To the Tired Momma at Barnes and Noble

Dear tired Momma at Barnes and Noble,

I saw you today with your beautiful, spirited toddler. Your new babe, content in your arms. I see you weekly; you and I there, sharing weak smiles, sipping cold coffee, corralling rambunctious children. Occupying the same space, but not really knowing one another at all. We know one another’s children names, but alas, in this role we call motherhood we’ve become nameless, simply referred to as someone’s momma.

I told you how beautiful your baby was today. And then I asked you how were doing. I saw you, that look in your eyes, wondering if I was actually asking how you were and wanting a genuine answer (I was), or if you were supposed to just give the requisite “fine.”

In that half second you decided that this was a safe moment. That you could let it out. You told me you were exhausted (here, here, Momma!). You told me how jealous your toddler is of the new baby and you don’t know how to handle it; you feel like you’re failing while everyone else can handle two with ease. You told me how your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, and your first babe slept through the night at seven weeks. But she was formula fed, you tell me, and this baby you’re breast-feeding. I can tell your proud of this fact, but you continue: she was born tongue and lip-tied, and that was nothing but anguish. You had the surgeries done to her as the lactation consultant you saw for over a month advised you to do. It broke your heart, causing your baby pain; doing those stretches daily. But now that it’s done you feel you must be committed to breastfeeding or all that pain would have been for naught. But you confess that you secretly wish you could give her a bottle and put her on a schedule like you did your first. But you won’t, you say. You shift the baby to your shoulder as you tell me how you’ve been battling plugged ducts and you thought it was breast cancer and ran to your doctor in fear (been there!). And you told me once again how so, so, so tired you are.

Then you looked at the baby in my arms, playing peek-a-boo while he nursed, and told me I was so brave to feed him right there.  You glanced at my big kids reading books while your toddler ran about and said you had no idea how in the world I could be so put together and functioning with three kids (I will let you in on a secret: I’m not). You said you see moms everywhere with two kids who seem to be so much more collected than you; whose kids seem better managed and behaved. What would have ever possessed me to keep going after the chaos of two?

I smiled – and I hope it came off reassuring – and told you it was crazy town, and it took a lot of time for us to get here. I wasn’t ready for baby #3 after having #2 either (and it’s okay if you never want a #3). And I agreed that two is hard. Babies are exhausting. And I told you that you were doing an amazing job.

I meant it. I really did. So I hope you heard me when I told you that your were doing a great job with those two little girls.

But I left it at that. You didn’t need me to say anything more. I knew you needed that place to vent. You needed to be heard, your feelings and exhaustion validated. A woman, a mother, in the trenches. You needed someone else to acknowledge your existence in that moment, in that space, in that circumstance. And I wanted do that for you.

Because I’ve been there, too.

I’ve had two babies. I’ve been exhausted (and I’m exhausted now). But it does get…different.

I hate to say better because that implies that right now is bad, and we both know that right now is good. It’s hard, Momma. Its so, so hard. But it’s also good. Beautiful. And I know you know that. I know you don’t need me to tell you to take the moments in; cherish them. That it goes too fast. Because you know it. You’ve had a baby. You’ve seen her grow and become a lovely walking, talking person. You know this time is precious. But you also know that you’re not denying or devaluing that when you quietly confess the realities of it too. It’s exhausting. It can be isolating and one of the loneliest times of your life. I heard you, Momma. Those feelings are valid.

Your daily flow will get easier. You’ll learn to manage it with ease, I promise you. It will never be rejuvenating to run off little sleep; but some day your baby won’t balk at sleep and be so needy. Your toddler will embrace being a big sister and the jealousy will ease as she settles into her new role in your family now. Some day you will be so glad you had those two little girls so close together. Because they’re going to be best friends. And the things they say and do as they grow together and build their friendship, nurture and solidify their relationship, will make your heart so happy that these exhausting months will simply be dust you sweep under a rug and mostly forget about. Until maybe one day when you see a tired Momma and recall that season of your life.

Momma, you are put together. You are functioning. You’ve got this! Those little girls were so happy. They were in clean clothes (and so were you!). They knew and felt your love. They were in a bookstore. That speak volumes.

I know there are days where you feel so exhausted that your bones hurt. You wonder if it’s even safe for you to drive with your precious cargo you’re so tired, but you know that if you don’t, if you don’t get out of the house, that you might just break. So you do. You did. You made it to the bookstore. Anxious, tired, a little overwhelmed. But you made it.

These day are so, so long. But the years are so incredibly fast. You’re doing a good job, Momma. You’re doing a great job. I know you’re tired: this is one of the most exhausting rolls you’ll ever have in life But dear, sweet, tired Momma at Barnes and Noble, you’re doing an amazing job.

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