The relentlessness of these tiny baby days is at times overwhelming. There is no point at which you punch-out. And when you’ve got a – let’s say – untalented night sleeper, you don’t even have some semblance of reprieve. It is just constant yet unpredictable life-sustaining dirty work, and totally mine to handle. This is not to say I don’t have a great partner who saves the day by letting me sleep through breakfast on the weekends. Because I do. And I am so grateful. But he works. And refuses to lactate. By and large, the baby and kid work to be done needs by me.
I have come to realize that I must never be trusted with any state secrets, because sleep deprivation is something I do not cope well and it could be used against me quite effectively. At three a.m., slumped over a changing table and fumbling for a baby wipe, there is nothing I would not give up or cop too. Crop circles? Yeah, that was me. No one wants to hear my secrets, though. Because I am whiny, oft times incoherent, and utterly monothematic: them kids! Them kids! Them kids! I bore myself. But I’m too tired to feel much one way or another about it.
My brain has been breaking all over town. A couple weeks ago, I took both of the kids to the downtown farmers market to meet friends for lunch. As we somehow tumbled out of the car and into the indoor food court, I passed by loads of gorgeous fruit and vegetables. I looked on a mountain of cantaloupe and thought, I want some of that. I must get some after this lunch that I am already late for so forgetthecantaloupeandlet’sgo. When I went to get my melon forty odd minutes later, I stepped out into a wasteland. Empty concrete slabs. Large market sheds shading no one at all. Ohmygod. I hallucinated a farmers market. I was very close to turning and running, but given the baby strapped to my chest and my war-torn pelvic floor, I was smart enough not to do that. Heart pounding, I saw a security guard and as one grasp onto reality – and not a living episode of Scooby Doo – I asked meekly, was there a farmers market today? Yeah, he said. On the other side. These are the flea market sheds. WELL MAYBE THEY SHOULD LOOK DIFFERENT SO PEOPLE DON’T HAVE PANIC ATTACKS, I didn’t say. Days later, I open the door to beckon my dogs: Billy and Sugar. And a cracking voice spews out “Bigger! Shirley! Get in here!” Um, Bigger and Shirley? Oh dear.
Yesterday was a low point. I ran my fingers through my hair before washing my hands and caught a glimpse of redness on my scalp. Upon closer inspection, yep, I appeared to some kind of leper. For some reason, ringworm popped into my head. Which is not – as a matter of fact – a worm, but instead a fungus. Only a smidge less awful than it sounds. Now, I’ve never had ringworm or known anyone with ringworm. I have no idea where this thought came from, other than perhaps in past lives, I’ve also been a mom and this information has just been imprinted on me. (And so was my law degree just a futile attempt to evade my jammy-handed destiny??) But you get it from damp places and dirty kids. I raise a toddler in Tennessee. Check, check. Then the internet told me that ringworm can result in bald spots. Well I made an appointment for the next day with the acute care clinic. My body image has taken enough hits in the past few months. Bald spots?? Enough’s enough, fungi.
Today was the appointment, and Eli had to accompany me given the uncertain time frame. It all started out well enough, with both me and Eli crying wildly while stuck in parking structure gridlock because he is frightened during car rides and because my sanity is so viscerally linked to his well-being that when unable to soothe his cries I fall apart. Then I get in to see doctor young resident. She asks me when these symptoms appeared. I truly have no earthly idea. A fortnight?, I offer, trying to deflect. Heh. Heh. Eeehhh. I get one of those “could be one of a few things” diagnoses and instructions to slather cream on my head twice a day. (My poor husband. It’s like I’m a real live super model, isn’t it honey??) But no one suggests that I will go bald over this. So I’ll take it.
Today both children have napped like champs. The kitchen has been cleaned and my ancient computer has decided to recognize the charger and turn on for once. Also I’ve decided to order a pizza for dinner. And I am left, with my glorious, full, and only maybe fungus-y head of hair.
The other night was one of our more epic (no) sleeps. After Eli awoke at 3, there was just so much pooping and nursing and rocking and finally a little bit of (mom) crying and begging, and then he went back down at 4:30. Now, I am a bad sleeper. My kids come by their troubles honestly. No matter how tired I am, if I am not properly wound down, I do not sleep. And an hour and a half of baby wrangling at a time of night that is less than conducive to rational thought (“I will never sleep again. And my brain will waste away. And I will hate everything forever.”) is definitely enough to wind me up. So I tried to take deep breaths, to quiet my thoughts, but every time I was close to slumber, Will sniffed, sneezed, or rolled over, and BAM, I was awake. He was having one of his somewhat frequent nighttime allergy attacks. Not so long ago, I was sympathetic to his condition. I don’t deserve a medal for being nice to my husband when he felt sick, of course, but I want to mention it. Because last night when he had an allergy attack, I wanted to chase him out of our home with a fiery torch and tell him and his monstrous allergies to never return. My arms and legs could not muster the strength to help me fashion a torch, though, so instead I had to rely on that which never tires – my acid tongue – to have a good old fashioned verbal freak out. Even his absence didn’t help, though, because by the time he was gone, Eli was done sleeping soundly, and it was just a pile of horrible hours until I fell out of bed in time to eat before Will left for work.
Eli finally got back to sleep after Will left. So I was able to tend to my beloved chores, but get not a minute more rest. Edie followed me around hoping I might turn back into a mom. Alas. When Eli finally woke up, it was time to get going. Up he went onto his changing table and, like clockwork, Edie said she HAD to go potty. She had JUST gone. Are you sure, Edie? Yes. Can you wait? No. Ok, go sit on the potty and I’ll be in to help you as soon as I get Eli changed. And then for the second time in two days, she goes into the bathroom and – inexplicably – pees on the floor like an angry cat. It. is. maddening. She’s too young to even know what she’s doing or why. But she’s old enough that she does it deliberately and then immediately be totally flummoxed as to why she made that decision. Then I yell. And she cries. And there is no resolution. And I know that I’ve turned into a mean person but I am just so out of it.
Edie has passed the two and a half mark and she’s a full-fledged
maniac kid. A kid with a lousy mom. I think it would be tasteless hyperbole to say I’m the world’s worst mom, given the horrors out there. But, for the past several weeks, I’ve definitely been the worst mom I’ve ever been. Since Eli was born, I’ve been exhausted and most of the energy I have is funneled via biological imperative into the care of the new baby. From Edie’s angle, she’s down one mom. So with the pillar of her existence stepping aside to prop up someone else, my little girl hasn’t been treated like the little girl she is. And she screams about it. Which makes me beg her not to scream. And this makes her scream more. Sometimes, I scream too – a tactic which is wildly, wildly ineffective and yet incredibly tempting to try. It breaks my heart, but unfortunately for both of us, too often I push away my sadness and just feel mad instead. When she wanted my attention the other day, she said to me “Mommy, can you take me to my room? I’m gonna scream.” That is, she asked me to take her to her room to scold her for screaming. She rightly figured that was a good way to get some time with me. Add that to the innumerable times my Edie has held up a mirror to things I was trying not to look at.
But next week, Edie and I might both get a little relief, because she’s starting preschool. Three days a week, she will be attending a local Montessori school. I was really on the fence about doing it. She is only two and half, and I feel a bit as if I am outsourcing raising her. The thing is, even if a good mom could keep her two year old happy alongside her new baby – and, ergo, I am not a good mom – then, that’s just how it is. I can see that I am lamenting a non-reality – that is, a universe where I am enough for Edie right now, both in stimulation and affection.
It’s a great school, and it’s right up her alley, pedagogically. Montessori Method is all about respect for the child, integrating them into the world around them, and independence. When we took her in for her interview, we had to wake her up from her nap and toss her into the car half-sleeping, half-crying. I did not have high hopes. But after we arrived, and I leaned down to explain that a teacher would like to meet her and show her some projects in a classroom, Edie dropped my hand and clasped the teacher’s. She marched forward and did not look back. I’ll try to do the same.
Swearing IN that is! (My personal expletive use is restricted mostly to Oh Man and guttural shouts of anguished frustration.) After passing the bar here in Tennessee, my last step was to take my oath and get sworn in at a court house. The traditional way to get this done is to attend the mass swearing in ceremony. The ceremony I was invited to, however, was held the day before my due date. RSVP’ing to that would have tempted the universe a little too much for my taste. Though I could’ve claimed to have The Vapors if I’d gone into labor. That always gets you out of a jam here in the South. The amniotic fluid might have betrayed me, though…
So when a neighborhood friend offered to do me a post-birth favor to lighten my load, I automatically wanted to say no. Because that’s what I do. I claim that I’ve got everything under control, even though that is rarely the case. It is decidedly not the case these days, of that I’m sure. I am achingly tired, emotionally wrought over the constant clash between me and Edie, and feeling a million miles from Will. In short, I am a real delight. My cousin gave me a little piece of advice that I have tried to live by lately: when someone offers to help you, say YES. That is really good advice for most women I know, especially moms, and really especially moms with a new baby. (So, Agusta, your potty training advice got me nowhere, but you’ve redeemed yourself now.) With that in mind, and this offer in hand, I hesitantly typed out a request for her to watch Edie for a couple hours so that I could finish the task of becoming a Nashvillian Legal Eagle before my temporary law license expired.
Around 10:30 am, I dropped Edie off and left for the courthouse. Wearing cropped yoga pants and a seven week old baby strapped to my chest, I really was the picture of professional aspiration. Don’t bother with the metal detector, lads! I’m made of organic cotton and spandex! I was hoping that one of the clerks would congratulate me on my new status, but that didn’t happen. It is so exceedingly rare for me to step into the lawyer side of me these days that I was a little desperate for some reassurance that the side still exists. I did get to sign a great big book, and some pieces of paper did get stamped. So that seems official. It was not terribly confidence-inducing when I asked whether they would be sending confirmation of my oath to the Tennessee Bar Association, or Tennessee Supreme Court, or .. anyone? And I got a whole lot of shrugs and “I don’t think so” ‘s. (How will anyone know I took the oath, then? Yes, thank you, I think that’s a good question, too. I am very good at questions. Ah, you don’t know. I see.) While the book was big, I don’t think it was magical, and it was definitely stored on a dusty shelf in the Clerk’s office. I’m thinking my work is not *quite* done. But I got out of the house, I parked, signed what was truly a remarkably large book, remembered my PIN number so that I could get money out of an ATM to pay for parking, later found my parking ticket, and made it home with only one child in tears. Now I’m ready for the courtroom as soon as I get enough sleep not to commit legal malpractice.
The times are close approximations. The indentured servant-esque activities are real.