You came into this world, red wrinkly skin and dark wet eyes, bright world, bustling room, right to my warm chest and suddenly the pain subsided, my brain slipped into an ecstatic, swirling euphoria as I surveyed your body the way a mother does; 10 wrinkled fingers and 10 little toes, bumpy birthmark on the side of your head, pouty lips that peaked into a perfect pink triangle, squished button nose. Someone glanced between your legs to confirm what we’d already guessed, “It’s a boy!” and we wept, hearts singing, as we met you.
Life is a many splendored thing; the highs and the lows, the peaks and the valleys, the triumphs and the failures. Since the birth of my second child, life has been turbulent. Our family has expanded, we’ve bought a house, we’ve started daycare for the three year old, and my husband and I have each been working through hurdles in our personal lives. It’s not just one thing; it’s a multi-sided diamond. Each way that I turn our life there’s a new side to see. Sometimes life has moments of sharp, acute pain and other times it has extended periods of low-lying pain that you get used to, and only by the cumulative sum do you look back and see it fully.
We’ve been battling sickness since Christmas this year, one illness after another surging through our family like the plague, knocking us down like bowling pins. My house feels like piles of clothing covered in body fluids, matchbox cars shoved into the cracks between couch cushions, laundry folded late at night by tired arms and downtrodden faces, glazed sick eyes above deep purple crescent moons, a chorus of coughing from the bigs to the littles, random sputtering cries piercing the night, pleading faces everywhere I look.
I’m run down. I’m exhausted. I’m put out. I’m wrung dry. But moms don’t get a break.
Being a mom is a 24/7 job, whether you’re spreading peanut butter on the 37millionth piece of toast or up late at night rocking a sniffling, sneezing, sad baby who just threw up all over your comforter. Even when you aren’t with your family you’re constantly thinking of them, planning meals and schedules and reassessing your parenting and your decisions.
Things came to a head this week when my husband fell ill. Suddenly the well-oiled machine of our household became a wounded, limping animal struggling to get through daily tasks. Nothing makes you appreciate your partner quite like covering their role. My husband keeps the domestic ship afloat, doing dishes and laundry, tending the fire, stocking the house with groceries. Suddenly last night at 11pm, after I’d tucked him back into bed with water and toast and he moaned his thanks, I found myself rolling a wheelbarrow out to our garage in my capri yoga pants, ankles freezing, to load up wood for the night, because it’s not my usual chore and I’d forgotten the need. The cat slunk past me into the darkness, refusing to come in after I’d stacked the wood and stoked the fire and I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry, catching a glimpse of his glowing eyes staring at me defiantly from across the yard.
Standing in the kitchen, the calm quiet of a totally sleeping household, save for me, the humming of the refrigerator, the heat from the stove creeping up the stairs, I happened to notice a spill of water on the floor that took the shape of an eagle flying. You know, the way clouds look like balloons or fish floating overhead. For some reason this simple little discovery gave me the reprieve I needed. I was flooded with joy and peace as I thought of my sleeping family members, of the cyclical nature of life, of trees bursting with the green of spring. When my first was a wee babe and the cycles were short and acute, I’d often get washed out to sea amidst the cycle, feeling desperate and lost until the ocean would spit me out to shore and a new cycle would begin. Eventually I got to recognize the pattern, and my fear and desperation subsided. Life is a lot of things. It’s joy, it’s pain, it’s happiness and sunshine but also sorrow and grief. It’s newness and it’s death. I’m learning to make space for all of the things that life is – to make space for the good and the bad. To make space for the cycles. To make space for the growth. To make space for cold ankles and splintery wood and the closeness to earth as I build a fire. To make space for little spills of water that transform into eagles gliding on thermals in a bright blue summer sky.