do less. but do it.
Kerah's boys are 13 months apart. Can you even imagine? Baby #2 was a surprise in lots of ways. Even his arrival was a surprise when his mom delivered him in the front seat of their car on their way to the hospital!
We had some of the most helpful conversation I've had a in a long time. I have another blog post in the works with some nuggets from the rest of our time together, but to begin, I think this is a worthy topic to write about.
I recently saw a picture of me holding Ivar and Elsie right when Elsie was born and it knocked the wind out of me. I remember that season. Those little ones were really little. And really dependent and demanding. And seeing that picture gave me a little glimpse into what is up ahead. Kerah said that she really struggled a few months after her second was born, and I remember those days too, especially after Elsie. Some days were really dark. Postpartum depression is real. And I think it's just good to acknowledge that it comes with some babies. It can feel like a surprise, because you may have not had it with your last baby. But here it is. A cloud of weariness descends.
This wasn't postpartum, but recently I told Rory, "I am feeling so depressed today." And he said, "Oh that makes total sense. We haven't seen the sun in a week, you haven't been out of the house in days and have been caring nonstop for sick, mopey kids. Of course you're feeling depressed. Just let yourself feel it. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to have bad days...those are real emotions that we don't have to always run away from." Then he encouraged me to go out for a walk.
Now I know there are stories and circumstances that require outside help. And I won't dismiss that. But I have to tell you, having Rory acknowledge (and not panic) about my depressed mood was sincerely helpful. I stopped feeling bad about feeling bad and just started taking care of myself in better ways.
We talked about what would be helpful during those dark days...ways that friends could really carry you through that season. Mostly because I feel like I need to make a concrete list for myself so that when fall and winter come (I'm assuming that is when I'll start to feel the weight and hormones of baby #4...that's when I felt it with Elsie. Not when she was born in the summer, but when it got cold and isolated in the winter) I will have some practical ways to ask for help.
Here's what we came up with:
A meal quickly dropped off. Doesn't have to be gourmet. In fact, a Cub Fried Chicken meal, purchased ten minutes before drop off is as welcome as anything. I always over think this one so that I never do anything. I think I should prepare some awesome meal, but that truly is not my gift. However, that doesn't let me off the hook! A gift card to a restaurant in town would be just as kindly received. In so many of these ideas, IT IS THE THOUGHT THAT REALLY, TRULY DOES COUNT.
And then, the meal can be dropped off with a short chat of hello and encouragement. But actually a long visit can also be overwhelming. I think this is encouraging for me as the giver. I can tell Rory, "hey, I'm going to cub to get a chicken dinner for so-and-so and will be home in 45 minutes. Done and done.
A text message. When you think of that person, just drop them a line to tell them. Period. Done frequently, this can mean AS MUCH as a chicken dinner.
A voice mail. We both said that there are moments of mayhem where picking up the phone isn't an option. But to hear a nice message can be life-giving and also can be played over and over and over.
A card or piece of fun mail. Just any sort of hello from the outside world! Motherhood can feel lonely. It just can. I don't think we can fix that, but a nice card or sending someone a good magazine (!!!) would be so well received. I remember I got a box in the mail from my friend Heidi after Elsie was born. It had random toys that her kids wanted to pack (of their own) in the tiny box for my kids and two cans of tuna and a jar of pickle relish. She wrote: Dinner is done! Don't forget tuna melts! They're so easy. Just add mayonnaise to this stuff and one more meal is over! I LOVED that gift. We had tuna melts that very night. I think of her every time we have them still.
Offer to take the bigger kid(s) for a few hours while mom and baby have some time to themselves. What a gift! And fun for everyone. The bigger kids are likely ready to bust out of the house on an adventure and would do well with some personal attention.
A visit to clean the bathrooms. Can you imagine this one? If someone just showed up with their own cleaning supplies and offered to deep clean your bathroom? Kerah had this done by my sister-in-law Lisa, and I think it's awesome. I'd for sure be embarrassed at the state of my bathrooms, but I'd be way more grateful than embarrassed! (clearly you'd have to check with the mom!)
Anyway. The point of this list is to remind MYSELF that I can do small things for others. I can do way less than my imaginative heart wants to do. But I still have to do it. I can't just keep thinking that I should drop off a Pioneer Woman Lasagna with homemade bread and amazing Cesar salad if it never happens. That doesn't count. Even if the meal was going to be amazing in my head. What I can do is run to the Co op and get a tub of their fresh soup and a loaf of their best crusty bread and drop it off quickly at the house. I don't have to wrap it beautifully. I don't have to include a nice card. Those are only hurdles that I will never jump to actually get the gift to the mom-in-need of a gift. So keep it simple. I can do less. But I have to do it.
Hope this helps. It helps me a lot!