Something happens to me after a baby is born. If you’re a mother, it’s probably happened to you too. I suddenly feel like the world around me is breakable, myself, my family made of shatter-resistant glass that’s fully capable of shattering if given the right opportunity. Like Corelle on a tile floor, we look sturdy but at any moment, SMASH! We could all fall to pieces.
With Laylee, it was a happy fragility, sort of a dreamy bubble where I smiled, clutched her fiercely and dressed her up like a doll, loving her and yet somewhat unable to believe that I had created something so wonderful. I was having the time of my life playing mommy and wondered if at any minute someone was going to wake me up from my reverie.
As I’ve documented here and elsewhere, the dish hit the tile when Magoo was born and then I spent 2 years seeking out every last shard of broken glass and painstakingly gluing them back together. There are so many happy memories from his babyhood but in between enjoying the kids, I spent much of my time searching for shards, painfully aware of just how breakable I was.
And now I’m on round three. I feel like I’ve got things together… a bit. Most of the time. There are sublime moments like last week when Laylee and Magoo cleaned the entire main floor of our playdate-trashed house as a surprise for me while I was feeding Wanda. Then there are moments like today when I found the big kids sitting with their arms crossed on the trampoline, facing each other and screaming until their brains were gone about who had won whatever game they were playing. In the end, Laylee tried to reconcile by saying, “I’ll teach you a new game then where there are no winners and no losers. It’s called Butt-Punch.” Magoo declined the game. I rolled my eyes and walked back into the house. Dan says that in a game called Butt-Punch, he’s pretty sure everyone is a loser.
Through the highs and the lows, I find myself managing but holding on to that glued-together plate just a little too tightly. Am I depressed? Tired? Afraid of descending into the pit I discovered Postpartum II? I’m kind of afraid to ask myself. It scares me a little that I have to try so hard.
My pendulum swings precariously. One day my house is a mess and I can’t force myself to deal with it. The next I’m cleaning and scrubbing like mad. Many days I feel like a hermit, not wanting to be bothered to answer my door or phone and the next I’m sad because people have stopped calling. I’m not doing the best in my church work or my role in the PTA. I’m letting things slip.
I tell myself that this is to be expected. The baby’s only a month old, two months old, five months old. Why shouldn’t I want to spend all day holding her and squishing her, playing cards with Laylee and Magoo and reading books at home? I should like my home, my little hermitty cave. Why would I want to go anywhere else?
I’m just holding on too tightly. There is a slightly strained sensation to the sweetness of this time. I’m cherishing the time with my kids because realizing that Wanda is our last has also made me realize that Laylee and Magoo are growing up too quickly and I don’t have a freeze ray. Heck, I don’t even have a time machine. I have photos and videos and the ability to make more. Dan just bought about a terabyte of storage space for our computers because I am on a memory-capturing rampage.
How can I make the most of every minute with my kids without squeezing the life out of those moments? How can I allow myself to just be the mother I am without questioning myself into a spiral of self-doubt? If I could just live in the moment, just be here and love it, love myself as much as I love these stinking wonderful Butt-Punch-playing, breast-sucking kids. If I could be as forgiving and gentle to their mother. If. I think I’d find that I could relax my grip and the fear in my throat and there’s a good possibility that nothing would break but my stifling itch for perfection.