Eight years ago on this night, I wasn’t sleeping. My body was feeling the contractions of my third child coming. The Little Pirate was on her way.

Her birth was special. It was calm, peaceful, fast. Just like her sisters, she came out of my womb on a stool in front of the fridge in our kitchen. No pain killers, all-natural, her father sitting behind me and a nurse to guide her straight into my arms.

She didn’t cry. She just came out at her pace, we looked each other in the eyes, and all was well.

Tonight she did cry. Her middle sister too.

We’re right in crazy-week. Tomorrow is her birthday. The day after it’s Sinterklaas, maybe the most exciting day of the year for Dutch children. The three days after we celebrate Little Pirate and me (it’s my birthday on Saturday) with people we love.

Today we prepared. Treats for her birthday tomorrow. Gifts for friends at school for Thursday. Preparations for cakes and birthday dinner. Horse riding lessons, taught by me, in between.

The little ones cried in their beds.

It’s where I am invited to put all I have learned about how humans work to the test. I’ve studied my own patterns and reactions for years. In moments like these, those moments where I’m so tired and overwhelmed myself but my children need me to be their foundation and support, is where I can really show up.

It’s about putting that tiredness, overwhelm, end emotional responses aside. Tapping right into the observer within, who tells me I need to be there for my girls, more than for myself.

So I listen to their sobbing stories. Stories of how they now (of all times) remember that toy they lost over a year ago when we moved. Of how sad they are my horse died about three years ago (where they barely joined me to). It’s up to me to not judge their stories but to understand it’s probably their mind connecting a story to their emotions.

Emotions that are probably a release because of all that happens. It’s not directed at me (even when it is).

They need me to sit with them, listen, and tell them it’s okay.

I listen to the Little Pirate who then suddenly, with immense clarity, asks me if I’m still happy to be a mum when she and her sister (the Little Artist, they share a room) fight a lot, asking for confirmation of my love between the lines.

I listen to the Little Artist, 9 years old, who explains to me about her overwhelm. That she loves the things happening this week, but that it feels like so much. I take her through the next day step by step, to give her overview, and ask her how we can create peaceful moments in between. I accept that she doesn’t want to hug me at the moments when she projects her anger at me. I hold a pillow and tell her to kick it with all that anger and force, until she giggles, and then hug and hold her as long as she wants.

I put on their favorite cd with mantras when they are in bed, crying, and I came back every ten minutes for a while. I know the music calms their little brains.

They’re sleeping now. I’m cuddling my cat, tell myself I did well. Sometimes when the girls are alright I tumble straight into a pit of tiredness, sadness, and feeling lonely. But I’m getting better at parenting myself too and doing all the things I did for my girls for myself. I listen. I hold. I don’t take it personally. I tell myself all my emotions are welcome and okay. I forgive myself for diving into the Sinterklaas sweets a bit too early and too enthusiastically. I cuddle my cat. I listen to my favorite music.

All is well.

I’m looking at a photo of me with the Little Pirate in my belly at 32 weeks. It’s hard to believe, 8 years later, that I was that big (three times!). But I was. And I spent many nights not sleeping as I was staring at her peaceful face. And I will do that again, tonight, before I go to bed.