I had no doubts when Mae Mae was on her way that pure grit and determination would land me at the top of my mommy game.
Why not? It had worked for me before. I don’t have a naturally ability to do really much of anything….It is planning, organization, determination and guts that have got me this far. Got me through college and hired on with the same employer I have today and will probably retire with. I was bound and determined to make it back home and I spent ten years working promotions to make it back this way. I am proud that all of this work allowed me to buy my first house at the age of 25.
I have a habit of reserving my efforts for things that I am confident that I will excel in. In other words, if I am uneasy about doing it well, it doesn’t happen. I research, plan, dip my big toe, and if all if well, dive on it and tackle the job, project, or career move etc. Whatever it may be, it gets 200%.
I am just wired this way. This is the only approach I know.
So, when my sister reminded me shortly after Mae arrived that I needed to dial back the intensity a bit, I was challenged. Her exact words where, “You can’t do it all. You can’t be a supermom.”
My reply was…..”WATCH ME!”
We bought our first baby home to a little mobile home on our farm. We had made the leap six months prior to move from our rental, buy a cheap, and I mean cheap, mobile home and place it on the farm. We moved while six months pregnant, placed half of what we owned in a storage unit and squeezed into our home on wheels.
Our little trailer house in all its glory.
All of this was first off a way to live on the farm! That seems like such an easy task, doesn’t it. Buy a farm and move in the house….Simple as that. Well, we have a knack for buying a farm without a house and then dreaming of building.
The plan was to live dirt cheap. We bought our trailer for $6500 if that puts things in perspective. Then tackle the rest of the wedding debt. Yes, we charged a good chunk of our wedding. Dumbest thing ever but I don’t think I would change a thing about that day.
October of 2009
So, here we are with a new baby in our tiny home. Maternity leave was unfortunately only six weeks for me and a week for Eddie. So, night duty became solely mine after one week. Every two-hour wake up call, nurse, rock, crash in the recliner, repeat again in two hours. Even though it was rough, being home with Mae during the day made it feasible to survive on my own at night.
tired baby and mama
After the six-week mark was a different story. I have a full-time job with a 45 min commute. That was a 9.5 hour stretch away from the house with my pumping bag in tow. Mothers all over the world do this all the time. I am nothing special. It is hard but manageable.
That is until you start building a barn during the worst drought in more than 100 years.
framing done on half the barn
We started construction on the Manure Management shed in the fall of 2011 but were delayed by winter weather until the spring of 2012. I was so determined to not slack on my farm duties that I actually helped pour concrete while I had Mae in the carrier. She fell asleep to engine of the concrete truck.
Mae supervising while the first truss leg of the barn went up
loading up the steel metal truss leg
We built the entire barn ourselves. We did this in the evenings and on the weekends. We did this all summer in 100+ degree temps.
laying tin on the roof
Mornings in the barn started at 6 am each day and went until we couldn’t take the heat any longer sometime mid afternoon.
trusses at sunset
Picture being out in that heat, up on scaffolding hanging trusses, going in to nurse or pump and coming back out. Dehydration is a bitch when you are nursing and pumping to build up a supply for the week. I was gone from Mae all day during the week and most of the weekend. I remember turning to a friend that had come to work on the barn and saying, “I don’t even know when my kid naps”.
Mae at 2 months in the middle of the build.
But, my drive to not slack on those farm duties and not deprive Mae in anyway was hitting an all-time high level of burnout. We kept up this pace from May through August. The bank deadline of August was looming and boosting the stress level to new highs. We had no choice other than to stick it out. I can’t tell you how good it felt to complete that structure and take a breath.
barn in august of 2012
Looking back at what I asked my body to do just a few weeks post postpartum is crazy. But things eventually returned to a new normal of work, baby and light farm duties.
Mae was about six months old when I couldn’t take life in the little trailer any longer. The whole experience was making me a little crazy. I could write an entire book about our trailer experiences…….So, when I heard about a rental house opening just a half mile from the farm I jumped on it. I secretly called the landlord and told him we wanted the house sight unseen. He told me that it would be vacant in about a month or so but he already had an interested party. I hung up the phone deflated and resigned myself to a few more years in our tin can.
One month later the landlord called to say that the other party had backed out and offered us the house. I finally broke down and told Eddie about the house. I may have waited a little longer to tell him even but he had noticed the name on the caller ID and asked me about it. Not sure what my plan was as that point. Did I really think I could just give him our new address??? So, I confessed my living arrangement scheming…..and I remember Eddie yelling “I AM NOT MOVING AGAIN!”
We moved two weeks later. Put our trailer on Craigslist and it sold before we even moved out. It was meant to be. It was that simple.
current rental on Mae’s 1st birthday
So, we moved while I six months pregnant and when the baby was six months old……… I know. I know…….
It should have been no surprise to me when my immune system tanked a few weeks after moving. I ran at too high of a gear for too long and ran out of steam. I spent the winter going from one cold and flu to another. Compare this to the previous winter while pregnant and I wasn’t sick even once.
I didn’t really understand the physical effects of sleep deprivation. I had no idea that lasting impact of sleeping for no more than 2-3 hours straight for almost two years. I was bound and determined to nurse on demand and provide Mae everything she needed.
That meant pumping for 14 months and nursing for 22 months. I knew that I was doing the right thing for our family; but man, did I ever laugh when I heard a couple say that attachment parenting almost killed them. I understood that statement with every cell in my body.
My chiropractor gave me the name of a local acupuncturist about a year ago and I stumbled into her office in the worst possible shape imaginable. Looking back, I don’t really know how I was even standing up. I always thought that celebrities that were hospitalized for exhaustion were just weak…They may be for all I know, but I really think exhaustion could kill someone.
My body hasn’t recovered yet. Mae is 25 months old now and I still go twice a week for acupuncture. In the four months since she weaned, we have been pregnant and miscarried.
This shattered us……There is no other way to describe it.
I have thought long and hard about sharing this info and I have come to this conclusion.
Physical and emotional well-being are paramount. I always ran on the old adage of “No pain, No gain”. I truly believed that and still do to some extent. But, I can’t be everything and do everything without making my health a priority.
I know that losing a baby means that something was wrong and it was meant to be….My brain knows that, my heart just aches. But, I can’t help but wonder if my body was telling me it was not ready. Did it need more time to heal?
It has been a wild roller coaster of hormones and emotions these past four months. I cried during the weaning process and miscarriage process all in the same month. That is enough to send anyone over the edge.
But, you know what the strangest thing about all of this is????? I couldn’t see any of it until just recently. Each part of this tale on its own doesn’t say much but when you string it all together you get a full picture of a human body that has been chewed up and spit out.
Sometimes, I can get so focused on the details that I miss the picture all together. I think this is the ultimate case of just that.
I will learn how to treasure my body, pamper my body and soul, and prioritize its needs. I have too. I don’t have a choice. I am not a supermom or super human being for that matter. There is a limit to what each body and soul can take. I am at mine.
I get so frustrated with my physical limitations and fertility struggles and subsequent weight gain, and acne. I am wired to demand perfection in all that I do. I have been demanding perfection from a body that is just all wrung out and thus encouraging fragility. Doesn’t it seem counter-intuitive to demand excellence in something that just by the act of doing so creates the problem you are trying to remedy.
Perhaps I can find it in me to accept a “B” and call it a day.
Now when I think of my reply to my sister’s words, I just cringe. All I hear in those words is naivety and arrogance.