Tuesday, August 25, 2015

You Might Be Lonely, Mama, But You're Not Alone

Hey, Mama. Look over here--I'm talking to you. You might not believe it because it's 4 p.m. and you haven't heard another adult's voice all day and by this point you're wondering if you annoy your baby as much as you annoy yourself as you narrate every little move you make, "I'm changing your diaper," "I'm feeding the doggie," "I'm eating an apple and almond butter for lunch...again."  Does your baby understand anything you're saying? I don't know that, but I do know that I do. I hear you, and I understand. You want your baby to grow into a smart, capable child.

And you also want someone to talk to.

Your husband tries, but he comes home late sometimes and has his own list of stresses from his own work. But he has coworkers to hash them out with and business calls to the world outside of his office.  To whom can you turn when you need to furrow your brow into a look that says, "This is so hard?"  Who can assess your performance and assure you you're doing an adequate job? Who can you call when you just need to remember there is life outside of the walls of your messy, poopy-diaper-smelling home? Who is willing to hang on when the baby starts screaming? Who isn't too busy with their own lives/jobs/families to acknowledge you exist?

I remember when my husband left to head back to work a week after Edie was born. I stayed in bed and looked down at her tiny body in my lap and said, "Looks like it's just you and me, honey." I had no idea how heavy that statement would grow to feel as the days dragged forward and I rapidly cut out the majority of my to-do list. Shower first thing in the morning? Nope, baby hates her swing. Housework? Nope, baby only naps on my chest. Exercise? Nope, baby wants to nurse for three straight hours. Write/read/work? Nope, baby is screaming again.

Daniel would come home and I'd realize I had nothing to show for my day except more dirty dishes and clothes stacked on top of the existing piles. What did we even do today? Did I do anything to make the world a better place? Did I impact anyone? Did I even love my baby enough?

I began to feel invisible because surely if anyone could see me they'd see these feelings all over my face. For a few months I shut down and took the "It's just you and me" phrase too literally because the pressure of raising a tiny human on my own not only made me feel very lonely, it made me feel determined to give her all I had if that was the way it was supposed to be. I shut out my husband, my friends, and the idea of trying to make new ones who might actually understand a bit of the cold slap of new motherhood. My cup dried out pretty quickly giving myself to her all day and night without anyone else filling me back up.

I've since learned my mama bear roar is much louder when it's part of a chorus.  No one else can raise my child for me, but other mothers can share how they're raising theirs and how they survive the loneliest moments.  I'm slowly surrounding myself with a troop of them, and as I get to know these women better, I find it comforting that I feel like I'd get dressed and go to battle for their babies, because that means they'd probably do that for my girl, too.

So instead of feeling like I might lose it when my daughter doesn't want to be put down all day or wakes to nurse nine times in one night, I try to think about the other warrior mamas up doing the same thing and what I'd say to them if I had the chance. I'd probably start off with a sleepy complaint, like, "Are you serious? I think my baby hates me." Then I'd come to my senses and let myself really experience this moment from the outside looking in. I'd watch you watch your baby with a frustrated, clenched jaw and the fire of what you think is exhausted anger but what I know to be go-to-the-ends-of-the-earth-for-you love in your eyes. And I'd say, "Look at you, Mama. You're doing it. You're doing the holiest work there is, and you're doing it for no recognition at all. But I see you. You're so beautiful and so strong. I see you, Mama."

I see you, Mama--I am one of you. I see you because I am you.
And because of that, you're not alone.

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