I realize six weeks ago I was in a recovery room holding my brand new little boy.
But today I sit on the couch delicately balancing a hungry 12 pound baby in my left arm for what feels like the thirteen time since 5:00 am, and in my right hand, a book about trucks at the urging of a curious, wide-eyed, and talkative toddler. I look at the clock and it’s only 9:30 am. I swear it feels like afternoon. Maybe a little sun will come out by the end of the day. There’s something about sunlight that feels so hopeful. Thank heavens it’s the holiday season or I’m not sure I’d make it. I look back at the clock. 9:31 am.
When I notice the baby is falling asleep, I try to place his little body in the rocker. Slow and steady. Move one limb at a time so he doesn’t wake up. I feel my muscles shake a bit as I slow my movements down to a snail’s pace.
Don’t. Make. Any. Quick. Movements.
The rocker sits next to the overly expensive baby swing. We should really sell that thing. It sits next to the tummy time play station. These modern day pacifiers line the side of our living room like players on the side of the basketball court waiting to get called into play. A reminder of the many things we’ve invested in to try and unsuccessfully keep our newest colicky baby content even if just for a few moments. Those moments are rare ones where I use the bathroom without a baby awkwardly in my arms.
Yet, I find myself again trying to pull my leggings down in the bathroom so I can finally pee, trying hard not to drop my bobble-head baby, or lose balance over the carseat which I foolishly put in the bathroom last night after a rushed return home from music class. An exhausting music class where I apologized again and again for my toddler’s keen knack for running full force at the wall before banging it with both hands.
It’s a wrestling match trying to maneuver my own pants down because they’re maternity and the waistband goes all the way up to my bra. My bra that probably should be washed soon. I feel a pain in my side as I get one side down. I’m not sure if it’s my still healing surgery incision or a tight muscle somewhere in my back from nursing around the clock but the dull pain is there loud and clear like the cries my baby lets out the minute he wakes.
As soon as my behind hits the toilet, my toddler has come into the bathroom with a random assortment of toys and books filling his little arms. But he notices the toilet paper roll first. The toys drop to the floor. ‘Don’t unroll the toilet paper!’ I yell as the paper spills to the ground into what looks like a pile of ribbon. I reach up for the blinds to open them while I sit there. A sliver of gray light pours in. I’ll take it. The toddler plays with the piled up toilet paper. I pee in peace.
The days are long but the years are short, mama.
‘That’s not a step stool,’ I sternly say as my almost three year old flips the metal trash can over and empty toilet paper rolls, used breast pads, and other trash items like Lindt chocolate ball wrappers (guilty) roll all over the floor, collecting dog hair with them. How do we have so much dog hair in the bathroom? I decide to pick my battles. This isn’t one I’ll win.
‘Please don’t flush the toilet more than twice,’ I remind my little companion, as I stand up and wrestle my pants back up. I wash one hand and switch the baby to my other arm to wash the other. ‘Dry your hands, mommy,’ he reminds me and I smile. I dry my hands. Make a mental note to grab a new hand towel next time I’m upstairs.
Minutes feel like hours. Some days feel lonely.
On the kitchen counter my phone lights up. Our groceries have been delivered. Door to door grocery delivery; a luxury I realize but nonetheless an investment well worth it in this season. I feel a tinge of guilt for not getting out to the store myself but then I look at the kitchen, the living room, myself in the mirror and think twice.
‘Thanks for your help!’ I text to Kim, the kind woman who not only delivered my groceries but also shopped for new gloves for my son while she was at the store because daycare lost the last pair. I’m hoping that by the time I open our front door to collect my groceries, Kim will be gone. To my relief, when I open the door there’s only some snow-covered pumpkins out there with my groceries but I look at the plastic bags strewn across my porch, blowing in the wind, fennel bulbs exposed (an effort to be healthy), a carton of Silk eggnog on its side (a half effort to be healthy AND festive all at once) and sigh. Why didn’t I let her bring them into our foyer? The last gal did just that and maybe I actually liked it.
It takes me five different trips outside through our storm door to get the bags. My toddler stands in the doorway asking about the monkey. I pretend not to hear him. I’m shoeless and with a crying baby wrapped to my chest. I have to pee again. Have I drank any water today? No. I brushed my teeth though.
On the fifth trip out I decide to be bold and grab everything else out there at once but the storm door closes on me. ‘Open the door, buddy!’ I cheerfully ask my toddler through the glass. I grit my teeth. To my surprise he holds open the door, but then he trips over the groceries I’ve already brought it. The poor kid goes down and I go down after him, wondering if our neighbors are watching but mostly trying to make sure my kid’s beloved construction hard hat doesn’t blow into the yard. Don’t lose the hat. He sure loves that hat. Did we squish the eggs?
I abandon the groceries in favor of a breather only to see a sight that feels unfamiliar and very out of my control. There’s toys everywhere in our usually spotless home. Literally everywhere. How did toys even get in some of these places? They were put away only 10 hours ago. How can a mama have so many baby blankets thrown on every surface of the couch? And wait, did Lachlan just ask me about a MONKEY?
I stop and smother the baby with kisses. God, I love him.
‘Lachlan, I love you so much,’ I say. I make him look me in the eyes so he feels it.
‘I love you, mommy,’ he says back.
There’s a full bowl of raw muffin batter on the counter, made in a moment of earlier ambition, abandoned in favor of soothing a screaming baby and pulling down a three year old from a tower he made on the bench in our foyer (how did he even GET up there?). Why is the baby still crying? The toddler says there’s a monkey outside. What is this all about a monkey? ‘Go with it,’ I tell myself. They’re only little once. ‘A monkey! What do monkeys like to eat?’ I cheerfully reply. I read once that the best mamas engage with their little ones ‘Remember that,’ I remind myself.
Engage. Soak it all up.
My shirt’s wet. Time to feed a baby. I think the laundry machine stopped? It’s Friday, right?
My phone lights up again, ‘How’s it going?’ asks my husband. I wonder how single parents do it. Part of me wants to be honest and tell him I’m drowning and I bought three pounds of tenderloin instead of one, but I’ve got this. I start to text him back but out of the corner of my eye I see my toddler ramming play dough into the jute rug under our dining room table. I realize it’s a rug we want to get rid of anyway. Pick your battles, mama. ‘Fine,’ I text back to my husband. Just fine. And so it goes.
There are sweet days. And then there are hard days. They make up the melody of my life right now and I hesitate to write this, but I know without them life would not be as abundant or refining.
. . . . . . . . . .
A friend recently tagged me in one of those viral facebook articles encouraging moms to abandon their responsibilities in favor of holding their babies a little longer. You know the articles I’m referencing, don’t you?
They say one day you’ll pick your baby up and it’ll be the last time. The air escapes from my lungs for a second.
These articles instill fear and worry. At least for me, it sets off a feeling of panic that time is literally seeping through my in-need-of-a manicure fingers. I cannot get a grip. Those viral, well intentioned posts, make me feel like I’m not doing enough, soaking it up enough, loving hard enough. How can I be everything I’ve started to believe I need to be?
And it’s all a lie. Because we cannot be in a perpetual state of soaking and loving and snuggling. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t savoring the good stuff either. ‘Soak up the snuggles!’ always makes my heart sink. Stop saying this. Please, I beg you. I catch myself playing this soak up phrase over in my head in the dead of the night while I pray the baby doesn’t wake the toddler and the toddler doesn’t wake the husband and wait, why is everyone sleeping, mama wants to sleep! I AM soaking them up. The snuggles that is. But I’m also trying to manage a lot of other things, responsibilities, people and emotions. Life doesn’t pause for snuggles which could quite possibly be why they’re so sweet to begin with but I digress.
And so the soaking comes smack dab in the middle of bribing my toddler with another Lindt chocolate ball or tearfully calling my husband to tell him it’s been a day, and ‘are you close to being home yet?’ I secretly wish he’ll walk in the door with a latte for me. The sound of the garage door brings us all delight. I wonder what the dog thinks. Alexa loves me.
Sometimes the soaking comes in the middle of longing for my work. And the desire to be productive. And sometimes the soaking comes at midnight, 3:00 am and 5:30 am, and then again at 7:00 am and 9:00 am and so on, when despite the current season and how taxing and challenging it can be, it’s really sweet and absolutely savored.
Friday is almost over. I look at the stove clock and it says 415. Degrees that is. That’s right. I managed that today thank goodness. Dinner is cooking. I made a nice roast and it smells divine. The toys leftover from the morning don’t bother me as much right now. The sun never did come out. But the baby is finally sleeping even if he’ll wake soon. The toddler went to the dollar store to get cheap play dough. Remember what’s left of it is in the rug? It was decided we need more.
I sit at the table typing this out feeling a rush, or rather a sigh, of being at peace for a moment. A moment to myself. There are so many incredible days that pivot greatly from Friday. And tomorrow the sun will rise on a new day, a Saturday. And we’ll roll forward. In harmony with both the good and the hard.
The soaking in the trenches is sweet.
Photos lovingly captured by our friend Kelly Sweet Photography.