I wrote this little motherhood essay in March this year. I remember the words tumbling out of me when I’d given myself the permission to write, even if no one else ever read it. It was the very beginning of all of this, and the weeks preceding a pretty big bump in our daughter’s health story.
When women refer to being in the trenches of motherhood, they’re talking about a week like the one we’re living right now.
Our youngest has a significant but, for now, well managed health condition. There have been a couple of little episodes that have had my mama radar peaking so I raised it with her medical team. They asked that we head on in to have a portable EEG put on her little head to monitor her for 24 hours. She handled it like the little super star she is, she crawled around the house with her darling little head well-bandaged to cover the road map of wires and electrodes monitoring her beautiful brain, while she dragged the metre long bundle of cords and battery pack behind her. Me on the other hand, my mama heart hurts hard in weeks like this. She’s okay. She’s doing well. We’re not expecting big bad results from this, rather an explanation for some tiny out-of-the-ordinaries. But for me it’s confronting. The enormity of what may lie ahead for us and for her is more real in weeks like this. So she has slept between me and her dad every night because we need to keep her a little closer. The moment we all settle into bed, my mama guilt kicks in on another level because her twin is alone in the cot beside our bed. I try reminding myself that when her darling twin is unwell, or teething or having a rough night, we absolutely do the same. But still the mama guilt remains.
Sleepless nights are on the agenda, due to a combination of all the worry, babies waking more frequently than usual, staying up too late to squeeze in some child-free time, though nothing of quality is achieved. Mindlessly staring at a screen - either one on the wall or scrolling the one in my hand is usually, unfortunately, what I’m doing. I’m not having a meaningful conversation, I’m not writing, or creating, or reading one of the desperate-to-be-read books from my ever growing tower of paper and soul stirring, life changing, well considered words. An earlier bedtime would be a far better use of this time.
In the background lingers the part time work angst. For me, it’s not okay. It breaks my mama heart so much, has done for seven years - this is not how I wanted to raise my children. This is not how I wanted to keep a house. All the hectic hurrying. All the repeated “please wait”, “in a moment”, “I’m sorry, I forgot”. My lack of patience has me cringing inside. All of this before we list the ways this work does diddly squat to fill up my soul, fulfill my potential, make me proud. I am thankful for the wonderful women I spend my days with though.
To-do lists that are too long - growing, not reducing - so where should I begin? Basic survival priorities first right - make sure we’re all fed and clean-clothed. Yeah, I can get that sorted. Afternoons/evenings and getting out the door in the mornings aren’t too bad, surprisingly. Those hours in between though, they’re like herding cats. Will I have a block of ninety minutes to power around and get things done, house things and my things? Or will I have ten very random ten minute blocks to put out fires, tidy a couple of hot spots and make - but not drink while warm - the cliche cup of lukewarm tea? Try finding the motivation and energy to get all the things done though, all the competing things, with a sleep deprived mama brain and all of the tabs open in my tired head only building on this heavy mental load, well, it’s slow going.
Two big kids that are, all things considered, well behaved, accommodating, understanding. So much beyond their short years. The kind of understanding that rears its head when we’re late to after school pick up because the last minute medical appointment ran so long that we missed her second ever ballet lesson. She was dressed in her costume ready to go when we arrived, head hung and tears streaming down her face when we told her we’d missed her class. And then mine too. Ouch. After thinking on it, she came to us to tell us that, though she was sad, her sister is more important than ballet. Wow. Her good heart amazes me.
I’m overwhelmed. My cup was full by 10am on Monday morning, before all of this. I can feel adrenaline coursing through my body. I am aware of tense muscles and a clenched jaw, I forcibly relax them. I am hyper aware of time passing, I remind myself to be present. If I’m present, I reassure myself that that is the important part of it all. I crave a more clear mind, more energy, more time to better parent these tiny humans. When my four darlings sleep, and I’ve decided to ditch the mindless screentime for bed, I wonder how much I really need to shower and brush my teeth. Falling straight into bed, immediately closing my eyes that will sting for being properly closed for the first time today, is far more appealing. Besides, the babies still sleep in our room, it’s not worth running the risk of waking them. But I do, because when else can I squeeze it all in.
These are my trenches. It’s only Thursday. But, like everything, I know for sure, that this too shall pass. And like everything, I need to remind myself that this was not the sum of our week; I made a half birthday ice cream cake for my new seven-and-a-half year old, my baby girl has learnt to high-five, her twin has learnt to say ‘ta’, their brother has been endlessly affectionate “I wuv my hoooooool famwee”, we laugh a lot, and I had a full half hour - while all four kids were home - to read a new book. This week is not our normal, but when we’re living it, it feels endless. And it hurts my heart, a lot. Once it’s passed though, we almost forget it ever happened, we’re back to living a different kind of happy chaos.