"A Reading for a Hard Day (and for Every Day)"
Today was a hard day, but it reopened my new-mommy eyes. So if you’re a mom, hear me out…
For nine months, Esme was held by me, by my stretching skin and aching joints, as close as anyone could (or will) ever be to me: her tiny feet on my heart, her tiny face near my bellybutton. I cherished the moments she would press her hands against my flesh, or dig her heel into my rib cage, or when I would be watching tv, shirt rolled up and waiting for her movements…to then see the outline of her foot trace a rainbow shape on my skin in the dim light.
Now, she is out here.
I can set her down and do other things; put her in the mamaroo, lay her in a bassinet, prop her in a boppy or sprawl her on the floor. When we go out, she can sleep in her carrier.
But lately, she won’t have any of it. When she’s not feeding, she’s awake, and when she’s awake it seems, she’s crying.
Until I pick her up.
Or nurse her.
She cries until I scoop her to my chest, let her bury her fuzzy head against my earlobe, and I rest my cheek on her forehead. Her muscles relax, she sighs in that shuddery way babies do when they’re catching their breath from screaming, her tears dry and she falls asleep.
And I realized today that the most terrible thing EVER…is when this agitates me.
I can’t do laundry or sort papers, shower, nap, complete chores, eat or even use the restroom. I think, “why can’t you just let me set you down??”
But tonight I thought of things from her point of view:
For her whole life, she’s been held…tightly, warmly, patiently. Never wanting or needing for anything. “Mom” was all around her.
Then she was born, and all of a sudden, life is all vibrating bassinets and lumpy carriers and mechanical rockers and artificial heartbeat sounds. It’s always either a little too hot or a little too cold, diapers too wet or too dry, and there’s hunger and tiredness and not a single word she knows how to use for any of it. Mom is across the room, or out of the house, or upstairs, but no longer “all around.”
If that were me, wouldn’t I want a hug?
So tonight as my half-eaten salad sat wilting on the table, papers I was sorting lay in piles over every inch of the floor, loose bobby pins dangled from my undone hair, spit up dried on my shoulder emails saved themselves to the draft folder yet again, and she lay screaming in her bassinet despite being fed/changed/entertained, the weight of her need hit me like a ton of bricks:
The weight of how fast she is growing and changing.
Yes, my back aches…and everything else, but how much longer will she weigh so little I can swoop her in into my arms in a swift and easy movement?
How much longer until she decides toys are too fun to bother with cuddling with me?
How long until she is crawling and walking and forever traveling in other directions besides mine?
How much longer do I have left to be her only comfort, love and joy?
Not long at all…
With renewed tenderness towards this innocent and perfect (although loud) little person, I drew her up onto my shoulder, and just held her. I held her and breathed her in, sang to her until my voice tickled, and swayed with her until my vertebrae groaned. I told her stories until her eyes fluttered closed, and when her tears sprang up again, I repeated all of it. And repeated it and repeated it until she finally drifted off laying on my pillow to the 115th repetition of “let me call you sweetheart.”
As a mom, you can’t beat yourself up about occasional resentment, or exhaustion, or frustration. After all, before this, you WERE an individual with verifiable selfish needs that were no problem to indulge. You’re not perfect. Missing the old “you” happens…
But after you have that moment…where you curse, where you throw up your hands, or text your husband or call your mom, where you eye the bottle of wine in the fridge longingly, or heck—just the outside world on the other side of the window that calls your name…where you burst into tears…or raise your eyes to the sky and beg “what?!” and then “why?!”…
Just remember that you’re feeling this way…because you’re entering a whole new world.
And after that, remember:
so is she.
And revert back to the tenderness you felt when her existence was still just a dance of footprints on your belly…
Because someday, she will be but a footprint on your memory…and that’s if your lucky.
So these are the precious days.
These long, trying, weary and
Breathe her in while she’s still just a breath away.
Sarah Graybill is marketing coordinator for mobile agency Hathway in San Luis Obispo, and a new mom of a baby girl. Sarah has been writing since the age of 8, her name making its way to young poets and authors lists, newspapers, and now blogs, news, and visitors guides. Sarah finds her inspiration from the most joyful and difficult parts of both motherhood and life, drawing words from the struggles she shares with moms (and women) worldwide. Sarah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is located at TheBookofMom.org.