A Family and Imperfection Writing Contest
On Doing It All, Not on My Own
by Mandy Smith
I’m pretty sure that when you walk into the OB’s office and tell everyone you meet as you check in, “Oh yeah, this is definitely the LAST one, because four kids under five is my limit,” you’re guaranteed to have twins. Because you didn’t already feel like you were drowning in diapers and laundry and making sure everyone got fed.
Having twins is wonderful, and exciting and so much fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything… but those early days were hard. Waking up several times a night to nurse two babies, one of whom wasn’t gaining enough weight, and having an inability to nurse them simultaneously, hard stuff. Mastitis – enough said. Having four, yes four – my children potty train late – kids in diapers and two in preschool (one in for speech therapy) and an almost two-year-old who liked to jump off of anything at any height, it was crazy. My “big” kids were lucky if they only ate frozen waffles for two meals in those early days.
I felt stretched so thin, but each day I held onto the whispered encouragement from my dear friend Amanda. She gathered me up in a huge hug that first week when my eyes were filling with tears and she told me to take it one day at a time.
Simple, really, but pretty much the best advice ever and exactly what I needed to hear in those days when I felt like I was falling short at every turn and there was no end in sight. When the dishes would pile in the sink and my temper was short and I begged the kids to watch one more episode of anything. But, like I said, I wouldn’t trade it, and as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months it got easier.
When we were closing in on the one year mark, I started to finally feel like I could handle my life again. We were down to only three in diapers, no more nursing, and I could wrangle everyone into the minivan to run errands or go to play dates. We were settling into the sweet spot.
I’m also pretty sure that when you start feeling like you’ve settled into the sweet spot you get hit by your own car. Maybe that doesn’t happen to everyone, but it did happen to me.
Four days before my twins turned one, I backed my van out of the garage, thought I put it in Park to run back into the house for one more thing, walked back out into the garage, and saw the van barreling towards me.
Because, at this point, I was convinced I was super mom – being in the sweet spot and all – I tried to stop it from hitting the house.
I was only successful in slowing it down a bit by getting pinned to the wall.
Luckily my Mom was babysitting and was able to save me and call the cavalry and considering that I had just been hit by a car the fact that I “walked away” (pun intended) with only a broken leg was a pretty huge miracle.
In case you were wondering I broke my femur (my thigh bone) which, I am told, is the strongest bone in your body and the hardest to break. Pretty impressed with myself right there. Since I had to wait 8 hours for the surgery that fixed my bone with a rod and screws, I acquired blood clots in my lungs. I figured go big or go home, right? Really, though, I would have rather gone home.
I have always been pregnant at the first birthday party of each of my kids. This was the first party that I wasn’t. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new chapter of our lives. The kid chapter, opposed to the baby chapter. A moving on, of sorts. I wasn’t supposed to be in the hospital on my babies’ first birthday, hooked up to oxygen and injected with blood thinners, but I was. I wasn’t supposed to be hosting their first party from a walker, but I did.
We set our guest bed up in our living room because I couldn’t walk up the stairs to my room.
For a solid month I couldn’t tuck my children into bed at night, I couldn’t make them dinner, I couldn’t pick them up by myself.
I should have been teaching my babies to walk, but instead they were teaching themselves on my walker.
If ever I had felt like I was failing as a mom it was then. If my children wanted to cuddle they had to stay on my left side and be super still; and I don’t have still children. I had to rely on the help of others to take care of my children, to cook for us, to help me get dressed.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I can’t begin to tell you how many people helped fill the gaps and take care of my people when I couldn’t. Friends from church and MOPS signed up to bring us meals for TWO MONTHS. They took turns coming over and playing with my kids. They leant me crutches and walkers and shower chairs. My parents kept my children when I was in the hospital and when I was home so I could rest. My sister came to the hospital to keep our “girl’s night out” even when it had to be a “girl’s night in.” The encouragement and cards from friends and family was nothing short of amazing.
And, oh, how my children loved it. How they soaked in every visit from a friend and how excited they got when they could give a little thank you gift to each person who brought a meal. What I thought would be a deficit for them, ended up being a string of people pouring into their lives and making them feel more loved.
As moms I think we all struggle with not being able to do it all, to do enough, for our kids. But I think the real struggle comes from thinking we’re supposed to be able to do it all on our own. I don’t think it was ever intended to be that way; I think we were made for community and when we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.
When we feel encouraged, we can encourage our children. When we feel loved and supported we can love and support them. And when they see how much others care about them, they learn to care for others. And that’s what we really want in the end, isn’t it?
Mandy Smith is a wife, a daughter, a sister and a mom. Her husband, Brandon, is a wonderful fellow who has put up with the craziness of being married to her for ten years now. They have five kids, James (5-years-old), Katie (4-years-old), Shawn (2-years-old), Maggie (15-months-old) and Sarah (15-months-old). Writing about the hilarious antics in her household has been a sanity saver for years. She also loves reading a good book while eating cookie dough ice cream. Mandy blogs at Smith Silliness.
I asked each of our Writing Contest judges to share her thoughts on the winning entries.
Here’s what they had to say about Mandy’s story:
Korie: “I loved what you had to say about the real struggle being us thinking we have to do it all on our own. Thank you for writing.”
Korie Buerkle is the mother of two imaginative young children, and the wife of the talented graphic designer and amazing stay-at-home dad, Brandon Buerkle. She is a Children’s Librarian and loves creating storytimes and book clubs when she is not doing other administrative things that are not as much fun.
Meghan: “That’s an incredible story and a great message! I loved the image I got of a mama being supported by those around her during the hard times.”
Meghan Rogers-Czarnecki works at her family’s independent bookstore, Chapters Books and Coffee where she loves chatting with customers about good books as well as their personal stories, which are often just as compelling. She spends way too much time reading, negotiating with her three children, and cooking to have any left over for cleaning her house, so imperfection is near and dear to her heart.
Aj: “When we rely on each other, that’s when we do our best.”
Aj Schwanz is the Chief Manager of Consumption for her tribe at their humble abode in Dundee, Oregon. She writes single-sentence bios for herself and then gives Beth Woolsey permission to write the rest. Beth and Aj share a deep love of well-written words which they usually find in YA fantasy novels and occasionally on a completely inappropriate Canadian television series about the fae underworld, about which they text regularly. Whereas Beth just Makes Up Crap on her blog, Aj worked Real Jobs in the Writing World as a Young Adult librarian and as an editor for Barclay Press.
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