Our first family picture after Mouse was born -- you all know how careful I am with my daughters' privacy, but for this post, I wanted to share a few pictures from the past.
I gave birth to three daughters in four years. We didn't plan it that way -- it's just how things worked out. And though I now love having our girls so close in age, it was really, really hard when they were little.
Taken in our back yard, this was the photo we used for our last birth announcement.
I will never forget that first year after Mouse was born. My husband and parents would head off to work in the mornings, and I would sit in the upstairs back bedroom with my three little girls, the only room where I could contain them by myself without help while I was recovering from my c-section. I did it almost every day for months on end, exhausted and emotionally raw from the 2-3 hours of sleep I was getting each night due to Mouse's acid reflux condition. I cuddled toddlers, watched cartoons, rocked the baby's bouncy chair with my foot, played Solitaire on my computer...and wondered if I was going to survive. Maybe that was the hardest part of it all. Being a mother had always been one of my lifelong dreams, and it wasn't turning out the way I thought it would. I wasn't just struggling -- I was drowning.
My three little pumpkins...
I often remember telling my family, "If I could just get enough sleep at night, I could deal with everything else." But it wasn't to be. All three of our daughters had sleep issues from the very beginning. I kept thinking it would go away, that they would grow out of it, but none of them did. My husband helped as much as he could, but I would only let him get up with the girls on weekends, since I felt the California freeways were dangerous enough without him trying to commute to work on too little sleep. I read every book and article I could find on getting your kids to sleep through the night, talked to other mothers, tried every new method I came across. Nothing worked. I would listen to other moms who said, “Oh, my baby started sleeping through the night at 2, 3, 4 months. She’s just so easy!” and I would want to cry over what felt like my own failure.
The girls grew older, and I was sure that we would get past this stage. "Wait till they stop taking naps," people told me. "Wait till they're in school. It will all be so different." But the years passed, and nothing changed. The girls were each still getting up one or more times every night. I can't tell you how many evenings I sat rocking a weeping child, tears running down my face as I silently begged God to fix this part of our lives that seemed like it would always be broken. Sometimes my mom would be up in the night when I was, and she would listen to me pour out my heart over the girls. I was so overwhelmed at times by how difficult it was to be a mother. "Maybe someday it will get easier," I would say. And Mom would shake her head no with a meaningful smile and reply, "It never gets easier."
I've been getting hand picked bouquets from my girls since they first started toddling around the front yard.
It was during all these years of struggle that I discovered sewing, started my blog, and wrote my book. I keep the focus mainly on my creative work here at Fabric Mutt, but every now and then I try to pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse of sewing in real life. There's such an irony to social media and blogging. We want to keep it real, but the truth is that you get a lot more "likes" on the pretty photos. After all, what's more inspiring -- a) pictures of me cleaning up after the dog while I holler at the kids to stop climbing under the table and eat their lunch already, or b) pictures of my latest patchwork project? (Trust me, the answer is b.) My ongoing battle with sleep deprivation has been a huge part of my life over the last decade, but sewing and blogging have helped me cope with it in a small way. It's true that not everything in my life is picture perfect, but this creative outlet has given me the push I needed to look beyond the craziness of life to find the little bits of lovely that are all around me. It's taught me to take time to enjoy them, and most of all, to share them -- with my precious family and with all of you.
Sunday morning smiles from Spring 2013.
My girls are now 5, 6, and 9 years old, and for the past three months, I've enjoyed the closest thing to uninterrupted sleep I've had in 9 years. We've relapsed a few times with bad dreams or illness, but those few setbacks just remind me how far we've come. I'm grateful, more grateful than I can say, to be finally coming out into the light after so many years struggling through what felt like such a dark valley. It’s been one of the most difficult things in my life, but we're making it. My darling girls are the joy of my heart -- I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. My husband and I have come through this, seeing each other at our worst and knowing we can still count on each other. My parents have been a fount of wisdom and sanity that I've come back to time and again. And while we looked back through our photos to choose some pictures for this post, my husband and I shared a few tears and lots of laughter. As hard as those days were, there were so many great moments mixed in with the tough ones.
More than anything, this journey has reminded me to have grace for other women who struggle with issues in their children that they can’t control. It's so typical in our culture today to point out what others are doing wrong, but most of us as moms don't need to hear it. We have a personal guilt recording playing in our head 24 hours a day that reminds us of all the ways we feel we're letting our kids down. You have no idea how much it means to a struggling mom when you come alongside her with love and encouragement to say, “You’re going to make it through this. You're doing better than you think. No one loves that child like you do.” So to those of you dear readers who are still fighting your own battle, I beg you...don't give up hope. Keep doing your best. Keep loving your child. You will get through this. I promise.