In just a few days, my newborn, Santiago, will be a month old. As I look back on the last four weeks and how it has turned my life wonderfully upside down again, I’m amazed at so many things I am realizing, learning or rediscovering all over again.
There’s nothing more humbling and exciting than being back at square one—for the third time—and realizing that there is still so much to learn!
It has only been a little less than a month but it feels so much longer that that! And yet when I look at Santi, I can’t believe how fast time went by.
I guess when your days and nights blend into one big blur, your concept of time changes as well, which is only natural when most of your day is devoted to one person and filled with the same activities, day in, day out.
Stop, slow down, enjoy
There were times I found myself impatiently waiting for my babies to reach particular milestones as I went through daily mundane activities with them. However, seeing my two older children now and realizing that I may never again have these moments has taught me to stop, slow down and enjoy every moment I can with this baby, no matter how mundane or ordinary it may be.
While making the most out of every day with Santi, I also have to remind myself that life does not stop for the rest of my family. My world may revolve around the baby, but they have their lives filled with activities and personal needs that I still have to meet as wife and mother.
Here is where things can get confusing. I’ve had well-meaning friends and family advise me to focus on the baby first and let my husband and other members of the family, such as the grandmothers, handle the older kids. The explanation—the baby needs me more than anyone else at this point.
However, I’ve also gotten advice from the other end of the spectrum telling me that while my baby will not remember a single thing from this stage of his life, my older children will. They will be the ones most affected by the sudden change in my attention and time spent with them and, therefore, it would be wise to delegate what I can, of the baby duties, and continue being there for them as much as I can.
Even if this is my third child and almost everything is so familiar, I realize that nothing is ever exactly the same, no matter how many children one may have because the situation is never the same.
I may be going through the same things as before but different circumstances will always make the experience new and require a fresh way of dealing with things.
I’ve tried both methods and have chosen a case-to-case solution. There are days it has to be about the baby and days it has to be about one or both the older children.
It’s easy to unconsciously overstretch yourself when trying to meet the needs of two kids and a baby. A week after giving birth, I got a package for Santi with a wonderfully written letter from a friend. One line struck me.
“Remember to be kind to yourself,” she said.
I suppose having three children under the age of 6 herself, she knew exactly what to say. I am so glad that she shared that simple reminder with me.
Almost always, mothers will put themselves and their needs last. It feels so hard to say “no” to something for your children simply because you are tired or don’t feel up to it.
In my first two weeks, I constantly felt guilty for not being able to do what I used to for my older children, such as bringing them to school and accompanying them to important activities, like Adriana’s Family Day in school and Juanmi’s big school entrance exam. I tried to make up for it by being as present for them at home all day and in every way I could.
Since I was still recovering from Caesarian section, battling hormones and trying to find my routine with Santi, I found this period more difficult than the pregnancy and surgery combined!
However, when I read that letter, I realized that it’s okay for us to sit back and take care of ourselves first too, especially in times like these. Being kind to ourselves doesn’t mean we take a complete break from motherhood. It just means cutting ourselves some slack.
Not everything has to be perfect. Some things can wait and some don’t have to be done at all and surprise, surprise! Our children’s world will not fall apart while at the same time, ours will feel a little lighter, making the journey of motherhood easier and more enjoyable.
It’s a long road ahead. Sometimes I feel like I am on three different paths with three different companions, and my head spins trying to figure out where I should be and who to go with first.
However, when I step back, breathe and pull myself together, I see the bigger picture and realize that there is really no need to try to divide myself into three. All three roads are actually just one, leading to the same destination. As long as they are guided on their path by love, they’ll be fine.