I used to call the moments of brain dysfunction writer’s block. But after the birth of my third (then fourth kid) mom brain has become the more appropriate term. It was about my second pregnancy when I realized how downright dumb I felt. As if my intelligence and actions were somehow blocked, like a kink in a hose blocking water flow. I’m smarter than this, when I walked into the kitchen for the tenth time forgetting I simply needed a glass of water. There was an incident, somewhere near the end of my second pregnancy, that involved a parked car and me fleeing to another grocery store to make it go away. Hit and run sounds so dirty, so we will call it a panicked pregnancy glitch followed by a knock at the door. It didn’t take long. It was the image of a pregnant woman, wet from sweat and tears on hot June day, and an equally confused husband who just couldn’t answer the question of why, that most likely got me in much less trouble than I deserved. To this day, I can’t answer the question of why beyond the loss of reason, intelligence and impulse control that goes along with a body swelling with hormones and water retention.
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.
We had a cat. She hides under couches, behind doors or in the dark corners of the basement, terrified of strangers and half the people living in our house. Except Layla, she loved Layla and they were best friends. That is the hardest part. She was the runt of the litter, the shy one, and Layla immediately loved her. It took her eight years to go out side. One day, we watched her boldly come to life and walk out the back door and onto the end of the deck. She never went farther than that. But don’t worry, she didn’t die a virgin. A male cat snuck inside and her life was different, for that moment. “What is happening?” The girls asked. “Is she ok?” Then we continued our awkward talk about sex and other adult things.
The Fourth One
Most days I wonder if I have completely abandoned all those parenting books after I had my fourth kid and went on with making my own up as I go.
I crawl into bed, my body is exhausted and I am hoping to convince my brain to do the same. It is considerably early for me (midnight) but since the world isn’t designed for people like me, I vow every night to go to bed early and set an alarm for 7 A.M. I press my eyes closed in hopes of not starting my week off with the disappointment that sleeping in has given me lately. The word lazy floats around in my head as give myself a mental pep talk on the pro list of getting up early. (Number one- toddlers are still asleep. And I forget the rest). Cece is sleeping in the middle of our bed. Her forehead is matted with wet curls. Why do babies sweat so much in their sleep? Layla would wake up drenched in sweat and I would worry, the way mothers do with their first-born. I move a piece of hair that is stuck to her cheek in a combination of drool and sweat and kiss her squishy skin, not minding the sweat/drool puddle that leaked onto the top of my lip. She reacts by burrowing into me, my security blanket. There is always a little part of me that is happy she is there- until I wake up at 4 am with a foot resting on my nose as she unknowingly flops her way along the middle of the bed leaving Josh and I to rest uneasily on the far edges of our queen size bed. I think about all the articles and books I read when the girls were little. Don’t let them sleep with you. The words taunt me as I make a case for my side of the argument, the one that goes just like this: I have four kids. Oh, and her bed is still in the garage waiting a mattress purchase and another room reorganization and the assembly process. So she sleeps with us some nights and with Jackson on the other nights as we reinvent the idea of what it is to be normal.
Four Against Mom
It was that day. The day I managed to piss off all four kids. It started with Layla’s snarky slamming of the front door in a huff on her way to school and it ended with Liv’s matched slamming of the bedroom door on her way to bed. It was one of those days, the one I realized that I had two full-blown toddlers, and two full-blown teenagers on my hand, and the one where I ended up inadvertently turning on my windshield wipers hoping to clear my face from the sobbing tears that occur when I am just past my threshold.
It started with Layla slamming the door and my internal questioning gears spinning. Don’t be mad! I yell out to the empty doorway. When do I trust her to start making her own decisions, or would it be better if I just made them all for her? I asked the living room air, still lingering from her departure. I could blame it on the morning or her pending high school application essay that we (of course) waited until the last-minute to fill out. Her phone isn’t charged and her day’s fate a mystery, and I am too tired to care right now. It is early and I need coffee.