Last night(Reprinted with courtesy from Temple of Inspiration)
The seconds crept by one by one, seeming to lag in some physics-defying black hole.
As the piercing screams intensified, my eardrums threatened to rupture. The monitor projected each traumatized sniffle. I could almost feel the buckets of tears seeping through the ceiling onto my face. I looked at the clock… 7:45 pm. Bedtime is usually 7:00. I looked at my husband, who looked back at me. He’d been home only twenty minutes and already, he was showing the strain. ”I’ll go,” I said.
Conall had been unusually grumpy all day long, so my nerves were already deadened. I climbed the stairs and opened his door. His security blankets had been thrown out of the crib and onto the floor (a subtle way of letting us know he refuses to be comforted). His face was blotchy and wet; his hair stuck to his cheeks. I picked him up and settled down with his new favorite book, Peekaboo. Within minutes his eyes started to close, but when I tried to put him back in his crib, his arms pinched me like a vise, his eyes popped wide open and he wailed as though I had tried to take off his toes.
At 8:15, I finally placed the sleeping baby in his crib and went downstairs for dinner. I was exhausted. Not just from the day, but from the previous 28 months, if you count pregnancy (and I do!).
There is a 16 year gap between my oldest and youngest siblings. I’ve only just realized that my mother must have been thoroughly exhausted for about twenty years! And yet, the only evidence I have to support this idea is her occasional use of the phrase, “I’m tired, you go to bed.” How did she do it? Twenty years of small children’s bedtime tantrums, midnight feedings, nightmares, complete dependency… She’s like an ultra-marathon runner! I don’t know how she’s still conscious, but I do, at last, understand why she wakes at a pin’s drop!
“Do you want help?” Fifteen minutes into my vigil, Nick came upstairs to check on me. ”I’ll take him,” he offered, but as soon as we tried to change positions, Conall was, again, hysterical. Seeing his arms reach out for me and his eyes looking at me as though I’d somehow betrayed him, I took him back immediately. His anxiety was my anxiety; his fatigue, mine; and when, at last, he relaxed on my lap, I felt my own clenched muscles release.
Christianity talks about the 7 Dolors of Mary, or the 7 sorrows of her life, which are depicted as knives in her heart. My mother has often joked about the dolars she carries for us and I’m just starting to understand what she means. A mother experiences her child’s every feeling, physical and emotional, joy or sorrow.
For over forty years, my mother has felt our pain and pleasure as if it were her own. For every success or failure, my mom was with us. Mothers can look at us and know what was in our hearts. What my younger self perhaps didn’t realize was how much strength it took her to carry all those emotions.
As I watched Conall for a moment after putting him in his crib, I sighed deeply. This is just bedtime. How will I ever manage the highs and lows of life? My little prayer? May I be as strong as my mother…
Those who know me are aware that I was never sure about becoming a mom. I am honest enough to admit that I am a bit self-involved. I knew I would struggle with the 24/7 demands of motherhood (and I do). There are many times when I just want to be left to myself, to pursue my own dreams and ambitions, to sit down and eat my dinner… but the call of the wild through the monitor is unpredictable and impossible to ignore.
I tell myself that just because a good quality does not come naturally, doesn’t mean it does not come. I may not ever be truly selfless, but I can always be more generous.
Whereas I am conscious of every effort I make for Conall, it always seemed to me that my mother couldn’t imagine any other way. I always felt like the focus of her entire being was on ensuring her children’s happiness. Maybe this is the magic of motherhood – that you can give your child this impression while carrying on a different inner dialogue; but to this day, I live under the impression that there is nothing my mother wouldn’t do for me if she could. And I’m sure this is true because despite my flaws, I know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Conall.
I heard the screaming as I walked the dog near my neighbor’s house. Part of me wanted to turn around and walk the other way. But, of course, that’s not actually an option. You open the door. You head up the stairs. You do whatever ever you can to bring peace and comfort to the little person you’ve created. Whether it’s what you want to be doing or not… It’s motherhood.
Thank you, Mom!