The cocktail of postpartum hormones in a woman’s system – specifically, mine – after giving birth creates a mercurial temperament, to say the least. One second, you’re walking along, feeling groovy and grateful, and the next, you’re crying and wondering why you feel so alone, only to have the crying go away ten seconds later. It’s like those crazy summer days where, out of a clear sky, a sunshower pours down for seven minutes and then vanishes as though nothing has happened. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
All things considered, I’m doing fine. The biggest adjustment, as mothers of more than one child know, is not to the baby, but rather to the new number of children in the house. When you go from one to two kids, it entails a total recalibration of perspective and priorities. I vividly remember breastfeeding my younger son, R., and having my older son, Z, playing with a puzzle at my feet. Z is only a year and a half older than his brother, so this story takes place when he was just under 2. After about three minutes, Z looked up.
Z: Play with me, Mommy.
Me: As soon as I finish feeding the baby, sweetie.
Z: No. Now.
Me: I can’t. I’m sorry.
As a generally apologetic person, this made me sick to my stomach – I couldn’t play with Z, even though I wanted to give him the attention he deserved, because I was busy being a human food factory for R. Z gave me a, “I hate you, Mom,” look, and then padded off to the kitchen.
I heard the refrigerator door open.
Me: Whatcha doing in there, sweetie?
After about five minutes of silence, in which I tried not to fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion, Z came into the room with a happy smile on his face. I smiled back, delighted to see him being his normal pleasant self.
Z: You done?
Z: Good. We will play.
Me: What will we play?
Z: My game. Find The Eggs.
Say what? So FYI, “Find The Eggs” is when your under-2-year-old child decides to open the fridge while you’re breastfeeding your baby, take out the full container of eggs, and crack one in every room of the house. Nice. I liked the one on the dark brown suede couch best.
When you have stuff like this going on, there is really no room or time for you to sit around pondering how motherhood can make you feel so scared and so alone. Parenting is triage, and as a general rule, the kids in front of you are more important than whatever emotional crap is percolating in your hormonally-addled head.
Basically, having an older kid or kids as well as a baby is a big neon sign in front of your face saying, “Get Over Yourself.” Now the mother of three, I get this up close and personally. My boys are 6 and 7 and haven’t played Find The Eggs in a while (no need to remind them!) but instead wield their lack of diplomacy and/or tact with aplomb.
Lately, the topic of discussion has been my post-pregnancy shape. I think I look pretty good, actually, for having given birth eight days ago, but apparently my self-perception is off. When I mentioned offhandedly that maybe we would have another baby at some point, if we’re lucky, Z asked innocently, “You mean because you’re still pregnant?” Nice. Or how about when I was dropping the kids off at their dad’s house, and Z was complaining that R had folded the copy of his Spiderman book.
R: It was an ACCIDENT.
Z: I don’t care! You BENT it! I didn’t even READ it yet and you BENT THE COVER!!
Me: It’s really okay. It’s a paperback book, so we can just put it under something heavy and it will flatten out.
R: Something heavy…you mean like your butt?
At which point I stopped the car and told the kid to get out and find his own way down the highway to his father’s house. Kidding. Ha ha.
The thing to remember is that Find The Eggs or Mommy’s Butt Is So Big can be triggers for laughter as easily as they can be triggers for tears. So get over your big old self, Mommy, I tell myself, and just enjoy the ride.