It sounds like a math equation, but it was really a mind game my best friend and I used to play in high school in order to gauge the passing of time. The summer after graduation, we measured the weight of the weeks ahead, counting down until I moved into my college dorm room, away from our hometown, away from the memories that had filled every free second of that final year of childhood. “Two months forward until August,” we concluded. “But two months ago was April. Wow, that feels forever ago. We have so much time left.”
A few days ago, I enlisted the help of my 2-year-old while making a batch of brownies. (Actually, they were cookie-brownies: the kind from Annie’s that is essentially a brownie with a cookie on top — you’re welcome.) I helped her stir the mix, let her lick the spatula, and asked her to scoop the cookie dough with a little spoon. While it was baking, we turned the oven light on and she stood in front of the door, alternating between patient self-reminders of “they’re cooking!” and impatient exclamations of “wanna eat!” Once they were cooled, she tasted her very first cookie-brownie, somehow even more delicious I think, because she helped bake them.
There’s a lot I love about watching my daughter discover things about the world, but arguably one of the cutest is seeing her get excited about her favorite foods. A few weeks ago, I purchased a pack of muffins from the bakery, eliciting a squeal of “Ooooh a muffin!” She’ll announce everything on her plate at lunch — “PBJ! Cheese! Crackers!” — and she’s become inexplicably fascinated with one of my cookbooks, asking questions about everything she sees.
Halloween is just around the corner, and depending upon the kind of person you are, you might have absolutely nothing planned. (Unless you bought your costumes back in July, which is seemingly when Target started putting their Halloween section together because time is a flat circle these days.)
If you have kids, they probably only have candy on the brain (or, if they’re too young to understand the concept of Trick-or-Treat, the break in routine is excitement enough). But as an adult, especially a millennial, there’s probably something you’re thinking about more: The costumes. And, subsequently, the Instagram post. Right? Right.
I have most of my “serious” conversations over text these days. As a mom of a 2-year-old, I only have a handful of quiet pockets of time each day, most of which are usually spent catching up on work, answering emails, doing laundry (or at least thinking about doing laundry), and some form of self-care, which typically entails lying on the couch and staring into space for as long as possible. Gone are the days when I could spend an hour (or more) on the phone with my best friends, or G-chat into oblivion during a lazy afternoon.
Getting into it over text isn’t ideal, in part because I overthink everything, particularly when I’m talking about something serious — or revealing something raw. A few months ago, I found myself in one of those ~serious~ group texts with my two best friends from college, trying to form words and sentences to articulate thoughts that had only existed, up until that point, in a foggy loop inside my brain. In typical fashion, I followed up a giant blue brick of text with a few emojis and “Sorry to unleash on you guys LOL.”
As customary for true friends, they responded immediately with “Don’t apologize” / “You have nothing to be sorry for.” And then, one of them added: “We’ll always hold space for your feelings. You can talk to us about anything.”
I’ll be walking my son in his stroller, watching him pull at his socks and kick his legs happily as he woofs back at dogs in the neighborhood. I’m usually listening to a podcast about motherhood, nodding my head as the women I’ve self-declared as friends talk about how they do mornings and meal times and meet other moms.
I’ll catch a glimpse of a bumper sticker as a minivan rolls by. Something about dance or soccer. My mind will start to wander. I’ll begin imagining recitals and open fields. I’ll think of our blonde little boy chasing a ball. I picture buns and tutus. Orange slices and Gatorade. Cheering on sidelines and carpool lines.
Motherhood has a way of making one day bleed into the next with ease; life sometimes feels like a rotation of meals (most of which end up on the floor), cleaning up, making a mess, and cleaning up again. Morning catapults into the afternoon which slips into evening, all within seconds, even on the longest and toughest days. There’s a scene in the 2018 film Tully where Marlo (Charlize Theron) is essentially on a 2 a.m. loop: a montage of the light switching on, a diaper change, feeding, back to sleep, rinse and repeat. So much of motherhood, even beyond the newborn stage, feels a lot like that.
Let’s get one thing straight: the internet is simultaneously the best and worst thing to have ever happened to moms. On the one hand, you can google a homeopathic diaper rash ointment at 2 in the morning. On the other hand, google will also convince you that your baby might have diaper rash, but he also probably has a food allergy, some incurable skin condition, and maybe you should also see an early intervention specialist while you’re at it. (Rule number one: Don’t google anything.)
While I sat rocking my daughter in her nursery last night, trying yet another position to get her to go back to sleep, I closed my eyes and rested my lips on her head. I tried to remind myself to relish the time with her while she’s small. She turns 5 months tomorrow, and I lost my first two months with her to postpartum anxiety.
My anxiety robbed me of enjoying my first weeks with her. I honestly thought I was on top of my symptoms. I wasn’t. I finally admitted I needed more help after I acknowledged I was experiencing intrusive thoughts, and it took me 5 weeks before I could get in to a postpartum specialist.
I couldn’t call my daughter by her name. I didn’t want to look at her. I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts because I’d lose myself in a whirlwind of fears and anxieties that I knew weren’t rooted in reality, but I couldn’t pull myself out of them. I felt out of control, out of touch, and at a loss. I returned to a new job after 6 weeks at home, and I was a mess.
Communal restrooms and a shared cubicle for a bedroom were hardly my favorite part of dorm living in college. I habitually whispered “I’m sorry” to my roommate as I whipped up my morning smoothie before 8 am class. No need for an alarm clock when you have a blender on full speed just feet away from your bunk.
That being said, what I’ve come to retrospectively appreciate, was the
inability to fully hide anything.
My friends knew when I had a hard day, because I had to cry somewhere. And unless I chose a dirty bathroom stall, privacy wasn’t really an option. Homesickness, insecurities, and academic struggles were on full display.