Josh is playing a video game and I’m sitting on the couch watching because the story line is interesting, as opposed to other games he plays. The main character is fishing with a little boy named Jack. After a couple minutes Jack says he wants to take a little break from fishing and go pick some flowers a few steps away. The little boy walks away and, instinctively, I tell Josh to keep an eye on him. I had a feeling something would happen. Josh tells me he’ll be fine. A few minutes later two bad guys come up and start trouble. Everything ends alright, because it’s a game and the bad guys weren’t after the little boy. But I felt vindicated.
I found this reaction interesting. My mommy senses were tingling over a fictional child with my son’s name. Which, of course, got me thinking about my son and then my daughter. Tonight, they are both at their grandmother’s house over an hour away. I miss them. Every single night I check on them before I go to bed. I analyze their faces, and stroke their hair, and kiss their hands, and smile because I love who they are right now and get sad because I know this will be over someday. Eventually they won’t be 4 and 5 anymore and I will never get it back. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to this point. Where I love them so much it hurts. Where I worry about silly things that are probably not going to happen. Where I miss them when they are gone.
Often in movies and television shows, right after a birth, the new mother is shown crying tears of joy, heart full of love for her brand-new bundle of joy. And for many moms that’s exactly how it happens. But not all moms. Not me. I loved my children when they were born, of course, but I was not in love with them. They were complete strangers to me. I had spent two years of my life growing them, changing my body, learning how not to breath properly and trying not to vomit during any commercial showing beef (that was weird). Throw in a little postpartum depression and you’ve got a mom who was, for lack of a better term, indifferent.
We don’t talk about those moms. We don’t talk about the crying in the middle of the night because the baby is up AGAIN. Or he never went to sleep, and we’re exhausted. Or we’ve been trying to breastfeed for weeks and it just isn’t working the way we thought. Or we’re making a formula bottle and feeling so guilty because we feel like we’re poisoning them. Maybe the pregnancy was an accident, and now we are dealing with the consequences. Maybe we tried for years to have this baby and now that she’s here motherhood is not at all the way we pictured, and we don’t want to sound ungrateful but damn this is hard. Those are bad moms. We don’t talk about those moms.
Here’s the thing: those are real moms. They may be more common than the happy, smiling, in-love-with-her-newborn mom. I was that mom. I went back to work at 6 and 8 weeks, respectively, because I did not want to be home with my babies. They were boring, and needy, and their dad was not helpful. I didn’t think I was every going to be the good mom. I enjoyed being away from them, not having to change diapers and watch the baby channel all day.
It took time for me to fall in love with my babies. I think much of that was due to my untreated depression and anxiety. My kiddos are 4 and 5 now and I can tell you they are my world. They make me laugh, make me yell, and make me cry. They make me worry about their health, and their teeth, and their emotional well-being. But they make me proud, too. Proud of who they are and who they are becoming, proud that I have made it to this point. They impress me with what they know and how they learn. They comfort me when I feel like I’m failing them.
So, I miss them tonight. I’m sad that I don’t get to tell them good night or show my son the little boy in the game with the same name as him. I’m sad I don’t get to stroke their hair and kiss their hands. They’ll be back on Sunday, and all will be right with the world again. Until then, I wait. Knot in my stomach and heart outside of my body, I wait.