Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

                                                                               Photo by Debi Stone: Deb's Creative Images

 Yesterday was my baby’s third birthday. I suppose that officially classifies her as toddler now, although since she’s my last, I’ll always consider her the baby. Which she’ll hate me for at some point no doubt.

I always kind of balk when people talk about enjoying every minute of the tiny years because "they grow up so fast." I can tell you that there are times when each day feels like a damned eternity.

But the adage is right. It does go by fast. If I close my eyes I can remember being pregnant with her (without the cervical pressure of course), remember bringing her home from the hospital, remember her big, blue eyes, and pillow cheeks. I also can remember all the stress, the fear, and worry that accompanied my pregnancy.

We had just relocated back to the East Coast and had moved into our house in August of 2006. My husband was in Texas on a business trip and I was home with our 7 and 5 year olds. I couldn’t even tell you what made me think to take a pregnancy test…I may have been late—but more likely I was moody, miserable (even more so than normal if you can imagine that) and looking for a reason why I might be irrational. Even I know when I’ve maxed my limits.

I’m not one of those women who planned all her pregnancies with the lunar calendar, kindergarten entrance dates, and how old they’d be on their soccer team, in mind. My life seemed to mimic the pre-birth control era, where my responses to the news of each pregnancy was, “Oh Shit!” “Are You Kidding?” and “What??” respectively. The good news is that by the second and third kid I was no longer swearing, and the last time I didn’t cry. I’d say overall things improved.

But I came across a journal entry I wrote right after I found out I was going to have our youngest daughter. Three years ago, pre-baby, this is what I wrote (on the computer of course).

October 9, 2006

 I am without words and yet words are flying through my brain; jammed, cluttered trying to all get out the same door and finding themselves stuck. I should have known that as soon as I had my life planned out and finally going in the direction that I WANTED, that life would throw me another little curve ball and I would again be reminded that it is, in fact,
Not about me.
Terrified. Excited. Ashamed to be excited, actually. Mostly terrified. I don’t really feel all that confident about the job I’m doing with the two I have, let alone add a third to the mix. And what of my neurosis? What about the mood swings, the depression and the anger… all of that could come back now, again.

Looking around, I’ll have to baby proof everything once more. All those cute picture frames and magazines I left low will have to be put in a box for the attic—for years—and I’m back to scrubbing food off the walls and out of hair and cleaning puke and diapers. Up all night again, no sleep, you know how bad I am with no sleep, no sleep for a long, long, time.

And all my worries are back. The What If’s are already popping into my head, as if they knew they would be needed soon. Apparently they don’t go away, they just lie dormant in your head until you’re vulnerable again. Now I’m fighting them off with the bat of reason, of age, of experience, but those What If’s are formidable. No amount of logic will rid me of their grip.

How difficult it is for me to understand that the perfect life I live in my head, is not the perfect life I am meant to lead. The life in my head always works out so well. It always has a good ending, a sunny day, a fresh ripe crop of sweet raspberries, a published story in the end. That utopia is filled with cookie dough steam, creative crafts at the table, a constant pleasant smile for my children, a patient response to life’s complexities. The life I am meant to lead sometimes feels like the antithesis to this perfection. It’s messy and difficult. It’s filled with exasperation and exhaustion. There always seems to be a hill to climb, and just when I reach the apex and think my climb is over, there is another fucking hill looming before me. Bowels, allergies, rashes, stomach aches and I-don’t-knows seem to fill most of my days.

I just got to where I wanted to be. Where I thought I would stay. Where I thought God wanted me. Where I thought my dreams finally merged with my reality.
Did they? I’m here again…a place I didn’t think I’d be. Truth is, I don’t really know how to feel about it. I only know that at no time, did this outcome play out in my head.

Three years later, I appreciate this perspective for the fear it revealed, the honesty I felt at being scared I was going to mess up yet another kid. And how’s it been so far? You ask. Did any of those fears come true?

Well, yes and no. I did not experience the same depression, mood wings, and general life-hatred with baby #3. This was perhaps my largest fear of all, and it turns out that I handled things this time around rather well, but it’s better not to ask my other two kids or husband, just in case they disagree with me. My other two children were older this go-round, I was only needing to take care of one baby, and though I didn’t have any of my family here for support, I did have a great network of friends from when we lived in Massachusetts previously. And while I may still be screwing up my kids (and giving many therapists job security), after 11 years of watching other people with their kids, I’m not any worse than many parents I see around me. I’m not perfect, but I’m not on the CPS call list, so I figure mediocre is a good place to be.

I did go through the phase of cleaning up puke, changing the heinous diapers, and honestly, I’m still cleaning food off the walls and scraping it up from the floors, but I think that’s mostly my other children and my husband. That’s simply a life sentence.

But there are a few things I can tell you with absolute certainty—with the clarity that comes from hindsight.

She’s perfect in every way, even if she throws a mean tantrum.
She makes me laugh everyday, especially when she pouts or tilts her head when she wants something.
Like all my other children, she came along at exactly the right time. Even if it wasn’t the right time in my head.

She’s the best gift I never knew I always wanted.
Happy third birthday baby girl.

And thank you Lord, for all my three perfect presents.

Even when they make me need that wine you're so famous for.


Joy said...

I love, love, love this post, Rachel! It made me both laugh and tear up. I felt so much of those same feelings (well, not the fear of mood swings/depression because I didn't expect that) but a lot of the rest. Thanks for this honest, heartfelt post. I too, wanted to roll my eyes when all these people kept telling me, "Oh, honey, this is the best time of your life." Really? When I'm getting five hours of broken sleep a night and being alternately peed on and puked on? Yes, there were some beautiful, perfect moments when my little guy was tiny but I enjoy him much more as he gets older. All of this is to say, I can relate, sistah!

Rachel said...

Joy,I'm so glad you posted! I think so many moms feel disillusioned when they get home and don't love every minute of the "perfectness" that baby mags would have you believe. We don't say anything because what kind of mother would we be? You're right, there are many moments that are wonderful, but my overall memory is fatigue, stress, tears, and anxiety. And still, we wouldn't trade it, would we? I agree though, I LOVE my kids as they get older. They are finally starting to get my sarcasm and use it back! Yeah!!