The Kind Of Mom I Was Before Baby Number Three
I have always been a certain kind of mom. I rarely skipped a yoga class, never skipped a run, was always up on the latest news, managed to meet friends for coffee and drinks, held down a stimulating career (from home) and usually (though not always) managed to get showered and dressed by noon most days.
Some may have called me selfish, but I considered it more "putting on my own oxygen mask first." And we were happy. My husband has always been a great dad and full participant in our lives, and my first two children, born 18 months apart, have thrived. More than that, I believed (and still believe) that moms are still women. And women need their own lives.
But then I had my third.
From the day she was born, everything was different. With the first two, I was up from the birthing bed, ready to run within hours. I was actually running within days of both births. With her, though I did make it to the gym after three weeks, I didn't run for six. And even when I did, it didn't feel the same. Everything ached and I wanted to be home.
With my first two, I prided myself on how quickly I lost the baby weight. Both times, it was gone in less than five months. I was back to my pre-pregnancy size, even running a full marathon less than a year after my second child was born. I could nurse for two years while also cultivating my own life in abundance.
I was sure when I had number three, she'd fall into step and my life would continue as it always had. But it didn't work that way at all.
At first I blamed it on labor. And it's true this third time was harder. I am older (seven years older than the first time, in fact) and I am tired in a way I wasn't prior to my third. But soon it wasn't just about the pain in my uterus and hips. It was about something else. Every time I wanted to go to the gym or go out with a friend, I'd look at my new baby, so helpless and perfect, and not want to leave.
I had some sense that she would be my last baby and I am sure that is part of it. Every second I spent away from her squishy sweet face, sleepy eyes and tightly balled fists was a moment I would never get back with my newborn. Looking at my now 6-year-old and nearly 8-year-old, I am constantly aware of the speed of time.
"It's Christmas Eve Eve!" my almost 8-year-old screamed this morning as she opened the second to last window on her advent calendar. Both her father and I were shocked. Wasn't it just December 1? How is it not still June?
That's exactly how it goes with a third baby. Life is such a blur of birthday parties, playdates, soccer games and gymnastics showcases that you wake up one day and she's almost one. Here we are, 11 months after her birth and I can't remember what we did in the time it took us to get here. It feels alarming, as though my life goes through periods of fast-forward like on a VCR and it's only when I am jarred -- like my daughter loudly announcing the date this morning -- where we hit play and things come back into focus.
So maybe that is why I find myself, after nearly a year, still with about 10 pounds of baby weight still around my middle and only five or six books read the entire year. My mileage, while still respectable, has dwindled. On a good week. I simply don't have the heart to bundle up and hit the trails if it means having to leave my baby behind. I have skipped more runs this year and put down more books than I ever did with my other two.
The funny thing is, I am not sad about it. OK, that's not exactly true. Every time I get dressed in the morning, I am a little sad about the state of my body. And I miss reading passionately. (I have taken to buying insanely expensive audible books that I listen to while cooking dinner, walking the dog, and driving my kids to and fro just to sneak in a few more books.)
Even so, I have a perspective with this baby I never had before. There will always be books to read, essays to write, novels to finish and marathons to run. There will always be pounds to lose, cookies to bake and dishes to wash. But my baby. She's brief. I get her for a year, if that. Then she stumbles into toddlerhood and soon runs off as a preschooler and before I know it, she'll be 8 years old, planning a rock climbing birthday and I won't be wondering where the past few months have gone. I'll be wondering where there years have gone. Because I'll have missed them.
They say you change after you have each child. I never believed it. But now I do. Because it's not that I neglect my personal health. I do more than the minimum to maintain my fitness and I maintain my friendships and find ways to stay abreast of the latest news. I am still me. But I am me in balance. I want to live in every moment with this baby. I want to inhale every last whiff of fresh human until it's gone. I want to be the one watching her let go of the table and take those first faltering steps into my arms.
I'm still me. I'm just a different version of it. My third child changed me.
And I am not sorry at all.
What's changed most about you now that you're a mom?