When you get pregnant, and you really want that baby, all you can think about is how much fun it’s going to be. Everyone around you is joking about how much sleep you’ll lose and how babies never stop peeing, literally never stop even though you are in the middle of changing their diapers, but you keep thinking about little stripey onesies and pajamas with butt ruffles. Then you’re humbled by the pain and the intense watching that birth brings, and after that intense glaring at you in your most raw, the light switches off you forever and onto your baby. And there it stays, night after night, as the baby grows up and more independent and yet still more dependent. While you’re rocking a wailing baby at 2, 3, 4 AM, you tell yourself that soon they’ll sleep all night. Then, while you rub clove oil on their gums to alleviate teething pain and they just scream at your efforts, you tell yourself you can’t wait until they’ve cut all their teeth. When you’re going through endless rounds of potty training, trying 400 strategies and having them all end in pee pee on the floor, you keep saying how amazing it will be when they can go to the bathroom by themselves.
But really, it isn’t. It doesn’t really get easier when they sleep all night or can go to the potty alone, because that’s not the nature of parenting. It gets harder. Do you hear me, pregnant friends? HARDER. Because suddenly caring for them isn’t only holding them until they stop crying; it’s layered, it’s complicated, and it’s illogical. I have been walking through this semester, trying my best to keep Hazel, Julia, the house, and my studies all pulled together, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hazel, who clings to me all day and would crawl back into my uterus for keeps – Julia, who’s so sweet-tempered and so much less needy than any other 10-month-old alive – the house, with its piles of laundry at various spots throughout – our food, which I try so hard to make super healthy and fresh and YAY, but is slowly involving more meals of just hummus and carrot sticks. I’m so exhausted, and maybe parenting isn’t this hard for everyone else. I concede that I have some factors working against me: I’m a control freak, a neat freak, a non-touchy/feely loner freak who gets mad as hell when I can’t find my exact right highlighter and who, in reality, would probably have said “f*ck” instead of “hell.” I’ve got some daddy issues, which are 1. being furious and 2. being furious. Whatever the cause, whatever the complications, parenting, for me, is the most difficult, consistently inconsistent position I’ve ever held, and I mostly feel like a failure of a mother. I WANT to go to school, want it so badly that I’m staying up until 1 AM reading articles and working on papers, and sometimes I get mad at the universe when I have to push it all off for the tiny humans in the next room. Because I’m not mad at them, or at Amos or even me, it’s hard being mad.
But sometimes things unexpectedly clear, and, for a moment, it’s perfect. Today I have had Julia home, still feverish, while a coughing but not feverish Hazel went back to preschool after several days home sick. I’m super behind; I have to read Bleak House, which is like 900 pages of Dickens that I had never even heard of before, and having two sick girls has seriously affected my reading time. So I have Julia in the sling, letting her doze on me whilst I read, and Hazel’s school calls with a suspected case of pink eye. An hour later I settled a newly clean Julia, who pooped in the bathtub for the 3rd time this week (she has a bad diaper rash, so I put her in there to give her some non-diaper time) in her crib with relaxing nature sounds playing on my phone and a Hazel who’s half asleep and half irritated and just doesn’t know what to do with herself. I put her beside me on my bed, hoping she would sleep. She asked me to read to her, and because I’m so behind I started reading Bleak House to her. What should have been a boring book for her was, for some reason, exotic. That moment turned into Hazel stealing my glasses and book and reading the text to me. That ordinary moment of maternal desperation turned into something so beautiful and refreshing, made extraordinary by the amazing little girl I have. It gets harder as they get older, but the beautiful moments get exponentially more beautiful.