a brand new and far more meaningful sense-of-self would slowly emerge and define me for much of my life. Likely all of my life. I am not only a mother, but being one has been the most powerful force in shaping the person I have become.

Most importantly, I did not know how deeply I could love. I had no idea. Love was surely deep before motherhood, but I can not compare it to the love I felt for my newborn, nursing away in my arms, eyes darting beneath sleeping lids, counting on me to understand and deliver what he needed in each moment. The love for your child is a different love. And it is bigger than I ever imagined.Babysage1

Looking back I celebrate all that I have discovered. There is more to learn each day as I strive to grow as a person and as a mother. To find balance. To be patient. To connect. To play. To live fully in this now. To trust myself, my partner, my child, and the universe. To be free of worry and fear and find joy in the magic of this day.

I didn't know that becoming a mother would simultaneously be the hardest thing I had ever done and the thing that I would hold closest to my heart. Motherhood would be my most important role ever.

I didn't know that motherhood would change everything.

118 thoughts on “What I didn’t know: Reflections on Motherhood.

  1. Melanie says:

    Oh Rachel…you spoke my heart this time, mama. I’m in tears. Thank you. Thank you for being able to put into words, so beautifully, what has always been locked inside me. Never spoken because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, how others would take it, how it would change “the identity I’d been working so hard to make.” πŸ™‚ You are wonderful! Thank you for giving me the courage to trust myself and enjoy ride. We also have a highly sensitive first born son, who’s 4, and “old soul” daughter who’s 3, and a little spitfire daughter who just turned 1. Wouldn’t you have to say that one thing about motherhood is that it forces you to be and display who you really are? No hiding, no acting…very humbling. πŸ™‚

  2. Amber says:

    you totally summed up what has been jumbling around in my head for the past two weeks.
    “Wouldn’t you have to say that one thing about motherhood is that it forces you to be and display who you really are? No hiding, no acting…very humbling. :)”

    i knew a lot about what i wanted for a baby and that i would follow my heart on all parenting decisions, and not someone elses ideas or books written by strangers. however, i had no clue how hard that would be. we have always lived differently from others in our area. i just said the other day to my husband, “we have always been different from everyone and it was fine, but now i feel like people want desperately to suddenly change us, and i cant figure out why it is bothering me so badly.”

    you summed it up perfectly with that statement. that quote is my new favorite thing.

  3. mamaUK says:

    What a beautiful post. I too, always knew that I wanted to be a mother, probably from about 14 years old, that’s what I wanted more then anything in the world.When I got to about 18/19 years old when I was at university, those feelings got so much stronger. I used to wander around baby shops imagining having a new born baby to clothe and look after. When I got cancer at 21 years old, and the words infertility were mentioned and I was told to prepare myself for not being able to have children, I still carried a seed of hope inside myself that one day I still might be a mother. Incase I couldn’t have children, I trained to be an early years school teacher so at least I could work with children if I couldn’t be a mum. Little did I know, that when I began my first job, I was already several weeks pregnant. I worked until I was 30 weeks pregnant and then I never did go back to teaching, as I had infront of me more than anything I wanted in the world, my own baby girl. (Then I went on to have another gorgeous girl!) My first girl was one of those ‘easy’ babies, my second, not so easy!

  4. Abby says:

    Beautiful, Rachel. Mothering is a much richer experience than I ever could have imagined. Your words capture this so well. Love.

  5. Erynne M. says:

    Thank you for this post. I needed it. I’m being the stay-at-home mom with a broken bone in my foot, hobbling on crutches after my rambunctious, self-motivated, highly driven two-year-old, and there are times I just don’t know if I can make it another hour…but I do. This post makes me feel less alone.

  6. Kate says:

    There is so much I didn’t know either. There’s so much focus on preparing a mom for the new baby and so little focus on preparing a mom for her new self!

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. Some things we just know. I also went into education – environmental education – so that I could surround myself with kids. But I dont miss it one lick now that I have the kids I was looking for all along.

  8. Marni says:

    Wow. I too felt so many of these truths deep inside me as I mothered my first born, Sage, who insisted on being born at home while we should have transferred to the hospital. I was insistent on having no baby equipment and cloth diapering and co-sleeping, but had to release some of my good intentions and surrender to a baby who didn’t want to be in a sling or share a bed!
    How invaluable are helpful hands and open ears during those first months.
    As others have said, thank you for putting this so eloquently and for once again encouraging me to listen to my heart.

  9. Lindsay says:

    First and foremost I want to say this post made my day! I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant with my second (a girl I have a 2 1/2 year old boy.) I want to then say that I cried through the whole thing. I’m quite emotional this pregnancy, or all the time really. I just want to say your words made me feel more reassured of what me and my partner are doing. We too had a crib for our first and never used it, and though he was an easy baby he taught me so much. I too never realized that I could possibly love someone as much as I do him. I know I could do things better but for what it’s worth, as many books and stories I read I finally gave into my instincts and trusted my inner voice!

    Thank you for sharing your words, they truly made me smile!

  10. Casey says:

    You would laugh if you saw my face while reading this. Open-mouthed, incredulous, nodding, and finally tear-streaked. I was never sure I wanted to be a mother, because I had a very very difficult childhood and wasn’t sure I knew how to be a good parent. My husband assured me that he KNEW I was a good parent, just by worrying about it to begin with. Our first mimics your Sage (in so many ways…) and I remember many, many nights of laying awake and wondering through our tears what we had gotten ourselves into. If we could do it. But we just kept going, one day at a time. And we eventually found our groove, too. It included another baby as well. An easygoing, go-with-the-flow, completely different baby from our first. Both have taught me so many lessons about life and living and BEING. I’m a mom. And a wife. And those are two things that I never really thought I’d be at this point in my life. I figured I’d still be the wild cowgirl with a nasty temper and an independent streak. Instead I’m a crunchy granola-mom trying my best to raise healthy kids, be a good wife, live a full life…I buy organic food, make up my own recipes, knit, dye my hair with henna, breastfeed, co-sleep, cloth diaper, babywear, selectively vaccinate, use natural products for cleaning and body care….on and on. How did this happen? Where did this woman come from? Trusting your own instincts is probably the most important. Keeping an open mind and not torturing yourself if things don’t go “according to plan” is another.

  11. denise says:

    Yep. Yes. Of course. Me too. πŸ™‚ We share a similar journey, which is of course not surprising. And we are a 24/7 kind of family too. I don’t think I’ve been away from my boys more than a few hours at a time at most since they were born. It is hard. It is different than I could have ever expected. And it is just right. I cannot imagine my life without them. I now know the whole reason I am here is because of them. And they have a lot to teach me.

  12. Cassandra says:

    It’s good for mothers (especially new ones) to hear your story. I too had a difficult first child and was unsure if I ever wanted to go through the experience again. I would hear people talk about how much they loved having babies around, and it dumfounded me. My baby cried and cried, and subsequently, I cried and cried. I was very young and I felt like my life was over at that time. But then she got a little older, and became way easier for me to handle (and the colic subsided). We bonded, and my life is full of blessings since. I learned that motherhood doesn’t come all at once after that delivery…it builds day by day. I went on to have two more children, and am always thankful I did. Unfortunately, I am a working mom (dad stays home). I am well aware of what I am missing at home during the day. More days than I’d like to admit, I cry a little bit on the way to work in the morning. But…I am currently manifesting a job that I can do at home πŸ™‚

  13. Katie says:

    I love that when I am feeling a little nuts for not wanting to leave my little one with a babysitter, for trading in my work outside the home career (I think trading up) to be a stay at home mama, and for embracing my new mama-self rather than longing for the “before kids me” there is a space that validates those choices in such a beautiful and elegant way. Rachel, thanks for writing this. What a poignent piece. And to everyone who has commented, thanks for sharing your words. How about everyone come over to my place for tea… bring your kiddos! πŸ™‚

  14. Heidi says:

    I welled up with tears as I read your words. So well written. Your experieces are so so so similar to mine. Almost identical. Our first made such a strong case to be an only child! She was joined by her much more mellow sister 2 years ago. I’m glad to know you are finding your groove…I’m still waiting to “hit my stride” in this messy beautiful stage of life. Thanks for the encouragement Rachel!
    Heidi

  15. Jennie D says:

    Thank you so very much for this post, tears are streaming down my face. I have a four year old and a two year old boy and my oldest was not an easy baby and he is not an easy four-almost-five-year-old. He hates tags and noise and thrives with routine and in nature. He gets aggressive when he is overwhelmed. I have learned so much from him. After working with a naturopath and taking out gluten from his diet and trying homeopathic medicine for a long time, we just recently brought him to a medical doctor for a diagnosis of autism. He is so bright and his case seems so mild that I feel disconnected from other parents that have children with autism. I feel I have no right to complain, still I struggle.
    It’s interesting that attachment parenting, gentle discipline and natural family living seem to help my son the most. So many people told us a little television won’t hurt my son but since removing all media from his life a few weeks ago, he has improved. Also, after trying a number of diets, the best diet for us has turned out to be whole foods and cooking from scratch. A walk in the woods calms and centers my boy. He loves animals and our weekly trip to an amazing family-run small dairy farm is better than any PBS kids show.
    Lately the hardest part of parenting for me has been a lack of like-minded parents. I have some lovely friends but I am the only one interested in organic food, gentle discipline, and green living. I am so grateful for your blog and the blogs of several other mamas like you. You give me the encouragement and inspiration I need to continue on this path, the path I feel is right for my family, you make me feel a little less alone in my decisions. Thank you.

  16. Lori says:

    Rachel, Rachel -what a beautiful post. We know so little when we have those first babies – and then when I had my second I felt like I knew even less. My Lexi was such an easy baby, I was working full time, she drank from a bottle (although I pumped so it was breast milk), she slept in a crib. Ooohhh then my Isaac came along and my world was turned upside down. I knew I would nurse (i didn’t think he would be 18 months old and still nursing because your ‘suppose’ to stop at 12 months), we had the crib all set up (nope he hasn’t spent a night in it), I tried to put him down to play (he would have none of it so I bought some slings and he loved them). He would cry and cry (and I would cry and cry) until I figured out dairy was hurting his belly. Oh what a learning experience. Him and I haven’t hardly been apart since he was born and it seems to be the way he likes it – so that’s what we do. And now he’s a sweet, active, climbing, running, still nursing, cosleeping 18 month old that I couldn’t be more in love with. Thankyou for your words, honesty and amazing perspective.

  17. Sommer says:

    Woah, that was awesome. I too couldn’t/can’t believe how hard it can be having a baby and I also couldn’t imagine the heart opening gifts that would and still are to come. The 2nd baby ambivalence is certainly up for us as we too say we don’t know if we would survive. Reading your account made me cry and feel that when the time is right we will know and it will all work out. We will do more than survive, we can thrive. Thanks for sharing so from the heart.

  18. Emeline says:

    It IS hard, being a mother/father/parent. No one tells you this. Not even your closest friends. It’s like it’s the world’s biggest dirty little secret. My husband and I are so glad to hear someone else speak the truth. Out loud. Even as I get to currently experience the pleasure of an “easier” baby the second time around (7weeks old, our 2nd boy) raising children and being a mama is a humbling experience. But the most rewarding thing I’ve/I’ll ever do/ne in my life. Thanks for your honesty and for putting my heart feelings into words.

  19. Lori says:

    Katie,
    Tea with the kiddos sounds so fun πŸ™‚ – thats the only thing I miss about working is the lack of adult conversation.

  20. kristy says:

    I loved this post. So beautiful. I became a mother for the first time 4.5 months ago and it is the greatest love in the world. I never knew how much I could love another person so quickly. I have been trying to follow my instincts as well, but it can be hard at times with all the outside influences. I do believe though to follow my gut as best as I can. Only I know what is best for my son. I think things are going great so far and I look forward to the future and raising him to be a healthy, happy, strong and independent man.

  21. Rachel Wolf says:

    Jennie,
    Beautifully, beautifully said.

    If Sage had been evaluated at age 2 he surely would have been labeled autistic though like your son, mildly. Our naturopath, bless her soul, described him as overloaded by the world. We cut foods that didnt work for him (rice was his trigger food but eventually we discovered that anything we ate daily was an issue) and within months he found his center and stopped exhibiting most of the autistic traits that had been so dominant before. It sounds very similar. Know how perfect the path you are on is. I know how hard it can be to be alone in your non-conventional choices for your family. Ive been there.

    And you are not alone.

    ((A big hug for you.))

  22. Rachel Wolf says:

    Sommer,
    We waited almost 4 1/2 years to have our second, though I think we were almost ready by the time Sage was 3 1/2. Youll know if it is to be. The beauty of it is that I never felt my family was incomplete like some friends who knew they were going to have two or three or four kids. For us it has always been complete. The two of us, the three of us, the four of us. Thats a gift in and of itself I think. Sending blessings.

  23. Karlamcurry.wordpress.com says:

    It’s funny how we often feel ALONE as mothers. We are doing All Of This all by ourselves. But really, this resonates with so many other mamas out there.

    Growing up, I never thought I would get married. I had low self-esteem, wasn’t pretty or thin enough for the guys. My twin brother and I are the last of five kids, and I was the first to get married (he was the second!). My hubby and I didn’t want kids… but slowly this desire to become a mother bloomed within me. After dealing with irregular periods and a host of other things, my midwife told me I should pursue infertility.

    Long story short, I now have two beautiful miracle children. Some days, I wonder, WHAT WAS I THINKING? Why did I want this so badly?! Yes, it is the hardest thing I have ever done… but also the most rewarding. I never truly knew what it was like to have my heart melt, burst, ache with so much love. And worry about their future.

    I never thought I would cloth diaper, co-sleep, baby-sign, homeschool… but here I am! I never knew I would have to defend myself and the decisions I make for my children, especially in light of the fact that they’re good, healthy choices. I’m not good at standing up for myself, but Motherhood gives me courage. I pushed two babies out, unmedicated – I can do this.

    I love your reflections on Motherhood – beautiful.

  24. Roxy says:

    “But I dont miss it one lick now that I have the kids I was looking for all along.”

    Isn’t that the honest to goodness truth? I was an elementary teacher and I wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world, but I will forever be a teacher . . . because I am a mother. And because I am a mother, everything IS different . . . but yet it’s the same, in a way that can’t be explained but just felt sort of way. I had to go back tonight and read your post again. I loved it – so real and honest. I felt so many of your words.

  25. Roxy says:

    Hi Erynne – you don’t know me, but I read your post and I had to send a note . . . I had a broken foot last year for almost four months with a 17-month-old and a four-year-old and a house with two stories. I’m. so. sorry. I hope you are seeing light at the end of your tunnel! There will be!!

  26. Kim Miller says:

    Lovely, thanks for sharing. Some days the kiddums and the clutter and our sometimes hectic schedule make me crazy and I think if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have had kids. Then I feel bad for feeling that way. My oldest is mildly autistic and sometimes we seriously wonder if our youngest is too. However the oldest just came back this afternoon from a week at Girl Scout camp and had a great time and she missed us terribly and we missed her and her siblings were so happy to be all back together again and life was good.

    When I am hurried and irritable I think of your blog Rachel and try to remind myself to live in the moment because that’s all we really have are moments and then they are gone.

    Thanks for sharing your recipes. I don’t know how you find time to craft, cook, sew, blog, homeschool and run a business. I am manifesting a plan B for my life because plan A has become too hectic with not enough time for the truly joyful things.

  27. Alison says:

    Rachel, I wish I could send this to myself three years and three months ago. My son was also sensitive and loved to be held. A LOT. And he cried and cried (and me too). A LOT. The beautiful crib we bought was also a large laundry basket.

    It wasn’t until that tuned out the “experts” that I was finally able to tune into what my son needed. There were so many stresses in our lives at that time. When you wrote that you and your husband looked at each other and “no one told you it would be like this….” We did that too!!!

    Thank you for writing these words. I needed an affirmation today about motherhood. It’s certainly not easy, but it is beautiful. -Alison

  28. Amber says:

    sooo true! i was a montessori teacher for 5 years but there is truly no greater “job” than watching your very own babe learn and grow.

  29. Mikaela says:

    I so enjoyed reading this. I always love your writing and your way with words and although I have no idea what it will be about, I’m so excited that you’re writing a book–every bit of you that you share with the rest of the world is a treat!

  30. jeanine says:

    I recently found your blog and am loving this space so much. So funny how I’ll only check a few of hundreds and then months later, one of them drops off the list and another peaks my interest. Anyhow, this post was like reading all of the lovely stuff that stews around in my own mind as I nurse, wash dishes, sort laundry, water the garden. Things I think and hope to write down…and then alas, forget when about when i finally sit down in front of the screen. Beautiful, inspiring, and oh so true. Thank you!

  31. casey says:

    Jennie – you and I have a great deal in common. My oldest was diagnosed with autism at age 3 (this past January). We are starting the paleo diet (no grains, no dairy, no beans). Also a mild case, its strange to hear people say they never would have known or that they don’t think it’s “that bad” — they have no idea of the struggles and hard work we put into helping our son be the best Jackson he can be. It can be frustrating and alienating, but you’re not alone. Please feel free to contact me any time. Casey.umhoefer@gmail.com

  32. Kris says:

    Beautifully written!
    My boy was a sensitive baby too. I wish, now, I had someone to tell me it was OK to cosleep, OK to hold him ALL the time, OK to let him nurse to sleep. Once I gave into those things, instead of fighting to try to get him to sleep in his crib, I was so much more free and relaxed. Now, at three years old, we still co-sleep, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  33. Rachel Wolf says:

    It feels like a disservice that we dont see more gentle ways to mother until were mired in a way that doesnt work. Glad you found your path. Your note gave me goosebumps.

  34. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oh, Kim. Thanks for your word. I remember that feeling of being overwhelmed with the stuff and the mess and the constant clean-up. I think downsizing has helped us ease that feeling. And surrendering to a messy house for the next 14 years. That helped too.

    I look forward to seeing what you manifest for the next chapter in your life. I know it will be wonderful.
    Hugs,
    Rachel

  35. Alyssa says:

    Gorgeous.
    The photos and the words and the complete honesty in this piece, Rachel.
    “I didn’t know that becoming a mother would take the identity that I had been working so hard to build for myself and turn it to dust in an instant.”
    Here’s to the freedom in having it all turn to dust!
    <3

  36. Cristal L Medeiros says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is beautifully written and expressive. A few points struck a chord: that it was unbelievably hard, that priorities get shuffled, and that the love was bigger than ever imagined-while I did anticipate and welcome all these-the magnitude to which they impacted us was definitely under-estimated! Though I too, have no desire to raise my child by a book, I do use them, particularly the sensitively written ones (like Raising Your Spirited Child) for a sense of validation: like blogs its nice to know one is not alone. Thanks again for sharing a glimpse of your heart!

  37. Jennie D says:

    Thank you Casey! I have been hearing so much about the paleo diet lately. We tried gluten-free for many months and it was tough, it felt like a pretty drastic lifestyle change for us. Parenting is so much more work than I ever thought possible, so much more love than I ever thought possible. Take care. πŸ™‚

  38. Anne-Marie says:

    Beautiful post. I have been transitioning to staying home with my children after an unsuccessful return to part-time work after the birth of my third child. I have spent so much time pondering and being grateful for the time I spend with him and my other children– but also becoming aware of just how hard it is, and thinking about my own identity has changed.

  39. Ellen says:

    This is the most beautiful sentiment about motherhood I have ever read and I feel each word. Thank you for putting my truth (and yours apparently) in to words.

  40. Elizabeth says:

    This is simply the most powerful and true testament to motherhood I have ever read. I have a young friend who will become a mother in December and she asks me for advice all the time… I can’t seem to give it, for all the reasons you describe here. I am forwarding this to her. Thank you for this gift.

  41. Karissa says:

    Quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever written. We have a lot in common, two kids, my oldest is 10, home-business, homeschool, the whole 9 I really relate to this post!

  42. Rhiannon says:

    I have just somehow came across this beautiful post, I don’t now even remember where I originally ventured from! I wanted to say it is an amazing post, and I can truely relate to almost every word you say. I will definatley have to share this on my blog, I think there are a lot of other mummas who would love to read it.
    Thankyou, Rhiannon

  43. stacie says:

    When I had Sage…he cried a lot too..all.the.time…I swore I’d never have another baby…but I still had 2 more babies(girls). They didn’t cry nearly as much… πŸ™‚ Glad I did have more babies!

  44. Kim says:

    Oh Rachel, what a beautiful, moving post. If I’d had a full night’s sleep in 3.5 years, perhaps I could have written something similar πŸ˜‰

    We, too, struggled with the idea of a second child after our very sensitive, high-needs first baby – a girl. Our second came along a (very quick) 20 months later and neither my husband, nor I, nor our daughter was ready for the upheaval of a new baby. He was slightly less fussy, but adamantly REFUSED any/all comfort from my husband, so I continued to bear the brunt of parenting – all the while tandem nursing, since my daughter was so young.

    Now, after taking precautions to make sure we don’t. have. another. anytime. soon., we’ve found ourselves expecting another little one. My first will be 3.5, my second will be 2, and my husband and I are terrified of having another high-needs baby. I want this baby to feel love from it’s first moments, but most of the time I just want to cry. We didn’t want this. And it’s so hard to accept.

  45. Sara says:

    Rachel, This is so beautifully written! But also there is this really amazing energy that leaps off the screen when I read it. You were able to connect in a very deep way and then shared that with all of us through your writing. Powerful work, my friend. In deep appreciation, sara

  46. morganhagey@gmail.com says:

    Oh Kim, Hugs to you. I had three (well four actually) babies in very quick succession, one and three being on the “high needs” scale. I think the best way to survive is to accept help, and not to be afraid to ask. If you have friends or family to help out an hour here or there with the older ones, it will help.

    Seek out a social network, whether it’s LLL or a mother’s circle or a play group, and go every week, even if your 2 year old misses a nap, go.

    Talk to people who love you and whom you trust, tell them your struggles. You are not alone!
    When you need low-key days at home, cancel appointments if needed, get a stack of books and some snacks, and live on the couch. Throw a load of laundry in and don’t fret if it never makes it into dressers. Pack n plays make excellent laundry hampers.

    Invest in a moby wrap or other snuggly sling. If baby wants to be held 24/7 this will make it more doable.

    Let go of the things you can’t control. When you must go lay the baby down, the 3.5 year old might cut her own hair. That’s okay. Because you can’t be everywhere at once.

    Try to find time everyday to shower. That is your time to breathe, to center yourself.

    If you pray, do it often, frequently, all the time.

    I know you didn’t ask for advice, but my heart hurt for you reading your comment. I’ve been there. When my third was a baby, I called my husband more than once at work sobbing and saying, “NEVER AGAIN! WE ARE DONE!” but they get bigger, and it does get easier. I promise. I wouldn’t have had a fourth if it wasn’t true.

    Hang in there. πŸ™‚

  47. Rachel Wolf says:

    Karissa,
    And that was – quite possibly – the biggest compliment on my words ever. πŸ™‚ It does sound like we have much in common. So many blessings, Rachel

  48. Rachel Wolf says:

    Kim,
    I feel the heaviness of your heart. I have a friend who refers to the first two years as the dark tunnel of babyhood. Know that you will come out on the other side. To speed that up I urge you to look into consuming your placenta. It can make all the difference in so many ways. I have not done it but a friend who struggled hard with her first had a drastically different experience with her second and credits this to some extent.

    Sending blessings,
    Rachel

  49. Jane says:

    Very nice post, thank you. I am struck (positively) by your humility–something I find sadly lacking in so many “mommyblogs” these days.

  50. Natalie says:

    So true Kate. That was how I felt after I had my son. Everyone gave me information and advice about how to take care of my baby (only some of which was useful). But no one told me how dramatically being a parent would change my life, who I am. I had no idea, as you said Rachel. As hard as it was, or is sometimes, everyday I am blessed with the gift of my son, and the ever changing me.

  51. Mary says:

    Rachel,
    Thank you so much for the beautiful post.

    My journey to motherhood has been such a lesson in surrender. I studied midwifery and naturopathy— and my work was primarily with women and children… I love/d my work… I thought I was the one in control. (ha ha ha) My sweet sage and teacher came after two miscarriages,and lots of questions… I always assumed we’d have more children, and after two more miscarriages, I have once again surrendered to the flow. I’ve been an at-home mama, and loving it. Occasionally wondering how/when/if I’ll make more use of my education than those random, casual consults with folks at the farmer’s market– or by avoiding the American medical model by trusting my family’s ability to heal (and asking for help when necessary).

    I do realize my desire for meditation/yoga/exercise/quiet time helps me to parent in a way that works best for my whole family, not just for me… My sweet daughter reminds me to BE here, now. Sacred time. Sacred life.

    Anyways, thank you was what I really wanted to share. Thank you, for your honesty, your authenticity, and your ability to listen deeply and trust your intuition. You are inspiring.

    Blessings on this journey, Mama.
    Mary

  52. Hallie says:

    I think that all too many times, as woman we are fed this line about what motherhood should be… and I often times struggle that I don’t fit into that mold. Thankyou for reminding me that it’s ok to break that mold, and that are kids are better off for it. Thankyou for saying all the things I think of but don’t say… This was such a wonderful post! Thankyou for sharing it! I wish we lived closer… I think we would be friends! πŸ™‚

    Hallie

    http://www.ourbrokenroad.blogspot.com

  53. Spalva says:

    I’ve been thinking of this post since I read a few days ago. My list of “had I knowns” has grown and grown over that time. It’s hilarious! I will be doing something, like washing the dishes, and think of another one! Thanks for this heartfelt and honest post.

  54. Nesta Kennedy says:

    Thank you so much for this heartfelt writing. I’m a mother of 2, one I began mothering when she was 4 years old and one whom I just birthed 6 months ago. You’re right, we can know so much, and should honor the knowing part of ourselves. But there is so much to learn and that’s where release and discovery come in:)

  55. Hannah says:

    Wow- you were writing my story… My experience with my daughter, Noah, sounds very much like yours with Sage. Couple a very different picture of early motherhood than I had in mind with a baby who just wasn’t the peaceful cherub that I envisioned with a very stressful, did functional marriage and I was one lonely, confused, emotional new mama. Sometimes I wish I could go back, since I know so much more now- how to be more patient and understanding- afterall, Noah takes after me in so many ways. Thanks for writing this- I find it really difficult to put my feelings and emotions into words, and what you have written did just that for me!

  56. Mary says:

    I just came across your blog today. Just read this & am in a pool of tears after a very hard day with my husband, 5 year old, & 18 month old. Bless you for speaking the absolute truth of how we really truly don’t know & how very truly hard this road of motherhood is.
    Thank you from deep in my heart.

  57. Taryn Kae Wilson says:

    Rachel,
    Wow! So well said!
    I just came across your blog for the first time (from Small Things blog.)
    I have been laughing about how much I can relate to you! First I read “Who are we anyway?” and I could relate in so many ways to what you wrote there. (We took a plunge, quit the outside jobs, wanted to share our days and be together all the time.) Then I read this post “Reflections on Being a Mother.”
    We knew we wanted a homebirth, to co-sleep etc. I knew I would have a girl at some point, but our little boy Bracken came first. I always knew I would be a mother. Bracken was born at home. We had no idea how hard it was going to be in so many ways. He is also a very sensitive soul. He has demanded more from me than I ever thought I had to give, but somehow I am able to. I thought it would be more 50/50 also (in terms of parental roles), but it hasn’t been and yet it’s been just as it’s meant to be.
    Before Bracken was born, I “acted” much of my life to please others. After his birth, I didn’t have the energy to act anymore. I found there were many people I no longer wanted to be around. I needed supportive people who would encourage the intuitive, heart-based parenting that I needed to give Bracken. With motherhood, I’ve truly grown more than I ever have before.
    Anyway, I could keep going… but I just wanted to say hello and thanks so much for sharing! I can relate so much and feel we are kindred spirits.

    Love, Taryn

  58. L*Joy says:

    “I am not only a mother, but being one has been the most powerful force in shaping the person I have become.”

    My heart jumped in agreement. So many of my ideas and ideals for parenting have faded (or been forced;) ) away as Canaan continues to shape me into the momma she needs. Surrendering, as you said, instead of resenting was necessary and beautiful (but incredibly hard).

    Here I am finding your post a year after you posted, but wanted to comment and thank you for sharing, and encourage you as you mark your decade of motherhood! Here, here!

  59. Megan Pincus Kajitani says:

    Hi Rachel, I just found you through your Simple Homeschool post today and I’m so glad I did! Today is my “easy baby’s” 4th birthday, last week was his “spirited sister’s” 7th.

    Tears are flowing as I type this. Our girl, Senna, rocked our world in every way, directed us to attachment parenting and to an entire lifestyle shift — what we eat, how we think, how we school (and now, home/unschool!). Senna cried all night as a baby, she cried when she pooped, she would only sleep literally lying on my chest for months. She ended up having anaphylactic allergies to many, many foods, along with asthma, and the funny thing is, now, 7 years later, we all see such incredible blessing in it. I don’t believe we would have taken the leaps of faith we have taken in our life without her body screaming at us to GET OFF THE GERBIL WHEEL! (And, we still somehow had the faith to have our boy who, although he also has some anaphylactic allergies, has been “flowing water” in comparison, which is also the meaning of his name.) πŸ™‚

    I grew up quite typical suburban American. I had inklings of wanting some things different for myself as I moved toward motherhood — I knew I wanted a midwife/water birth for example, and I was “mostly vegetarian” since my 20’s — but if someone had told me 10 years ago I would be a homeschooling, home birthing mom and a vegan/conscious lifestyle educator/writer who breastfed for 6 years straight, studied homeopathy, and whose kids never eat in restaurants, I would have had a very hard time imagining it!

    Thank you for sharing this with the world. Thank you also for your Simple Homeschool post. I really needed to find another unschooling mom who was successfully running a business (which is what my husband and I are trying to do, and we’re early in the process). I will keep following you, and so very thankful to have read this today, on my “birth day,” too.

    I’m putting the link to a piece I wrote for Mothering Mag before our girl was born — I feel compelled to share it, in the theme of how motherhood changes us — and to also share that my life has changed SO much in these 7 years, and I am humbled and awed to see where these children are guiding us!

    Peace & Hugs, Megan

    P.S. I did two years of grad school in Madison, too! Wish I had seen your town when I was out there. Back in SoCal warmth now… πŸ™‚

    http://mpk-ink.com/my_birth_tiger_FULL.pdf

  60. Chastity says:

    I didn’t think I’d cry, but I did. Only a few sentences in and I just couldn’t stop crying. I’ve had so much fear and worry in my life and with my two kids it’s just grown. I try so hard and want to do so much, and never quite seem to be where I want to be. You speak truisms no one ever tells you. No one will say out loud or to your face. My oldest was an easy baby for the most part, which was good because I was so young when I had him. Now I’m older, and my beautiful girl can be trying. I’m tired all the time, have little to no motivation to do much for myself, and I do feel resentment at times that I can’t eat or shower, or just have an hour of no responsibility as opposed to their father, who truthfully, doesn’t really get it. But I love them, and still love this time. I want to stay home with them, to forgo the away from home working mom I was with my son. I contradict myself it seems, but I want more time with them, despite the hard, the frustration, the lack of energy. I want to learn to become the person I was meant to be, and help my children do the same. Thank you for your words Rachel. You may never read this, but thank you anyway.

  61. Jennifer Halldorson says:

    Wow, I just found your article today, I felt like I was reading the story of the birth of my son and our experience together. I appreciate what you have said and really enjoyed reading about your experiences. My son will be starting kindergarten this year, unlike your family, we are in a public school system, I know I will miss him, and I know this is one of many transitions yet to come. Presence truly is a gift, it has brought much joy and understanding in this life. Thank you again for sharing your story. Blessings to you and yours.

  62. taylor says:

    I’m a new mom, my son will be two months on the 29th of this month.my boyfriend is in the navy and stationed across the country, so I’m alone in this right now. he has a 5 year old daughter, from a previous marriage. in a way I’m envious because with her they had each other to help with the baby. Im trying to do this alone and like you said I never thought it would be this hard. I never once saw that at 22 I would be a mother and virtually a single mother at that. the pregnancy I was alone too and it was a very difficult pregnancy with lots of bumps and little complications. my son was an emergency c-section after 24 hrs of induced labor. thankfully, my boyfriend was able to be there for that, but he had to go back two weeks later. my son is not easy, he cries, he fights sleep like its his mortal enemy, and he ALWAYS hungry. we’ve gone two the e.r. 3 times and were admitted recently because he had dehydration. Ive always wanted to be a mom and he is beautiful. I love him so much, I’ve cried because he wouldn’t stop, I’ve been overly frustrated, sleep deprived since day one, starved, and lack of showering makes me feel a bit high up on the masculine scale. I’m still trying to find a groove. its nice to know I’m not losing my mind, that I’m not the only one whose felt this way. I couldn’t tell you if I’m doing any if this right, but I am doing my very best with the little energy I have. thank you for helping me feel not crazy that its going to get better.

  63. Taylor Grey says:

    I am a new mom- my son will be two months on the 29th of this month and at twenty-two, I never pictured myself a mom- yet. Even more so, I never pictured myself virtually a single mother. My boyfriend is in the United States Navy and is stationed across the country. So I’ve been doing this by myself (of course with help from my mom, family, and friends- but they can only give so much of their time)from the start. The pregnancy was a very difficult one. It had many bumps in the road and a few complications- half the time we weren’t sure Wesley would make it. If it wasn’t one thing it was another and when we overcame one bump there was another just beginning. Then on June 29th, after almost 24hrs in induced labor I was taken in for an emergency C-section. To be honest that didn’t bother me, I just wanted him out and to be okay. One way or another I was going to be holding my baby. When they pulled him out, I waited and listened, praying to hear his cry. Then it came and I cried, I was so happy he was okay. Most of the issues, throughout the pregnancy, came forth because he had tied a solid knot in his cord. They couldn’t see it in the ultrasounds for some reason. The fact that he had made it at all was a little miracle in its own. Thankfully my boyfriend was able to be a part of this and boy was I glad he was there. Given he had to leave two weeks later, but the first two weeks of Wesley’s life were wonderful. Not to say that after wasn’t, it is, its just been harder than expected. I knew I always wanted to be a mommy, I dreamed about it, but I also dreamed of having a husband or the father around to be there for the awe moments and the tough moments. Life, as we know, doesn’t ever go as planned.

    There have been days I’ve cried because he wouldn’t stop, where I’ve been up all hours of the night, I’ve slept in the rocking chair numerous times now. I’m sure I’m going to be a tiny twig from starving, my lack of showers has made me feel a bit high on the masculine scale. He is not an easy baby, but do I love him any less? No. Does he make me crazy sometimes? Yes, but thats what babies do. We’ve had a rough start, but that means somethings got to give soon right? I hope. As I type this, he is curled up at my side sound to sleep and I feel an overwhelming sense of love for this little human being with deep eyes. Nothing in this world prepared me for how hard this would, but more so, nothing prepared me for the love I have for him.

    I appreciate the fact that you helped me see I’m not crazy or alone- that it does get better and I will find my groove. That its okay to cry. I sometimes feel like I’ll never sleep again for longer than a few moments, I’ll never get to eat a real meal again, or that I’ll get to take a looooong shower. I know I will again, maybe not right away, but as a mother we make the sacrifices for our babies. And if I have to be a little stinky, hungry, or tired to make sure he’s okay then so be it. Someday I’ll look back at this and I know I’ll miss him being this little and that these moments right now are once in a life time with him. I wont get these seconds back again. I love this boy more than I ever thought I could love anything. Thank you for sharing your hardships and how they’ve turned into lovely wonderful moments. It gives me a little more of a grip to hang on and not give up when I feel like I’m going to.

  64. Sharon says:

    What a beautiful post! This is so sweet, it brought back lots of memories when I was a new mommy, now I’m a grandma, you never forget those amazing moments.
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Strompreisvergleich
    URL: http://www.strom-abo.com
    IP: 61.182.200.230
    BLOG NAME: Strompreisvergleich
    DATE: 02/09/2012 02:22:13 AM
    What I didn’t know: Reflections on Motherhood. – Clean.

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