Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Moment vs. Every Single Moment

Here's a moment:

I am upstairs in the nursery rocking my baby girl back into her nap while she gently tugs at my breast, falling asleep between swallows of milk and then rousing herself to drink more. The house is quiet, it's just us and the sunbeams. Her room -- our room -- is beautiful. The maple floors shine, green viney plants climb the walls and frame the artful objets I've lovingly placed on shelves and walls. The window beside us is large and outside it, a magpie drifts in and out of a spectacularly blue prairie sky and a bare-branched elm.

You'd think that would be an easy moment to be present in.

But I am annoyed. All this spring sunshine is revealing grode in many homely locations. I have a brand new bottle of Citra-solve, a bucket of rags, a box of swiffer dusters with a telescoping handle, and a hand-held Electrolux. I've chased Hubby and the kids out of the house with the dog. This is my hour to clean furiously with nobody at all to unclean, furiously, behind me. All I ask of the baby is that she stay asleep when put there. For just one hour.

But no.... the sound of silence does not sit well with her. She'd like to be held. She'd like to doze in my arms, effectively pinning me to the rocking chair. Should I try to extract my nipple from her toothy maw and to set her gently down amidst soft, huggy, minky things, she makes like a murder of crows, all aflap and asquawk.

She's got me by the tit.

And all I can think about is this one dusty corner in the living room and how satisfying it would be to wipe it clean. If I could just... agggggghbllllgh. I was just about to clean it, I was, my hand hovered above it when that murder of crows sounded from the nursery. Now all I can think is, "I'd rather be sucking up that dust bunny with an Electrolux, but nooooooo, I have to sit here peacefully rocking a beautiful baby."

One of these days I'll be a little old lady in an empty house with no one to unclean things for me and all the time in the world to suck dust bunnies with a hand-held. And I know that I will not, for a second, wish to travel back in time to clean the dust-bunnies I didn't have time for while I was raising children. I will, however, I'm sure, wish to visit that sun-drenched nursery to hold my baby in my arms while she dozes and I rock in a silent, golden torpor. And I won't be able to remember why I didn't long for that moment to never end.

What's up with that?

Some endlessly repeated advice people give new moms is "Enjoy every single moment -- they grow up so fast."

It irks me so.

It is well-meaning but terrible advice. What makes it particularly vile, thanks for asking, is that it often comes from people who have held a very unreasonable newborn at 2 a.m. and should know better. And it's often directed at a mommy who is in a cloud of postnatal hormones that makes her feel... let's just say, a little raw, and who is quite overwhelmed by the everythingness of motherhood and whose back is sore because she hasn't put the baby down for hours and hours and hours and she just really needs a hot meal and for someone to tell her she's not terrible at everything.

Better advice would be "Let yourself enjoy parenting whenever you can -- try to relax and don't fight the sappy bliss, give into the sappy -- when you want to drop everything to hug and kiss your babies, DO IT. They seriously do grow fast. But in those moments you're not enjoying yourself, in those moments that make you want to crawl out of your skin to scuttle up the wall and hide in a dark corner, in which time appears to be standing still and you fear that gritchy little infant will NEVER let go of your tit, forgive yourself. It's okay. You're not terrible. It's hard!"

There's something so frazzling about enforced peacefulness. It's a special kind of awful.
Wee ones need us to be active sometimes when we're dead tired and need us to be still at times when we want to be active. It requires a sort of submissiveness that doesn't come naturally to me -- I doubt it comes naturally to anyone.
Everyone gets why 2 a.m. feedings are stressful. It's the 2 p.m. feedings, drenched in sunlight in a cozy chair that inspire lookers-on to assume you must be steeping in maternal bliss. It's that assumption that adds an extra level of "AAAAAAAGGGGGH" to it.

Human babies do come, after all, from human mommies and we can't enjoy every moment of it. We just can't. We're people who have been transformed into mothers and not into earthly projections of enlightened selflessness.

Maybe you are steeping in bliss. Maybe you're not. Every parent has visited both sides of that coin. Excepting, perhaps, Siddhartha Gautama who did transform into an earthly projection of enlightened selflessness after, mind you, leaving his wife and baby behind at the palace to embark on his spiritual journey.


  1. This is the best thing that has ever been written. And that picture of the mother with the lemonade, the best thing ever painted.

  2. I think this might be my favorite post of yours. Not that the others aren't great-- they are!-- and very important, but the language in this one is perfect. I love the descriptiveness, and I think I will add "grode" and "gritchy" into my everyday vocabulary. Plus, everything in it is true. Very, very, heartrendingly true.

  3. I loved this post. You are so right. And I have always liked the "murder of crows" term, and smile whenever someone uses it. So perfectly apt, isn't it?

  4. AAAAaaggggh. Love. What is it about being pinned to a chair, nursing an adorable baby, that makes the rolling tumbleweed fur-bunnies stand out against the hardwood that much more?

  5. Oh this was lovely. I have a 27 mo that still traps me in the chair nursing for what feels like hours at a time and wakes me up at unseemly hours. It is like having a newborn who also runs around and plays with knives.

    I trytrytry to remember to cherish some of the moments.

    I also will try not to say to new moms, "The days are long, but the years are short."

  6. Thank you, Thank you! I get really miffed when Mommas with older kids ask me if my daughter is 'sleeping through the night'. It's not so much the question but the devilish smile on their face. Have a little compassion will ya!

  7. @Kimberly: "It is like having a newborn who also runs around and plays with knives." Hahahahahahaha!! I have one of those too!! Love it.

  8. I just found your blog - I love your style of advice! :)

  9. Is parenthood best seen when looking backwards? I think it often is.

  10. I have been in that chair. It is not a good time. And now, I look back, and kind of miss it.

    It's a special kind of insanity, nostalgia.

  11. Thank you for this post! I just stumbled across your blog and now I will have to keep coming back! I love the way you expressed this. I too often feel guilty for not fully appreciating 'the moment' when sometimes the moment is only so great in hindsight. I want to enjoy those moments when I can but also realize sometimes it's just hard!

    And Kimberly, I loved your comment - "It is like having a newborn who also runs around and plays with knives." It made me laugh a lot. And I needed to laugh!

  12. I don't know if you still read these comments, but I send the link for this out often to new mommy friends.
    Thank you.


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