005

the longest year

A few weekends ago my husband took our oldest out to his parents’ house for the weekend. There was a big party being thrown for my husband’s uncle’s 75th birthday, and while the baby probably would have enjoyed himself, it conflicted with his (absurdly early) bedtime. So they took off while the baby and I held down the fort at home.

It was very, very quiet.

Even though my 4 year old can be a bit of a circus for me, he does provide a great deal of entertainment for his extroverted baby brother, so I knew we’d have to get out of the house for at least a small errand after the baby’s afternoon nap.

We had a wander through Whole Foods, where I picked up some supplements to add to my smoothies and some fancy cheese to eat for dinner because I had recently stopped breastfeeding and wow, I have really missed cheese.

At the check out the cashier was doing the standard, “oh he’s so cute, how old?” And after I answered, “Thanks, he’s 11 months,” she replied, “And hasn’t it been the fastest 11 months of your life?”

Here’s what I should have said:

“Of course! The days are long but the years are short.”

or

“Yea, seems like just yesterday I held him for the first time!”

But instead I said:

“No.”

My answer hung in the air; I imagined it bobbing along, like the black balloon in the scene from A Little Princess (1995) where Sara learns her father has died.

I felt like a jerk, of course, for bringing the conversation crashing down, as I often do, by saying the “wrong” thing, which is maybe a problem most writers have. I am very fond of the delete key (I used it at least 3 times typing this sentence), and unfortunately it doesn’t exist in conversation.

I wanted to qualify my response by saying something, anything: “I have a 4 year old, too,” or “There hasn’t been a lot of sleep,” etc. But the words got caught in my throat, and she finished bagging my groceries, and wished us a good weekend, and I left, and she probably thinks I’m a sour puss.

She might be right.

Because the days are long but my god, this year has been long, too. I am desperate for a new season. One in which the baby’s world does not depend on me, one in which I might find more space to write. One in which my body has time to heal, and rest, and belong only to me.

Is that something I should gloss over?

I can love being a mother, enjoy having a baby, without trying, or even wanting to try, to find magic and delight in all of the truly hard parts.

15 minutes is a very, very long time when your newborn is screaming in discomfort because you’ve yet to put 2 + 2 together and realize he has a dairy sensitivity. There are no hours longer than those between 2 and 5 am, and I saw many of them. Intrusive thoughts are deeply upsetting, your brain becoming your enemy, and my postpartum anxiety seemed to grow along with my baby, at an alarming rate.

I spent a lot of time over the last 12 months keeping my eye on the prize of the next milestone, only to have them happen differently than I would have liked (i.e., we spent $500 on a sleep consultant to get him sleeping through the night and on a regular nap schedule; I stopped breastfeeding at 10.5 months due to severe nipple trauma, a story which will surely be recounted here in all of its bloody glory). I didn’t necessarily want to rush through the first year of my baby’s life, and yet, here I am.

The baby is still what I would call high needs now, at a year old. He prefers to be held on my hip, squawking and hiking his legs up higher if he senses I’m about to put him down. I bought more bottle nipples, and washed them, only to have them refused because they are not exactly like the nipples we have, which, by the way, are no longer sold, best I can tell. He will play by himself for approximately 5 minutes, and then he would like for you to sit next to him while he gnaws on a Duplo or bangs a hammer into his ball drop.

Unrelated to parenting and nipple drama, in the past year I have also said goodbye to my paternal grandfather and learned of an old friend’s suicide. Not to mention the general dumpster fire that is our country.

It’s just a lot.

I am aiming for a gold medal in self-care: washing my face, trying to drink more water than coffee, going to therapy. But at some point it becomes simply waiting it out; babies do grow, I know, because there is another small human in my house who is more of less capable of tending to his own basic needs without much effort on my part. Left to his own devices, my 4 year old could manage to feed himself, go to the bathroom, and put himself to bed.

I’m not sure what my point is, really, except that if you’re finding the year to be just as long, or longer, than a very long day of mothering a small child or two, know that you’re not alone. Time doesn’t always pass as quickly as we want it to, but it does pass. It doesn’t detract from loving your children, or feeling #blessed to be having this problem in the first place. Sometimes it’s just about sitting with it and knowing you’d use the fast forward button if you could.

And being brutally honest with well-meaning cashiers.