When I start the day, I’ve already been awake for a couple hours. I haven’t gotten up yet because the baby has been nursing on and off and it keeps her asleep, and I’m trying to put off the moment when the day has to officially begin. I am so tired. Part of me wants to lay there for eternity, if I’m being honest.
Then the dance begins. Pour cereal and coffee, try to keep the baby’s hands out of it. Eat and drink while babbling and cooing, soaking in the sweetness before the fussing starts. I get us up and go to the bathroom, playing peekaboo with a towel to stave off the crying. Then we both get into the shower, because she will scream like she is being murdered otherwise. The doubts come rushing in, that I’m doing this all wrong. Do I not let her cry enough? Do I let her cry too much?
I get us both out and start drying my hair because I hate how it looks when I don’t. I think about what that says about me. Am I too vain? The baby is getting tired by now so I lean over to dry the underside faster, all the while looking at my breasts dangle and wishing they would lift back up to where they used to be. I wish most of me was where it used to be, if I’m being honest.
I lay her down and nurse her into her first nap. I read articles, play games on my phone, attempt to close my eyes because, you know, sleep when the baby sleeps. But that never works, does it? She wakes up and we play. It’s so easy to make her smile and laugh and I truly soak in these moments. I do chores around the house, the picking up after both the other child and other adult who live here. I try to quell those feelings of resentment because I am one of the luckiest people I know. It still simmers though, if I’m being honest.
It’s time to pick up my older child from school. I’m looking forward to seeing her and hearing her chatter. She is smart and funny and so sweet. We get home and eat snacks, then the pleading begins. She wants to watch her iPad. I am sure I let her watch it too much. I am sure her brain is being stunted by the screen time. Guilt crashes over me, wave after wave. But the baby needs another nap, so screen time it is. When the baby wakes up, I try to find ways to entertain them both. My older child loves me fiercely and wants me to look at this, watch her do that. I do my best. I watch her, I look at her. She tugs on my body physically and my heartstrings figuratively, and I do my best to ignore how weathered both of those feel. But I just want a quiet, dark, room alone, if I’m being honest.
The husband gets home. We have texted throughout the day, which is really now our prime form of communication. We are living in parallel universes. I want to be the things he wants and needs me to be. I just don’t know where I went or when I’ll be back. He wants to help, he offers to let me have a little time. Sometimes I take the time, sometimes I don’t. I will do a quick exercise video, trying to put my things back where they belong. Trying to take up less space, which I somehow equate to being worthier of being more present. The husband’s patience is wearing thin with the baby, though. I want to help him, but a large part of me wants him to feel what I feel, if I’m being honest.
We get through dinner and bath time. The baby is difficult to get down. She wants to latch onto me and not let go. Am I letting her become too dependent on me? Again, should she cry more? What stage is right for that? Is there something wrong with her? I’ve done this before, but I still don’t know the right answers. The questions circle and circle and I come to the conclusion that, as a mother, as a wife, as a human, I am somehow too much of everything and not enough of anything.
The husband texts me that if I’m able to get up, he would like me to. Part of me wants to get up. Part of me wants to be there for him, and be there for our marriage. And sometimes I do. But usually, I don’t. I’m not really sure if it’s more often because I can’t, or because I won’t. Because sometimes, he feels like one more thing that wants me, needs me, one more reminder that my work isn’t done and that there is always more I can do to earn my space and reach higher into what family should look like. I berate myself for those thoughts. I am so lucky. I am one of the luckiest people I know. People do more with so much less. Ungrateful is the word that echoes in my head.
At some point, the baby unlatches long enough for me to sleep a little before she fusses and needs me again. The night goes on like that. Latch, unlatch, latch, unlatch. Then the day starts again. I know this won’t last forever. But, if I’m being honest, it sure feels like it. If I’m being honest, I don’t feel very lucky, and I don’t feel very grateful. And that seems like the worst truth of all.