post-pregnancy nesting and the need to be still

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I never really “nested” in the last months of pregnancy like many women do. I preferred the “sit around and wait for the baby to come” method, although I was a little jealous of the women who had urges to clean and organize. I felt like my home was going to pot around me, but I had no energy, a very wide turning radius, and a hard time reaching a lot of things. So I put it off. It just didn’t seem logistically realistic. Then Evie was born, and I had even less energy. My body was recovering. My mind was trying not to spin off its axis. My hands were occupied with the care of two tiny people.

I think I’m nesting now. “Post-pregnancy nesting,” let’s call it. I’m not pregnant—I don’t think. (This would only be good news for the grandparents, so let’s hope not.) I think it’s the fact that I’m finally getting my body back, and a little bit of freedom. One of my very wise mama-friends told me that it would take six months of having two kids before I would feel like this is the “new normal.” It took seven, which is pretty good for me if I’m only a month behind the norm.

PPN means that I run around my house on hyper drive, like a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert. On some sort of energy drink. On the last day of school. After a radio DJ just announced that the first person to the front of the stage will win a lifetime supply of said energy drink and a meet-and-greet with the cast of the Hunger Games. Well, maybe not quite like that. But I’m busy.

Yesterday, I painted Evie’s crib. It’s going from a very pretty oak wood to a gunmetal gray. When I googled “spray paint a crib” (cuz I want to be all safe and such with the wellbeing of my child, so I trust a bunch of crazy Internet junkies to count as my “specialists in the field”), I found a tutorial in which the lady was spray painting her crib because it was gunmetal gray. She put lots of stenciled flowers on it. Some people—people who stencil bouquets of flowers, especially—might find my choice odd. But I love gunmetal gray, as long as it’s not on guns. I prefer hot-pink handguns. The crib in question is the one you gave me—and it was looking a little worse-for-the-wear since both Luke (I think it was Luke—he was the biter, right?) and Miles spent some time teething on the wood. Plus, Evie hasn’t really gotten anything (especially décor-wise, as she hasn’t even had a room yet—has just been bunking in mine and Scott’s) that is hers. She gets all of the stuff we used for Miles, which is awesome and wonderful and special—and she won’t notice at all, ever, that we neglected to make a fabulous space for her when she was a few months old. Well, maybe only when she’s 16 and has an attitude and she’s looking through old photos and she’ll say “Why didn’t you ever buy me anything, Mom? Don’t you love me?”

I’m also pretty determined to make a dust ruffle and possibly curtains. All without sewing, as Sewing and me have a pretty dicey history. Sewing is all, “You need to spend more time with me in order to really get me.” He’s so needy. I just can’t deal with that sort of a hobby right now. So I told him, “I can’t commit to really learning how to thread you. Threading you is so involved and gives me absolutely no instant gratification. No-Sew Hem Tape, on the other hand, WHAM, BAM, THANK-YOU, MA’AM.”

Today I mulched some flowerbeds in the backyard, filled a sandbox, cleaned off all the outdoor toys. I bought a smelly candle. I made a mobile for over the crib. I generally avoided working on writing-related things (hence my long hiatus from posting stuff). The hiatus was not because I don’t enjoy the writing or because I don’t have things to say this time—it’s because it takes too long. Writing and Sewing are equally needy, I’m afraid. If there was a No-Sew Hem Tape approach to Writing, you can bet I’d be test-driving it.

Then at church on Sunday (I know, I know—I’m sorry, but it just always seems to happen!), the sermon was about finding solitude. The whole time, I was internally arguing with the pastor. Here are some of my impressive rebuttals:

–       “Yeah, but you’re not a mother of two young children. If you were a mother of two young children, you’d have to rethink this whole solitude business.”

–       “Some of us aren’t paid to spend time alone with our thoughts and our theology books.”

–       “Nuh-uh.”

–       “But I don’t waaaaaannnntt to put effort into finding solitude. I put effort into so many, many other things.”

–       “Yoga might make me queef. I knew it might make me fart, but this is an entirely different fear.”

–       And then, back to the whole “mother of two young children” thing.

I actually leaned over to Scott during the sermon and said, verbally, “I would listen if a stay-at-home mother of two young children were talking about solitude.”

And then I realized that I am a stay-at-home mother to young children, and that it might benefit me and other people in my situation to think about how I can find solitude even when days are hectic and crazy.

Honestly, it was an excellent sermon. Tim said many brilliant things that I should have been able to give him credit for, even if he didn’t have a vagina. He even quoted people with vaginas, like the incomparable Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone to Talk:

“God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God that demands these things. Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these things; not at all. God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things—unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him. You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”

Maria, you’ve shared some ways in which you find solitude. In fact, your ability to prioritize that is one of the reasons I’ve had this topic on my mind for so long. But I find I’m terrible at it. Even during those few moments when I’m relieved of caring for my kids, I still find my mind crowded with mother-y things and it’s difficult to be still.

I think that this stage of life is a unique one—but my old plan of ignoring things like solitude and self-care until the kids are able to put their own socks on or drink from a device that is not attached to me is not really a faithful option.

So, moms (or stay-at-home dads), I’m asking you, specifically: How do you find solitude?

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21 thoughts on “post-pregnancy nesting and the need to be still

  1. I have committed to Yoga twice a week… which has met that need much more than I imagined that it would. The girls and I have also been having “Sacred Space” at home on Sunday evenings for 45 minutes. We lie on the floor in my bedroom, light candles, put on soft music and practice breathing and being still (in God’s presence… asking him to join us). Maryn (4) goes in 5 min intervals of stillness and flipping herself off the bed. Darby (6.5) is absolutely still the entire time. We’ve only been doing this for a couple of months, but I hope to see Maryn’s still-skills increase. It IS very much a skill-set.

    I have recently realized that this whole “still” thing is not only counter-cultural by way of our lifestyle but it is also de-valued. Not simply neglected, but de-valued. Looked down upon. Not considered virtuous. So making time and space for it is one discipline, but practicing it in the face of a hard work/efficiency = success and happiness culture movement feels risky to our human nature. I have learned from my short experience with stillness, that stillness begets more stillness and the urge to be still. So this is good.

    I have noticed that I am much more aware of my breath lately. And breath is one of the places that the physical and spiritual intersect. Yah….weh…

    • I love the idea of “Sacred Space.” So cool that your girls participate in the idea. Mine might be too little yet, but I’ll store the idea away for the future.

  2. i can comment more once i figure out why the last link referring to my post (which one?) isn’t working. and then stop giggling at your technical abilities. and then have some time of solitude.

    shod it. i’ll write a stupid blog post about it, ’cause i’ve been thinking about it too.

    • shut it, polonchek. (and i fixed the link, i think, i think.) <– dr. seussical skills right up in there.

  3. I have learned to ask for solitude.

    When my daughter, Evy, was born, I was always trying to take of her, the house, and work and give my husband time to dedicate to his freelance work on top of his full-time job. I thought these were reasonable expectations for myself, in spite of feeling like I was constantly drowning. My husband kept encouraging us to find time for me to take care of myself, but the thought was inconceivable to me. Where in our days did that extra time exist?

    I am finally becoming comfortable with the idea that I have to ask my husband (and my parents) for help when I need solitude. A huge generalization here — women, as inveterate caretakers, often find it difficult to acknowledge the need to be taken care of. Finding solitude first requires that you acknowledge the legitimacy of your need for solitude and that solitude nourishes and takes care of us. Then, once you own it and really believe in that need, you have to feel comfortable asking others to go away and give you space! I hope I have truly learned this lesson because child number two arrives in four months, and my newfound skills will be truly tested.

    • Hi Holly! Yes, I know exactly what you mean about feeling guilty about asking for time for yourself. Best of luck with the new little one! Congratulations!

  4. I also want to clarify that I think working moms and dads are equally in need of solitude– probably even more so, sometimes, because they have to have so many things on their plates. I’m not sure why I made the distinction in this post– thanks to my friend Ivy for pointing this out!

  5. This would only be good news for the grandparents statement is not appreciated! And shut-it Polonchek is a little harsh………..

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  7. I love the rebuttals to your pastor. And, I didn’t know that we had a silent competition going for comments, but now that I do, I’m happy to inform you that this post has passed any other in facebook shares.

    • Maybe I made that up because I was jealous that you always get so many comments. 🙂

      In other news: I miss you. Come over and let’s make sangria.

      • dude. i totally made sangria last night, but we didn’t have any oj, so i blended frozen berries in our fancy blend-o-matic we got for christmas and it was BERRY SANGRIA! Yum!

  8. Kate! So I’m totally late in responding to this and sooo appreciate your note on working parents too. I come home in the evenings and scrounge up what energy I have left to show my son I love him – only to find out he’s tired too and we both get frustrated and need a time out (not fun and I feel like a mean mommy… the stage of life of hitting toddler).

    However, I recently spoke at a women’s retreat and in preparing for realized I was saying “yes” to a whole lof of things in my life which automatically meant I was saying “no” to things I need to be “balanced” or at least somewhat close to it. As I was preparing for the retreat Tony took Wesley somewhere that night I had the house to myself. Myself!!! I sat down on the couch with a bowl of cereal and felt my shoulders return to their normal resting place and suddenly realized they hadn’t been there in months, a year even! I needed quiet, with no demands and to be able to just hear God speak and to just be. Just be. That is hard to do (like working out which I don’t do and then the vicious cycle of guilt increases momentum again). And I realized in the quiet relaxing space that all the “yes” (pluralize that please) in my life were burying me and I had to start saying no. Turn to guilt and say, “Shut up!” and realize that space, accountability, genuine relationships, flowers, a garden, date nights were in fact important and “business” is of the devil. It’s a false measure of success. My new measure is “healthy”. Learning to be healthy in all areas of my life.

    I recently heard a pastor make a comment in an interview on church growth. He said, “Every night I don’t pray for my son to grow. I pray for him to be healthy. If he’s healthy, then he will naturally grow.” WOW! What a different mind set! So, I’m trying to weekly look at my life and what I am saying yes and no to and see if I’m out of balance (spiritually, mentally, physically, relationally). It doesn’t happen every week, but the times I feel myself going crazy or edgy I can point back to the fact that either yes or no’s for the week have won and I need to find balance.

    Ok… so I guess working out needs to somehow get back on the list… but to find the time 🙂 Vicious cycle… 🙂

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