We have a whole team of talented, dedicated mothers working behind the scenes to make The Power of Moms the best it can be. We wanted you to meet them, so each month, we’ll take a day to spotlight one of our board members. (You can read about our board of volunteer moms here.)
Introducing Final Editor Rachel Nielson
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have one little rascal, a 15-month-old son named Noah.
What are some unique and interesting aspects of your approach to mothering? What have you decided to prioritize in your mothering that you see as somewhat unusual?
I love to write, and I have made that passion central to my experience as a mother. Throughout my years of infertility, I wrote letters to our future son or daughter. I told him/her about the agony of the wait and the lessons I was learning about patience, faith, and adversity. Writing directly to the baby felt more personal and more meaningful than simply writing in my journal (though I did plenty of that, too).
Our son eventually came to us through the miracle of adoption, and I have continued to write him letters throughout his 15 months of life. I write about his emerging personality and the ups and downs of motherhood. Sometimes my letters are euphoric, such as the letter I wrote about my experience being in the delivery room with his incredible birthparents; sometimes my letters are melancholy, such as the letter I wrote about my struggle adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom; always my letters are completely honest. I feel strongly that my children deserve a genuine picture of who their mother was, weaknesses and all. I hope that as they read my letters and my journaling, they will recognize in my words a woman who loved them deeply and fought mightily to be the best person and mother she could be.
My own mother passed away when I was 19, and, sadly, she never kept a journal. Oh how I wish she had written about her experience as a mother because I crave her wisdom daily! As I navigate the uncertain waters of new motherhood, I often wonder if I am alone in how I feel, and I suspect that a peek into my mother’s journal would reveal that I am not. Even if she were still living, I know I would appreciate reading her in-the-moment reflections of the trials, joys, and miracles of motherhood. This is why I hope I will always make some time to journal, blog, and write letters to my children, no matter how busy I am as a mother.
What have been the biggest challenges of motherhood for you? What coping strategies do you have for getting through hard times and hard days?
My writing is not only for my children; it is also for me. My #1 coping strategy during the challenges of life is writing. It helps me make sense of struggles, and it also helps me find humor and joy in even the “worst” of moments. For example, when my son had reflux and ruined countless outfits due to his colorful spit-up (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach…it all stains!), I snapped photos of the soiled outfits to post on our blog with funny captions. What could’ve been a frequent frustration instead became a frequent opportunity to laugh.
The most challenging time of my first year of motherhood was definitely when my son suffered from colic and cried most of every day. During those exhausting, stressful, depressing months, I coped by searching for a beautiful moment that I shared with Noah each day and writing it down in my “gratitude journal.” The more that I wrote down those special moments, the more I was able to recognize them and the more plentiful they seemed. This daily practice also helped negate the panic that I think many new mothers feel that the baby is “growing up too fast” and we aren’t savoring it or appreciating it enough. When something is written down, it is less likely to be forgotten, and I am grateful to have so many precious moments from Noah’s first year of life captured in writing.
What has surprised you about motherhood?
Motherhood has taught me that I can’t control everything. (You would think that years of infertility would have taught me this obvious truth, but apparently I am a slow learner.) After Noah was born, I was surprised to learn that no matter how many parenting books I study and no matter how consistent I am with our schedules and routines, I cannot force my child to nap.
I have a vivid memory of going over to a friend’s house for lunch a few years ago and being surprised when her son only napped for about 40 minutes. She told me that she had tried everything to help him take longer naps, but he just had a spunky, high-energy personality and didn’t seem to need as much sleep as other babies.
“Well, that may work for you,” I thought a little smugly, “but MY children will be great sleepers. I will make sure of that.”
I was doomed the moment I had that prideful thought.
My son has never liked to nap, and, ultimately, I’ve learned that all I can do for him is maintain consistent routines and provide a good sleep environment: whether or not he closes his eyes and sinks into Dreamland is up to him. I have a feeling this will not be the last time that Noah asserts his will and refuses to do what his mother wants him to do. I try to think of his frustrating napping habits as good practice for the future!
What have been your favorite parts of motherhood? How do you cultivate joy in your journey as a mother?
Some of my favorite moments of motherhood from the past year are captured in my gratitude journal:
“As I was feeding Noah a bottle today, he put his little hand up against my cheek (so sweet!), and I pretended to gnaw on it. He burst into giggles–the most I’ve ever heard him laugh–and, suddenly, we both couldn’t stop laughing. He couldn’t even drink because he was chuckling too hard.”
“Tonight, Ryan and I were sitting on the floor talking while Noah played nearby. Noah suddenly walked up to us and planted a kiss right on my lips. That was the first time he has ever given me a kiss without being prodded, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier.”
“I felt so content as I watched Noah discovering autumn leaves for the first time today. Being a stay-at-home mom hasn’t always been easy for me, but all I could think as I watched him gleefully crunch the leaves that had gathered in the gutter was, ‘There is no where I would rather be than right here at this moment.’ I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to stay home with my wild little man.”