It's after 10 pm on a Thursday night. My husband just finished a sink full of dishes ranging from our run-of-the-mill spaghetti dinner to my spare pump parts while I stare blankly into the glaring white space of a blog page. The page feels like the florescent lights of Walmart- bargain-priced, far too big and begging for some personality.
Our tiny human is (for the moment) fast asleep in his crib but I type with hesitation - never sure what the last word typed will be before he wakes. We spent 20 minutes letting him learn to self-soothe tonight which really means we spent 20 minutes letting him cry. With each whimper my heart hurt more and my frustration intensified. Of course, like every hormonal, sleep-deprived, confused mom, this frustration was immediately turned at my husband who sweetly asked "can I help?". Ever the grown up, I responded with a nasty "with my job or with something else?" followed quickly with "You are annoying me." Wow. I'm a peach. Isn't he the luckiest man alive to have a a wife treat him this way?
This is motherhood today - exactly at this moment.
Podcast advice floats through my head - like a catchy melody you can't quite shake. I know I'm not alone. I know there are women out there in the same boat. I know this will pass and I know that someday I will miss this. But these days, especially right now, all those thoughts are like tiny fruit flies in my face- useless and completely unavoidable.
When people ask how I am, I pause and debate. What portion of the story do I tell? What version do they see? Sometimes it's the sugarcoated "I'm great. VN is great. I never knew how much fun being a mom could be. He's learning to do this (insert adorable moment)." Sometimes, I let them know that he's not sleeping well and that daycare is wreaking havoc on both of our immune systems but not to worry- we're hanging in. And sometimes, I decide to give my honest one liner "I'm living in extremes: moving between feeling like a rock star can-do-anything mom and a complete and utter failure. Sometimes this shifts by the day, but there are days it shifts by the hour.
Sometimes I can do anything and feel like the world is my oyster. I'm holding down a full time job, a part time job and still managing to visit friends, look decent and cook at least 3 meals per week while my husband works full time and goes to grad school. These days are generally accented by a multi-tasking-mama moment that involves pumping to and from a client's office while catching up either with business or a friend on the phone. These moments- oh man, they are better than any drug I've ever done.
And then it shifts. It could be an innocent piece of feedback from a colleague or a friend who doesn't seem to get it or just simply an over-tired infant who is still learning how to sleep. Sometimes its everything and sometimes its nothing. When it hits, though, the bottom drops out. I don't sob. I don't fall apart. I just simply numb down. Going into what can only be called survival mode- existing on the bare minimum of emotion needed to get through to the next experience. We all lose in these moments. Work suffers. My marriage suffers. My relationships with other people suffer. It's unpredictable and it's messy for anyone that is close enough to me to see the change in tides.
The guilt that comes along with the shift compounds the sadness. Worry and anxiety whittle away at the dwindling pool of emotions and then I'm just left with sad eyes and a racing mind.
This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment. It's confusing. Highs that are unbelievable. Have you ever cried from sheer joy? I have. I do. When VN and I get into staring contests or we read "On The Night You Were Born", tears of overwhelming love flow. It's amazing. It's endless. It's affirming.
Have you ever laid in bed thinking about the possibility of single parenting or wondering if you could get pregnant by just thinking about having a second child because the thought of actually having sex any time soon is close to repulsive? I have. I do. I don't give these thoughts much space, but they do exist. They hurt me as much as they worry my husband who is weathering these storms with me. The numbness causes me to question everything - except the love for my child. Somehow, that remains untouched.
This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment. Twelve hours after I began this post. VN ends up in bed with us because after a few times waking up, it's just easier and there's something sweet about having him so close - even when he kicks me in the ribs. I glance down in a dream state to see this small person fast asleep with my nipple in his mouth. He's happy and he's safe and even in those barely conscious moments I realize that this is worth all of it. It's worth the pain, the confusion and the sleeplessness. In a life full of unfinished tasks, he remains the constant reminder of the commitment I made to raise him to be the best person we can. He will have faults, he will fall down but he will grow up loved and wanted- just as my husband has always wished for him.
This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment.