I've written you letters before but none have been typed, or put out there for the Internet to read. This one is, because to be perfectly honest.... I'm a mess, and I need an outlet. I had everything so together for the first four months of your life. My hormones were stable, my stress was managed, I felt like a rockstar most of the time for taking care of a you, and your dad, and a house, and training for races, and going to grad school.
Then work happened - 40 hours a week that I have to be away from you. House guests (your grandparents) arrived at about the same time. Three classes remained to be completed. And you, my dear sweet girl, you who were sleeping 8-9 hours at a stretch from your second week on earth, you have stopped sleeping. Not entirely, of course, but you are waking up every 2-3 hours all night long. My foundation is starting to crack.
I am not taking great care of myself right now, I'll admit. I'm still running many, many miles each week - it's not optional, my mental health depends on it - but I don't have time for the complementary stuff like weights and stretching that enable my body to run long and feel good. I'm not drinking enough water to compensate for running and breastfeeding, but water consumption cuts into coffee consumption and, sadly, coffee triumphs most of the time. I either don't eat enough, or I eat way too much of all the wrong things. I can't nap when you nap, because I'm too anxious about everything that's not being done.
I often find myself angry - inexplicably angry at just about everything. Angry at our financial situation that demands that I have to work a full-time job (and likely always will); Angry that our guests have taken over your room so you have to sleep in the pack and play in our walk-in closet; Angry that I have to come home from work and make dinner for a bunch of people instead of spending alone time with you; Angry that my breaks at work and rare free moments at home are spent hooked up to a breast pump like a dairy cow; Angry that I have to take herbal supplements just to be able to produce enough milk to keep up, and they make me feel bloated and nauseous; Angry that I ran a half marathon two weeks ago but have been too tired and busy taking care of everyone that I can't feel any joy in the accomplishment; Angry that I have to share you with anyone, even your father and loving grandparents.
Angry that, what was one of the best periods of my life, has become one of the worst seemingly overnight.
Except, of course, that it's not the worst. Not even close. I am writing this lying on my side, with you tucked into my right arm, tummy to tummy. You are passed out, milk-drunk, mouth open, gently breathing. I came home on my lunch break just to have this moment with you, to suck up your love and warmth and baby smell. I try and steal moments like this with you a few times a day. Sometimes they come at 5am, when you wake up far too early but oh-so-happy, and I bring you into bed with us. You squeak and squirm until you catch sight of the alarm clock and stare at it - motionless, transfixed - while I doze, until it goes off at 5:42.
Sometimes they come at 3am, when I hear you crying in the closet and go in to pick you up. You're not really awake, not particularly hungry, but you want to nurse and cuddle and be wrapped up in arms for a while, just because. It's like you want to be sure I'm still there, and of course I am and always will be.
Sometimes they come when I get home from work, snatch you from your grandma, and retreat to the bedroom to spend a few minutes alone with you. I hold you up high and walk around so you can see the artwork on the walls. Occasionally I dance with you and sing you all my favorite Broadway songs with some of the words changed ("Don't Cry For Me, Amaliya"). Lately we lay on our backs, side by side, while I try and convince you to roll over. You try so hard, and get so frustrated, until you catch my eye and we smile at each other. Rolling over is important, no doubt, but no need to rush these milestones; they're piling up too fast as it is.
Mothering is hard. Trying to do it all, be it all, have it all, fulfill multiple conflicting roles without losing myself or a single moment with you is.... impossible? Maybe. I guess I want to write you this letter because you might be in a similar position one day. Feeling despair. Trying your best and coming up short. Angry at the world for making your best efforts seem like a waste. You'll likely be in good company - women have faced this issue for hundreds of years and likely will for hundreds more. I want you to know that you'll be okay. I'll be okay too.
And I will try to be less angry, because anger interferes with my overwhelming sense of gratitude for your presence in my life. When I embrace the gratitude, and dismiss the anger, I am happy that I have a good job to go to. Proud that I can demonstrate for you that a woman can express herself through a career and other passions without sacrificing her identity as wife and mother. I'm more than happy to stuff myself with fenugreek and lock myself in a dusty storage room to pump breastmilk for you, because being able to bond with you through breastfeeding is a privilege that I do not take for granted. I am glad that your grandparents have been able to spend time with you, and that I haven't had to deposit you into the arms of strangers at daycare just yet. I don't mind at all when my evenings are spent cooking and doing laundry and endlessly ENDLESSLY washing bottles and pumping supplies, because it's all part of keeping our household together and our family strong, and you deserve to grow up in a stable, functional, loving environment. The night-wakings, the hysterical overtired screams, the soul-crushing exhaustion... it's all fleeting, and none of it matters too much. Soon these bad times will be in the past, and so will the days of you gnawing on my shoulder and sweetly sleeping on my chest.
I can't be mad that life continues to intrude on our time together. This IS our life. It's going to be messy, fractured, full of missed opportunities and lost moments and bittersweet feelings. What matters is the love that is the reason for our struggles. Your dad and I love you enough to make any sacrifice necessary; you love us enough to forgive us for all our many failings. As for the rest, it's all a matter of embracing, adjusting, and moving forward.