Enjoy every exhausting moment of motherhood

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pink baby booties

Today, my kids and I went to a holiday gathering. I got to hold one friend’s baby and chat with another friend who is pregnant with twins.

Looking at these women’s tired faces, I couldn’t help but marvel at how recently it was me, dripping with babies, underslept and overwhelmed, trying to keep us all alive.

Parenting very small children is beautiful and brutal. The speed at which it passes is matched only by the intensity of what it requires both physically and emotionally.

I wouldn’t wish myself back there. But I am thankful for every second of their babyhood, and I am especially thankful I recorded missives like this, written through the delirium of the brand-newness of my children:

Outside the wind is gusting at high speeds, pushing the branches of the trees eastward. The tallest trees in the windbreak are elms, and their bodies are all curved east as well. I am sitting in the sunlit alcove upstairs that serves as a writing room.

My small wooden desk looks south, and I can see all the way down to the road that leads to our house, though it is hard to tell where the pasture ends and the road starts because the snow is drifted tall and white across both.

On my chest, there is a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Like her brother, she doesn’t sleep much during the night, and she doesn’t want to be laid down — ever. When he was an infant, I wrote many of these columns one-handed as he napped, snuggled, on top of me. With Roo I’ve gotten smarter. I wear her wrapped close in layers of stretchy fabric so both hands are free. She snuffles in her sleep, messages from the landscape of her dreams.

Outside the window, the wind rages harder, making those branches dance hard. The wind chimes I hung in the tree by the sliding glass door ring and ring. The baby beneath my chin wakes and looks up at me through sleepy eyes. Dappled sunlight tickles her cheeks, and she yawns and slips right back into slumber. I wish I could join her. I am so tired, if I took my fingers from this keyboard, and laid my head down on the desk, I would be instantly asleep.

There is an old saying from the time before refrigeration: the rich man has his ice in summer, the poor man gets his in winter. I think of the drought last year and how we wished for moisture. Well, here it is, ready to melt and fill the rivers and dams, to turn the whole prairie the brightest emerald with sweet life. Every drift is another week of water.

And I think of my life before babies. How I longed to be a mother; how I feared it would never happen for me. Now the whole world is babies. There is always one who needs to be held, and sometimes there are two. Every surface is covered with blankets and baskets of diapers and tiny socks, and I smell constantly of milk in various phases of fermentation.

It seems I’ve only changed one into a new diaper and clean clothes when I find the other is wet through and ready for a change as well. With two in diapers, by the time the second is changed and dry, the whole process begins again. And yet, and yet … this morning while I was changing Roo, my son called loudly to me from the kitchen.

Fearing what I would find, I rushed in, and there he was, decked out in my winter boots and woolen mittens, solemnly pointing outside, a proud twinkle in his eyes. The meaning was clear—he had gotten ready to go by himself, all he needed me to do was open the door.

I hear the rustle of my son waking from a nap. I switch off the computer and go to greet him. My time for writing and rumination is over for now. Because now is the only time my babies will be babies, after all, and I don’t want to miss even a minute.

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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.

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