Three Mamas at My Table (what I learned from my girls)

For when a child is born the mother also is born again. Gilbert Parker

This year when we sit around the dinner table at our house on Mother's Day, we will be celebrating three mamas. And . . . all the mamas who raised them and the grandmamas who raised them.

It isn't always a neat row of stitches, but we are held together by threads of love.

If you know me or have been following White Pitchers for even just a little while, you know a bit about my life as JoJo, about the arrival of Crosby and Eliza.

Mother's Day being just around the corner got me thinking all about my very first year of being a mama.

We lived in San Antonio. We rented a charming stucco house with hardwood floors and smiling arches on Fulton St. Mike was in his third year of medical school and I was working full-time in a drafting department at an engineering firm. We were living simply off my SMALL salary with BIG plans NOT to have a baby until AFTER medical school. AT. LEAST.

But Life knew better. In the spring, before the Texas heat gathers her full force, I came home from work early one Friday near my surprise! due date. Monday I was a stay at home mama to a little red headed blue-eyed boy we named Sean.

I remember rocking Sean in an old wooden rocking chair I painted glossy red. I hummed Amazing Grace to him and believed every word of it deep in my freckled soul. I felt the weight and the glory of his sleepy head on my shoulders.

I laid him down with his lovey in the nursery at the front of the house. It came with hunter green walls, white baseboards and french doors, both thick and worn. Mike and I wondered aloud recently why we decided his room would be here rather than tucked in at the back of the house. (One of my quirks apparently is remembering things around the floor plans of the homes we have lived in.)

Here is Sean in that Fulton St. home where the hardwood floors in desperate need of refinishing, pinched his little knees. Our creative solution? Daddy's sweatbands around his pudgy knees! Good for both worn floors and wilting Texas heat.

These memories got me to thinking about all my daughter Kate, and my daughter-in-law Monica, have taught me in their very first year of motherhood.

Some things have not changed one single iota.

Mamahood is still exhausting.

I have always thought being a mama was a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration swinging like a wrecking ball. Becoming a mama knocks down walls inside you and out there in the world too. Mamahood dismantles you and then slowly but surely puts you back together, lego by lego.

I felt re-arranged, askew. Not only to make room for my child, but to add new pieces of myself torn and healing, and deeper bonds between me and Mike. The re-ordering came with sweat and struggle, but then we are made to expand. This I am still learning.

These new Mamas around my table function with more grace than grumpiness, but I know they are tired. Still, I can see some of the re-ordering as it happens. Kate laughed at what she wanted for her first Mother's Day. A ceramic pie dish and a sharp set of knives. Pioneer Woman, of course! That she is. More than she knows.

Naps rule the day and give you a good night.

Both Mamas have a schedule for their babies posted on the fridge for feeding and napping, at least one to shoot for. It's all a work around and mamas get good at turning on a dime when the day doesn't go according to schedule, which we all know is most of the time.

I can see both new Mamas giving an order to the day and the Wonders get at least one nap in their own crib. My favorite part of being JoJo is going in to scoop them up after a nap. I love being greeted with crazy hair, toasty toes and a wide spreading grin.

I always thought we mamas should take more naps. Every once in a while, let's leave the dishes and give ourselves permission to rest when the baby does.

Mamahood still makes you wonder.

Deep down every mama wonders if she is making the best choices for her baby and herself. Our questions might be about work, breastfeeding, time for recharging or that balance between being on the go and finding a rhythm at home.

These mamas are no different. The same questions have all come up in this first year and been answered just a bit differently for Kate and Monica, each in her own way.

I read recently that there are a million ways to be a mama and no perfect way.

I think that's true.

The better side of wonder is the other side of doubt where we stand in awe at the life unfolding before us. Every day these babies (and their mamas) gain one more strength toward a new skill. No wonder we call then the Wonders. Eliza is rocking back and forth on her hands and knees getting ready to crawl and Crosby is cruising the walls getting ready to walk on his own. We are all about to take off.

Laps are still the best spot for storybooks and snuggling.

You can still never have enough board books for reading, pointing at pictures, making sounds or just plain chewing. Books from garage sales, hand-me-downs and the local library are strewn about the floor when I spend time with the Wonders.

Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny and Chick Chicka Boom Boom are reads that never go out of style. I can still remember Sean always laughed at the "Goodnight nobody" page.

A few things are new since we were raising our Whippersnappers. I guess I was helping mine with homework and teaching them to drive while these fresh ideas were arriving to new Mamas. I keep asking myself, when exactly did I get to be the older mama? It doesn't happen over time. It happens overnight.

Sleep sacks are the thing.

Sleep sacks are little baby sleeping bags with armholes and plenty of room to kick and stretch at the wide rounded bottom. No more covers for the mamas to worry about or baby to toss off and have popsicle toes. Some are down-filled like a baby duvet. This one is fine welted corduroy and the color of spring.

(I want one in Mama-size for the more naps I'm going to take.)

There's not a single jar of store-bought baby food in the house.

These babies eat real and organic foods, bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, blueberries, beets and apple sauce. These new Mamas cut them up as finger foods or puree them and freeze little portions in ice cube trays. No pesticides, preservatives, no added salt or sugar or coloring. I sound like a commercial, but whenever I feed Crosby and Eliza, I feel I could learn a thing or two about my own eating.

Daddies know the deal.

There are a few new things about new Daddies too.

These new Daddies take time off when their babies are born. And not just sneaking a day. They stay home and bond and help with all the details of having a new baby. I saw both new Daddies know about diapers and diaper rash, feeding schedules, sleeping patterns and the signs that their little nugget was tired, all on their own.

Back when I was being born, My Daddy was pacing in the waiting room. When our Whippersnappers were being born, Mike was in the delivery room right beside me, but headed back to class the day after he brought me home. When Crosby and Eliza were being born, Sean and Zeke were each in the delivery room, slept in the hospital room with the amass and babies and then took real time off afterwards to be home as a new family. They took somewhere between a full week to a month with the blessing and encouragement of their employers.

It's a new world and these are welcome changes for the whole family. I like being able to ask a baby question of a Daddy as easily as a Mama. I like the together thinking and together doing.

These Daddies know the deal and we are all better for it.

We are better too for being generous with our compliments to each other as mamas. In the last few years, thanks to being a mama to Kyle, I have started taking opportunities to tell mamas what a good job they are doing. In the line at the post office, at the park, at the library, at the grocery store check out, especially at the check out, and especially in the middle of a struggly day, if I can offer a kindness, I go for it.

I tell my girls too, the new Mamas.

I will always remember my Mama telling me when we were agonizing over the best school for Sean, that Mike and I make good decisions together. It was a watershed moment in my heart. I was already a mama to three maybe even four Whippersnappers by then, but I was thirsty for the affirmation.

In honor of Mother's Day, try giving a genuine compliment to a mama next week. Look for an opening to tell someone you know (or a perfect stranger!) what a good mama they are becoming. Or maybe even YOU.

Be specific. Tell them what you see even in the tiniest scrap; goodness, patience, toughness, resilience, strength, kindness, wisdom, creativity, organization, brilliance, generosity, artistry and playfulness.

No matter how long we've been doing it, we are all still working on this crazy, imperfect, re-arranging, wrecking ball thing called Mamahood.

Happy Mama's Day to you and your mama! Or Grandmama. Or whoever nurtured and challenged you.

If you want to see what I was thinking last year around Mother's Day and read a bit about my own Mama, you can visit Things My MamaTold Me.