The scariest part of living in Idaho was learning to drive in the snow. Keep in mind—Idaho roads were probably much more scared of me than I was of them—and rightfully so. I was just a little inexperienced Texas-driver with a Chevvy Impala and four balding tires when I first became an Idahoan. I remember one snowy night, shortly after Michael and I got married, bursting through the door of our studio apartment while sobbing uncontrollably. It took me a minute to compose myself enough to tell him that I was crying tears of shame. I had accidentally skidded off the road and into someone’s front lawn on my way home from work. The owner of the house clucked his tongue at me after reading my license plate and then got a shovel to help dig my tires out of the mounting snow in his yard while bystanders watched. Embarrassing alert.
Shortly after that, I learned a phrase that has stuck with me ever since—"steer into the skid.” Those four little words changed my winter driving experience ever after. In lieu of this new phrase, when my car started to skid out of control after hitting ice, I learned that instead of grabbing my wheel and steering it where I *wanted* it to go, I had to first regain control of my wheels. Steering *into* the skid helps the wheels realign with the car’s out-of-control alignment. Once you’ve done that, you can gradually maneuver the car to get it going the right way again.
I know what you’re thinking, “Kelsey! Your story is soooOOooo cool. But what does it have to do with postpartum life?” Well buckle up, partner and I’ll tell ya.
As you very well may know, postpartum is not the most glamorous time of one’s life. Something about the weeks of bleeding, lack of sleep, spit-uppy, poopy, mess mess MESS that it is. Try feeling cute when you’re squeezing your deflated balloon belly into hospital-supplied mesh undies with baby spit-up in your hair. Seriously. Try it. I dare you. (You better not succeed or I will be seriously jealous.)
The nice thing about having your third baby is that there are absolutely no misgivings about whether or not having a baby is going to be hard. You *know* it will be. You’ve done it twice before, so you know there will be frustrating nights where nobody is sleeping. You know that when you finally get around to washing your bedding (after a shameful amount of time, truly.) you’re going to spill half a bottle of formula on the comforter. You know that you will lie that baby down in a bassinet next to your bed as sloooowly as possible and pray to the Lord above that she stays asleep only to hear her grunt and toot herself awake the second your head hits your pillow. You know the hard stuff is coming, but you’re too busy thinking about all of the good, cute, and sweet stuff to care. It’s what helps the human population to carry on.
Now, despite popular belief, raising two little girls is no cakewalk. People use the word “sass” when referring to little girls to make it sound cuter? Perhaps? Like, when they scream at you full-volume and fling themselves on the floor shaking with rage because you poured their milk in the wrong cup it doesn’t *feel* cute, but ha-haaa, girls will be girls, I guess? So yeah, there we were, raising two “sassy” daughters and truly wanting a third babe. We’d see a picture pop up on our Facebook memories of us snuggling one of them on our chest and boy—that was enough to make us want another! Like, sign me right up, ya know? I wasn’t thinking about the hard at the time, truly I wasn’t… I just wanted more baby snuggles.
But then I got pregnant and, as uncomfy as I got during those final weeks before I delivered, I started to get scared of what it would look like to have a third. Because, dang—the two I had made me feel tired body and soul. On the way to the hospital to deliver Lila I was so looking forward to not being pregnant but so dreading all of the responsibilities that having her earth-side would bring us. Because postpartum is HARD.
I rode the postpartum anxiety struggle bus for a while after Ellie was born and then after Scarlett, life was just bananas because Ellie wasn’t even two and she was such a feisty feist and Scarlett wasn’t the best napper. And honestly, trying to figure a newborn out while you’re dealing with hormones and sleep deprivation can feel a lot like spiraling out of control after skidding over a patch of ice. I tried so hard to fight against the hard, but I ended up being consumed by my gripping anxiety. “She’s about to wake up. Oh gosh, please don’t wake up. Maybe I should just stay awake until she wakes up again.” …Que me staring at my sleeping newborn for two hours, too scared to fall asleep because I was certain that the moment I did she would need to be fed.
Or maybe it wasn’t even about the baby, maybe it was “My pre-pregnant jeans don’t fit. Will they ever fit again? Am I always going to look six months pregnant? I’m going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. I’ll cut out all sugar and carbs starting… now!”
Then there was the whole breastfeeding struggle I had with my first two and that was kind of a disaster. Yeah, looking back, those postpartumy times just felt chaotic and like I had completely lost control—because, well, I had. I couldn’t eat just whenever I wanted. I couldn’t get through an entire cleaning chore without having to stop to feed, coddle, or change a diaper. I couldn’t just veg out and watch a movie with Michael without hearing the wah-wah of a little baby. Spontaneous romantic gestures (wink wink) came to a crashing halt. And sleep! Don’t even. We weren’t in charge. The baby and the baby’s needs were in charge. And I fought against it, dang it. I steered as hard as I could the opposite direction trying so hard to *feel* a sense of normalcy or like life, as I knew it, wasn’t completely over. But it was! And that’s not to say it was over in a bad way, it was over in a really great way! Because becoming parents is literally the most significant thing we’ve ever done in our lives. (I say “we” because I know that Michael feels the same as I do.) I won’t try hard to explain why this is true, but if you have kids or even if you want kids, you understand it. It’s that unconditional-love thing, man. It’ll getchya.
So now, five months postpartum, instead of trying to steer the wheel where I *want* it to go, I’ve just steered it right into the skid. Embracing the hard moments instead of trying so hard to fight against them has made all of the difference for my mental sanity. When she’s asleep and I’m tired, I accept the fact that she’ll probably wake me up in half an hour or so and catch the zzzzs while I can. If she’s struggling to sleep at all I turn on a show and buckle up for the rough hour or so ahead. I didn’t even try to nurse this time. I accepted the fact that this made my life and the lives of those around me miserable after Scarlett was born and I just stocked up on formula and embraced the fact that I was going to be a bottle-feeding mom from day one this go-around. When I started complaining a day or so after coming home from the hospital that I never knew what to wear during postpartum, Michael scored some BIG points by taking me on a shopping spree to Ross, where I bought baggy sweaters to get me feeling like I had something cute to wear. (This is so much better than trying to squeeze into your non-maternity clothes too early!) I clean when I can (and when I feel like it) and try not to think about the mounting laundry while I’m enjoying baby snuggles. Michael and I snuggle up and binge Netflix after our big girls are in bed and we usually have a wide-awake little sidekick snuggled right there with us and you know, I don’t mind, because I know that this stage of life goes so very fast.
Will I miss sleep deprivation? Not ever. Seriously. Ain’t no amount of times I hear the Darius Rucker song, *It Won’t be Like This for Long* that will make me miss not getting a solid eight. But I know I’ll miss the weight of a newborn sleeping on my chest, the excitement of their first sleepy smiles, and the fact that they can’t yet display their “sass” to you…verbally, anyways.
So here’s to newborns, postpartum, and steering right into that skid!