I lay in my hospital bed shortly after giving birth for the fourth time. A spot I knew too well. I struggle to find the right position that doesn’t rupture my still aching lower body, and upper body and tired brain. “Are you comfortable?” a nurse asks, after taking my temperature for the millionth time. “I think so.” I lie.
I am in Cece’s bed. Again. She never wants to sleep all night, alone, or with her brother. I am too tired to train her, so it goes like this: she cries. I wake up. I glance at Josh’s loud snores, and I go to her room trying not to wake Jackson up as I crawl out of bed. He has been barreling out of his room lately just as we are about to go to bed. I spin another round of wondering if we will ever be the kind of family with normal sleeping arrangements, again. I cuddle next to Cece, calming her crying. She looks at me, “where Papa go?” she asks, drifting back to sleep. I kiss her squishy soft little cheek and try my best to ease my body into the mattress, between pillows and blankets. I pull a block from under my leg and set it under the bed. So often we end up scattered, like our various throw pillows, with at least one toddler awkwardly lying near my feet wondering what is going on beyond our closed eyes to get us here. Somehow, I am perfectly aligned with the direction of the bed and Cece curled right under my chin and we are breathing in sync. The air outside is unsettled as thunder rumbles a soft roar in the distance and the rain taps melodically against the window. I pull her even closer in a soft embrace, imagining the rain is feeding her growth like the outdoor garden we just planted. If I can just hold her long enough, I can stop it, or slow it down, or just enjoy it. My back is always sore from the many nights of sleeping where ever would calm a crying toddler. But yet, in this moment, the soft tap of rain is echoing her breathing. Her hair tickles my nose as it gently sways from the ceiling fan and her little golden curls move in a slow bounce, a contrast to the way they bounce about due to her awake constant motion. In this passing moment of a thunderstorm causing us to sleep too late, I am the most comfortable that I have been in a while.
“Hold you. Hold you” Cece says. I am trying to cook dinner, clean the kitchen and tie a trash bag to take outside. My anxiety is swirling with a never-ending to do list and my dinner preparation didn’t include a toddler on my hip. The intensity of her demands cause me to scoop her up and stir a pan with one arm. Did I pay this month’s mortgage? I ponder, forgetting if it is May or June I should be worried about. I look around the forever-messy kitchen. “Want this Mommy” she interrupts my thoughts as I realize I am instinctively trying to put her down. “I am making dinner.” I attempt to explain. She points to the refrigerator door, in obvious oblivion to what I just said. I am finally able to put her down, per her plans to make me open the refrigerator door. I comply and she immediately climbs onto the fruit drawer. “B! B! B!” she yells (her word for berry, a broad term that means any small round food). I pull out a strawberry. “No. Not that B.” she yells. I am now losing two battles, not burning dinner and appeasing her hunger. The timer on the oven continues to ding and the refrigerator echos it reminding me the door has been open for two long. She is still on the fruit drawer as I pry her fingers off the shelf and set her down in preparation for her tantrum. I use her flailing screaming on the floor to finally take the chicken from the oven since she is distracted with screaming and smacking the refrigerator door. “Bottle. Bottle” she manages to say between screams. I know. She is almost 2 years old and beyond the acceptable age range for bottles, but I am ok with being “that mom” for a little while longer to mentally prepare for that battle. As the dinner is sizzling and the water is boiling, I am looking through the stack of dirty dishes to find an empty bottle. There are so many dishes to clean a nearly impossible task since the opening of the dishwasher door summons toddlers from anywhere and tells them to climb inside. She is crying now. That loud, shrill yell-cry she has recently adopted. It is the worst sound I can ever imagine, a sound I have grown to absolutely hate lately. My head hurts with the piercing volume, my leg hurts from her digging nails as I am not producing a full bottle fast enough, my chest hurts from being stabbed over and over again by blades of anxiety. I am suddenly aware of how uncomfortable I am in this moment. I could cry, scream and pound my fist through the pile of dishes sitting in front of me and I would still be more comfortable than I am right now. “Is everything Ok?” Someone asks from the living room. “I think so.” I lie, continuing my amazement with the multi-level range of my comfort zone.