“You ever feel like, man, this just isn’t what I signed up for?”
I bumped into a friend a few weeks ago at a baby shower. She asked how me and Justin and the boys were doing, and I must have just needed to tell someone, because I answered honestly that things have been . . . hard.
Nothing dramatic. Just a little too much for what feels like way too long. We’ve been in some sort of muted medical crisis since the day we brought A home.
I’m a little embarrassed, because these things probably seem small and no one likes to feel like a complainer, but here it is: I’m struggling to keep up with the growing schedule of kids’ doctor and speech therapy and physical therapy and special needs playgroup and orthotics and taping appointments. I’m trying to be my son’s advocate and medical expert and resident informal speech therapist (no pressure). I’m working and nursing and not sleeping. I’m in physical therapy myself. This past month or so, A’s had horrible skin infections and eczema flare-ups that have required an insanely detailed lotion/creams regimen and even more doc visits. We have a big visit to Seattle Childrens’ Genetics next week. And on it goes. (Oh. And I had a colonoscopy Friday for bonus fun).
When my friend asked me if I ever feel like this particular parenting gig isn’t what I signed up for, I laughed. I said, “No, I definitely signed up for it. And I don’t regret it. It’s just — you never know what you really signed up for until you’re in it.”
I meant what I said. I’m in, and I wouldn’t take it back, not ever. I’m fierce for my little boys and know I’m lucky to be their mama.
But what I didn’t say was this: right now I am totally struggling in that space between what I thought this task would require and what it actually asks of me. It asks too much and keeps asking for more. Our daily hassle factor is quite high.
I’m exhausted, partially because I’m fighting this so hard. Inwardly, I’m thrashing, I’m resenting this whole situation, envying other people’s normal. Outwardly, I’m still trying to look like I’ve got myself together.
It’s weird, but in the past few months I’ve found myself repeatedly thinking about the birth class we went to before A was born. We were encouraged to roll with the pain as much as possible and let the contractions do their work without tensing up or fighting them. We were encouraged to holler as much as we needed to.
Right now I’m the laboring woman who still thinks she can hold her breath through each painful wave. I’m that delusional creature who thinks she’s going to maintain control and get through this with her dignity fully intact.
She won’t. I won’t.
The breaking is actually the point of the whole thing.
On some level, I knew that about labor and I know it about being human. The pain still comes as a shock, though, at least to me. I thrash a long time before I remember this is an expected part of living; that the pain is often, if not always, accomplishing something.
Anne Lamott writes that when stuff starts going wrong all at once, it is to “protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born — this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.” I always loved that.
Right now I’m not sure what’s being born, exactly. I know only a little of what I’m hoping for: a softer heart. Less that scares me. A firm grip on J’s hand. For the first time in a long time, I’m seeing all of this as an opportunity, a means to discovering some new aspect of love I hadn’t seen before.
I read this tonight and nearly fell out of my chair, it was that good:
“Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open.” —Rumi
For now, deep breaths. Less thrashing.