Thursday, September 5, 2013

The mamas before me

We have friends in the Yukon who also have a big family-- they just welcomed their sixth this summer! I remember when their fifth was born, how amazed I was that as soon as the mama was home from the hospital, she was back to reality: dinners to be made, kids' schedules to keep up with, hockey, childminding for neighbours, plus the needs of a nursing newborn. I thought it must be the case that when a mama has more than one kid, she just becomes old hat at parenting. It looked, to me, like each kid just made this mama more experienced, practiced and capable. She was a seasoned pro.

We sat and shared tea one morning while her older kids were at school. She sat and quietly nursed and rocked her newborn while a young Abby toddled around with her fourth kid. I asked how a recent visit went with another large family from Ross River, who had pulled up their trailer and visited for a few days. The mama gave a tired sigh and half-smiled.

She told me how difficult things were. How she sat in her room and cried, long and hard, buckling from the pressure of hosting a large family. She was tired, weak from childbirth, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running a household while her husband was right back to work. She was expected to be back in tip-top shape. Neighbours would send their one or two kids over to play, assuming she could handle another couple of kids for an afternoon. The visiting family helped with meals, but with their own kids and their use of resources, ended up being too much for one mama to handle.

I'm so glad she shared this with me. Her honesty dispelled any illusion that parenting large families and managing newborns ever becomes easy. Not many people can relate to the experience of mothering a large family, nor one with kids so young and close in age. There isn't always a barometer for measuring when a new mama feels 'back to normal', or even one that accounts for what a new normal is. I'll tell you, this is hard. Not impossible, not something I wish away, but it's hard. I often feel overwhelmed, inadequate in meeting everyone else's needs, unable to meet my own basic needs of sleep and food, and continually falling short of people's expectations of where I 'should' be in my recovery from birth. I too sometimes sit in the dark, rocking my new baby, and cry at how hard this is.

I feel a solidarity with my Yukon mama friend, and with all the mamas who know what to is to feel they are falling short. It's tough. It's tough to lower expectations, learn to say no, give clarity to raw and difficult feelings.

I have been watching Hailey and Robin play with baby dolls. They put them to sleep, burp them, cuddle them, breastfeed them and rock them. I can see already that they are little mamas in the making, and they copy what they see motherhood means through my actions. I, too, have been watching other mamas who have been here before and following their cues to know what to do next. It's not always easy, or comfortable, but it is most definitely what I am meant to do --that I know for sure.

When all else fails, this little face that Robin makes when she makes the 'O' sound just cracks me up. A smile can break up any built-up tension or tiredness!

Robin says uh-oh!


  1. You are amazing to me Sarah. Not many people know what it is like to be in your shoes, I'm glad that you have someone that you can relate to (Your Yukon friend)....perhaps a call to her for some moral support would be good?
    I wish I was there just to be with you, give you a hand, drop a meal off or let you know that I think you are awesome (to your face).
    Proud of you- always. xoxox

  2. I am exhausted just thinking about a fourth. I know some of what you mean - having three kids in under four years has nearly done me in some days. But - one foot in front of the other, one hour, one nursing session, one diaper change at a time... and we get through it :)

  3. Another incredible entry by Sarah Niman.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I cannot tell you how many times I have quoted you by way of internal dialogue, and on occasion, out loud....especially when the days get long. I check your blog everyday for a new entry and look forward to each one. I sometimes check in the morning to see if you have entered a new post and I wait until both my young babies have gone down for their much needed afternoon naps. I make a cup of coffee, I sit down, take a deep breath and open your blog with anticipation. When your entries are exceptionally touching or inspiring, I re-read them out loud to my partner in bed at night. Your honesty is cathartic and it makes me feel "normal" and more adequate as a mother. Every mother should be reading this blog.

    Congratulations on your newest addition and thank you for saying that sometimes, it is hard.

    Anna Fournier
    Toronto, Ontario

    1. Wow Anna, your kind words have brought me to tears-- the good kind! Thank you. :) Its a nice feeling to know I'm being heard and that I'm not alone!

  4. I second Anna's thoughts/feelings exactly. I'm expecting my 4th, and am a whirl of emotions at the moment - scared, excited, freaking out even! Reading this reminds me that though things won't always be perfect, it'll all be worth it in the end. Thanks for having a way of putting things into perspective, Sarah.


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