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On My Last Baby’s First Birthday: Reflections on the Physicality of Mothering

On My Last Baby’s First Birthday: Reflections on the Physicality of Mothering

Unless God has other plans for our family, which He very well might, this month marked our last baby’s first birthday. I’m simultaneously sad and celebrating. This starts a new phase of mothering, and I think it’s worth it to pay attention to the physicality of it all. God made us physical beings. He formed us out of the dust of the ground breathing the breath of life into our very lungs. He incarnated His Son; God is with us. The physical matters. With that, here are a few truths I’ve noticed:

baby girl first birthday cake

There’s a reason God designed us to have babies when we’re young.

If you’re an older mom and you’re reading this, you know what I mean. Having babies at 22 is different than at 32. And at 42? Lord have mercy. Whereas my first baby’s first year took the 12 months you’d expect, this 5th baby bent the space-time continuum and made it to a year old in a mere 3 months. 5th babies (and 6th, 7th, and so on) are magical like that.

There’s just no getting around the physical toll having young kids takes on a person.

It’s constant. One day I will not be physically hauling children all the time. I think about that day with both relief and melancholy. We went for a hike a couple of weekends ago with local homeschooling friends and I did a good portion of it while carrying two children. Multiple moms and dads offered to carry one of them, but they wanted Mom, so Mom carried them. That’s both exhausting and lovely, hard physical work and heartwarming.mom wearing baby and hugging toddler on a hikeIt’s an unavoidable physical toll—one that shows itself in myriad ways, including the sunburst of stretchmarks I’ve had since almost 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my first. It’s the ab muscles I literally felt ripping apart as they separated to make room for that first growing baby. It’s the umbilical hernia and diastasis recti that have never healed because I’ve spent so many years pregnant, postpartum, and then pregnant again. It’s the knot in the left side of my neck and the hitch in my hip that feel permanetly there because it just doesn’t feel right to hold the baby or toddlers on my right side. No amount of massage or chiropractic care has yet fixed that. Let’s not even mention what sneezing, coughing and laughing does to the business downstairs. Ladies 10 or 20 years older than me tell me I’m young, but at 34 I feel more tired than I’ve ever felt before.

When the kids are tired, you likely are too.

Yet that’s usually when you have to carry their flailing, fit-throwing bodies, or their limp noodle, sleeping selves to wherever you’re going. There’s the getting up at night. Or, if you co-sleep like me, you’re not getting “up” necessarily, but it has been well over a year since my last night of uninterrupted sleep. When I’m chatting with friends, they’ll recall stories, saying, “Remember when…” and no, I don’t remember when because for the last 7 years my brain cells have not gotten real, solid rest.

Yet, there’s SO MUCH JOY.

So much. Like, baby and toddler snuggles all the livelong day. I get to smooch baby feet. (Weird maybe, but they’re baby feet, y’all). I snuggle little people who don’t squirm away, but beg to be held longer. I get to run aroud the backyard with kids who haven’t yet decided that their mother is an out-of-touch idiot from another century who only says “No” to oppress them. I tickle and get these giggles that, if I could package them up, would sell for millions because they are the Hope Diamonds of the auditory world.

For me, and I hope for you, it’s never been a question of whether it’s been worth it. But, like the laugh lines, crow’s feet, and rogue gray hair I’m beginning to notice, I look at all these physical costs of motherhood as badges of honor. I earned the crap out of those, you have too. And while I still have kids in diapers and pull-ups, I intend to savor every last snuggle I can squeeze out of this stage.

Want to read more? I started a newsletter specially curated with the best of the homeschool blogosphere. Enter your email to get the next issue directly in your inbox. Never any spam, just encouragement for you, my fellow homeschooling mamas.


Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.

Rhiannon

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You don’t know the darkness and silence next to the bed of your (beautiful, vulnerable) person, kept alive by a machine. The respiratory therapists making adjustments to help your loved one’s brain get enough oxygen so she can make it to tomorrow.
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You don’t know the holiness of that bedside, where Christ meets you with His peace when everything is out of your hands. That bedside, where literally all you can do is read scripture and pray.
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I am telling you, that is a bedside you do NOT want to be at.
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I have been there and I never want to go back. God and an army of prayer warriors got us through that. Our person is still vulnerable. There are people in your life who are vulnerable.
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We were at that bedside with decades of collective medical experience on our side to develop best practices and treatment plans, and learn from mistakes made on other patients.
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Our loved ones who end up fighting COVID-19 with the help of a humming ventilator will not have that benefit. This disease is just too new.
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If you’re a leader of people, your job right now is to take care of your people. Be honest. Take this seriously. (We can do that without letting fear take control.)
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If you’re an employee, protect yourself, so you can protect your family. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, eat your vegetables, exercise, get good sleep, take some vitamin C.
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Above all #STAYHOME to #flattenthecurve so that you don’t end up by that bedside with not enough resources. Stay home, so that when the vulnerable person in your life needs it, they’ll have access to the ventilators and care they need.
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I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
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So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
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What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
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This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
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The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
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Don’t expect elementary kids to complete the whole assignment in such a short lesson. Just expect focused attention for that time, no matter how far he gets in the work. That builds the habit of, “when we sit to do school, we focus on school.” If you have to do 5 or 10 minute lessons because that’s all he had the attention for, that’s totally normal. Build up to longer periods, but it’s not really reasonable developmentally to expect hour-long math sessions for very young students. Those lead to tears. Ask me how I know.
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