Motherhood is exhausting. No way around it. And it can be gross too. For instance, I spent my Monday afternoon trying to get baby barf out of my area rug. And the smell of it out of my house in general (with the help of a lovely, elderly woman on YouTube).
And sometimes, in the middle of the night when you’re awake, again, wondering how you’re gonna make it through the next 10 minutes let alone the next 10 days, you need a little something to hold on to.
Enter: our guest author today, Catherine Keating.
Catherine helps moms turn their sensitivity into their superpower. And she’s here to give us tired love warriors a good snot cry if we need one. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing… enjoy.
It’s mid-winter break. My Instagram feed is filled with friends in Cabo, Maui, Italy, Sun River and Whistler. I see warmth and palm trees, snow-capped mountains, gorgeous meals, and huge smiles.
My family is spending break twenty minutes from home, at my parent’s house, in the chilly, February, Seattle rain.
And it’s perfect.
My mom had her hip replaced a couple days ago and she needs help. It’s a delightful thing to say really – that mom needs help. Not the hip replacement itself – she’s been in intense pain for months – but that she is being forced to receive support and care.
Had you asked me a few days ago if this was how I wanted to spend my mid-winter break (I mean the deep down really and truly kind of want) I probably would have said “No, I need to get out of here.”
Stepping into this week of no-school we were fresh off two weeks of multiple snow days, and two weeks of sick kids before that. I haven’t been out of the house much. I haven’t had me time in what feels like forever. The kids have been off, extra clingy and needy, despite having been home with me for days on end. No one had been sleeping well.
I was depleted. Completely and utterly depleted in every sense of the word. Simultaneously, I was attempting to finish a few projects, both for business and for home. I was spread way too thin without an end in sight.
Two nights ago, I emailed my peacefully sleeping husband a 3 am message to let him know that I was going to find a hospital that would admit me for a nervous breakdown and exhaustion. Ya know, like the celebs do? My nervous system was shot.
Basically, I was ready to run away. Far, far away, where no one could find me and ask me a single thing.
Instead, I packed our bags to come to the land of hip rehab.
Funny thing, in the end, it’s exactly where I need to be. I got to step far enough out of my own bubble to peer back in.
My mom is a giver and a make-it-all-perfect person. She didn’t learn until later in life that it’s okay to say “No. I’m busy. I can’t do that.” Something I discovered was essential to my own sanity and wellbeing as a mother. She doesn’t like to bother people, she assumes asking for help troubles someone who has better things to do.
So to be given the chance to help her, to actually be needed, was beautiful. I haven’t enjoyed doing laundry and dishes so much in a long time. I’ve even taken the extra time to make the beds just so – exactly as she likes it, even though she can’t get upstairs to see them – because those details matter to her.
Every little thing has felt like I’m getting the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for all of those tiny moments for all of those years.
Because, loves, this week let me in on the most delicious secret.
You guys – I saw it. The reason I spend so much time nurturing my babies. The kisses, the cool compress-ing, the holding back to sleep after a nightmare, the patience it takes to listen, to really listen. These babies whom we nurture – they become adults eventually. And when they have been cared for, when their spirits have been nourished from the start, they become adults who give back to their world. I saw it.
I saw my six year old daughter help put lotion on my mother’s legs, direct her PT exercises, fluff her pillows, and get her water refills. I watched my son make his grandmother tea and take it to her oh so gingerly, so as not to upset the tea cup or the presentation. I saw kind, caring little beings taking care of someone they love. We got to honor this beautiful, love-filled human by showering her with the do-you-need-anythings? and here-let-me-get-that-for-yous.
My usual boundless amount of gratitude in my heart had been dangerously low for a while. The day to day of motherhood had been too much. Who would have thought more caretaking could shift me out of my motherhood rut and back into the magic of grace?
Mamas. Even when we are depleted. Even when we feel there is absolutely no possible way we could get up in the middle of the night one more time. Or sustain one more “Mom, you said you would play with me when can you play with me?!” Or bake one more batch of cookies. Or create one more flying hovercraft dune buggy out of an old box. Or wipe one more set of tears, apply one more band-aid, put away one more dish, or listen to the same song ONE MORE TIME – we do it.
And we do it with love, even when that love feels hard to find.
These tiny things, these menial tasks that happen on the daily, they mean more. So much more.
There are always memes and sweet stories and blog posts that tell us as such, and it always sounds good. Except for the times you want to punch the screen and scream “But were you up from 1-4 am wiping diarrhea!? Don’t tell me to be grateful, damnit!”
But every once in while, when you least expect it, you get to feel it. You get to know, in your heart of hearts that it’s true.
It all matters. Someday these small humans will be big humans. And when they have been nurtured, they will know how to nurture.
I see you, tired mama. And I’m here to tell you that you are doing a remarkable job. You are tending to the needs of little people who some day will take all that care out with them into the big wide world.
And someday, someday I promise – they will thank you. And they will mean it so deeply and humbly, because they will know just how massive your love for them has always been.
About Catherine Keating:
Catherine Keating is the author of There Was Supposed To Be a Baby: A Guide to Healing After Pregnancy Loss. Her mission is to help grieving mothers navigate through their personal healing journey. She facilitates workshops and retreats designed to support women in tending to mind, body, and spirit so to rediscover their inner wisdom and wellness. Catherine is also passionate about supporting mothers who identify as a Highly Sensitive Person in finding wellness in these same spaces – mind, body, spirit. She guides women in practices to nourish themselves so that they can nourish others. Catherine lives in Seattle with her husband, two children, and sweet old pup. She spends any extra time she finds reminding women to be gentle with themselves and searching for beauty in every nook and cranny.Marjorie Bertrand and Alexander Dummer for Unsplash]