I’ll admit it: When my husband picked up his suitcase to leave to go to the Philippines for a week on business, my first impulse was not to set a good example for the five kids. Instead, I wanted to take a page out of my 1-year-old’s playbook and throw myself at my husband’s legs, yelling, “No! No! Don’t go! Take me! Don’t leave me here! I’ll do anything!”
Somehow, I refrained.
So my husband left for the other side of the planet, no doubt experiencing more tranquility in his approximately 24 hours of air travel than either he or I have felt in years. As Murphy would have it, however, back on the home front, the proverbial shit hit the fan. And when two members of your household are incontinent, some of that shit is not just proverbial, but literal (thankfully, it’s not yet warm enough to put on the fans).
Not even four hours after my husband had left for the airport, I became suddenly sick at pickup at my kids’ school. Everyone from the school nurse to the after school activities director to the security guard stepped up to make sure I was OK, for which I am tremendously grateful. I got a ride home and spent the night vomiting, moaning on the toilet, and moaning on the cold tile floor of the bathroom. By the next day, I was OK–but by then, the 3-year-old had a croupy sounding cough that kept us both in the bathroom inhaling hot shower steam for much of the next night.
My parents, who are an invaluable source of local emotional and physical support, then left on a well-deserved vacation on Sunday. So naturally, my live-in sitter called in sick 15 minutes before she was supposed to show up on Monday morning, saying that her bellybutton hurt (can’t make this up, folks). As Han Solo once said, “I have a baaaad feeling about this.” By the time she swung by the house at 6 p.m. that day, it was only to get her stuff and tell me that she was going back to her native country for surgery (I heard later that she took another job in town).
By the time the process server showed up in the driveway to serve me with a summons (long story), I was looking for the Candid Camera crews. My description of the events of this week does not even include the mishegas of the normal craziness that ensues with five kids (three under 3) and one fetus–sleepless nights, soothing other people’s nightmares (what about mine?), cooking huge meals around the clock, managing everyone else’s chaotic social and academic schedules, and general exhaustion.
When my husband got home, I threw myself at him like a passenger on the Titanic lunging for the last life preserver. But guess what? The next day, he was off to the office–because, after all, he works outside the home. The emotional life preserver was back in my time zone, but physical relief was nowhere to be found.
I couldn’t see past my own exhaustion. My OB told me to take Benadryl so I could have a night’s sleep–of course, that was the night the baby decided to get sick. I felt pushed to my limit–and if this was my limit, what would happen in a few months when the new baby came?
I Googled “prenatal depression.” I cried in the shower, both times I took one.
My parents texted me from their exotic getaway. They described their fancypants cruise ship, and it sounded divine. “No kids or strollers anywhere in sight.”
“That sounds like Paradise,” I texted back.
The response came back quickly: “No, YOU’RE in Paradise. You’re just too tired to see it.”
I read that, rolled my eyes, and looked up to find my 2-year-old standing in front of me, telling me, “I’m poopy. You should change me.”
Yes, there’s a lot of feces in my life right now, metaphorical and otherwise. But the more I think about it, the more I realize, my parents are right. I will never get this time back again. Some of it sucks. All of it is hard work. But I am in a house full of not only chaos, but also innocence and love.
I now make an effort to take a few seconds in paradise every day. I take a few seconds of savoring a moment, whether it is the feeling of my 3-year-old’s hand in mine, or a text telling me that a parent was impressed by my 9-year-old’s behavior. It is far too easy to focus on the endless sleep deprivation experiment in which I have been enrolled, or the frustrations–and I don’t like the rabbit hole that takes me down. Instead, I try to take a few seconds every day, staring into the bright light, to focus on those glimpses of paradise.