I am sitting in a tiny French bistro near my house. The coffee here is good enough that I don’t need to add milk, a plus since I have cut out milk after Tigerlily’s arrival. I planned to write, for the first time in months. There is no WiFi, but I have a small notebook. I stare at the blank page and get ready to immerse myself. Out of the corner of my eye, my croissant waits patiently. It is a perfect croissant, large and golden and airy. I notice the ends of the croissant are folded over on top of each other, and it reminds me of Tigerlily’s newborn picture, the one I have chosen for her birth announcements. She is curled up on her stomach, her legs tucked under her and her feet sticking out behind her but intertwined- like matching puzzle pieces or a cat’s tail, her feet belong together. And I think, I should be home with her, breathing in every minute of her newbornness.
A recent weekend. O is up early and like a cannonball shot from a cannon, bursts into awakeness with energy to burn. He is insistent and loud and joyful and tearful and like a pebble in your shoe or a fire alarm, impossible to ignore or tune out. He is inside, he is outside. He is stomping in puddles, he is burying his cars in the rain. He is giggling sweetly, he wants a snack, a piece of cheese, some fruit, a lollipop. He wants you to look at him. He wants to do it by himself. He is crying hysterically now, he wants something that even he can’t articulate. He drops his cookie, the dog eats it. He smears cheese all over the wall. He screams at me to go away. He begs to sit in my lap, tells me he misses me so much.
Same weekend. Tigerlily screams and refuses to nurse at every single feeding time. Is she fussy? Is she starving? Is she full? Does she have gas? Is it reflux? Is it an allergy to something I’m eating? Is it the position? Is it the time of day/the room I’m in/the day of the week? What is causing this, causing my sweet baby to scream in my ear, scream in my face, scream with her mouth open so big is swallows her face? I can’t help but to take it personally, to feel like she is screaming at me. She hates me already.
I think, thank God the nanny will be here on Monday. Thank God O has camp to go to for part of the day. Thank God I don’t have to do this all day, every day, without help, without a break. When the nanny comes, I will steal away to the coffee shop, do some writing, have one hour just for me.
But here it is, a day that I have help, that I can grab an hour to myself. And I’m thinking I should be there instead. I shouldn’t outsource her newborn time, shouldn’t let someone else hold her and breathe in her yummy newborn smell. I should be there for all of it. After all, it goes so fast, it won’t last forever, I will have to return to work soon enough. Soon she will be trailing O, wanting a snack, playing in the puddles, throwing a tantrum.
Parents talk about balance. I’ve talked about balance, about finding the balance between motherhood and working, between kids and your own identity, between being present for your kids and also finding time to devote to things that you love. And today I realize that it’s crap, this idea of balance. Because having kids is all about the overwhelming moment. Parenthood is all or nothing and it is lived in the extremes. Like a toddler, being a parent is insistently, intensely and overwhelmingly Present- not past, not future, just now. Trying to balance anything, trying to do one thing while thinking of another, just makes me angry or annoyed or impatient. It’s like dipping your toes in the shallow end, slowly letting the chilled water creep up, past your ankles and then your knees, letting yourself get “used to” the water. The whole time you are thinking about it, about the water and if it’s too cold and if you really want to be swimming and if you should get your hair wet or not, do you really want to take a shower, is it worth it? The whole time you are thinking about swimming, you aren’t actually swimming. You are evaluating and analyzing. Whereas when you just jump in, the cold water rushes up to greet you and tumble over you and possess you fully in one instant, every inch of you all at once. You are IN it, and you are swimming. You are just being, just doing one thing. Swimming in water. No negotiating, no worrying about your hair. You’re all in.
You can’t tiptoe into parenthood, or get used to it. It doesn’t wait for you to catch up or decide that you are comfortable, so you might as well just dive in. I’m in a hard phase right now, and I’m trying to be okay with being overwhelmed. To be okay with being submerged in the deep end of parenthood.
I wrote this a month ago, when Tigerlily (not her real name) was about 6 weeks old and we were in the deep end. I planned on editing it, but decided to just post it, bad writing and all, as it was exactly how I felt at the time. Tigerlily is now almost 12 weeks old, and we have learned to tread water and are surviving beautifully now. Although we still haven’t mailed out those birth announcements yet. Maybe next week.