Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where am I going? And why am I in this hand basket?

When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize the face staring back at me. The hair is short and unruly. No amount of gel could contain that frizz. Gray hairs pop out here and there. The face resembles one I used to know…only rounder…older…with lines etched around the eyes. Not a trace of make-up can be seen. Nothing can hide the damage the years have done. I also remember having only one chin.

I look down, in hopes that I recognize something…like an old friend, there to comfort me. If she’s there, she’s hidden under a layer of insulation. I can gather my stomach into my hand…stretch marks cover it. I put on another pair of sweatpants, looking longingly at my dresser, housing several pairs of jeans. I can’t see them, but they are taunting me.

I pour my cup of coffee and wait in the dark. These are the few precious quiet moments of the day. I breathe in deep, taking in the sweet silence. I should be folding laundry. I should be loading the dishwasher. I should be exercising…trying to unbury that old friend. But I sit in silence. It won’t be long now.

I hear the first baby crying. I sigh, and put down my cup of coffee, unfinished. And so it begins. I quicken my pace because I know, if I wait too long, he will wake his brother up. I look into the crib. Connor breaks into a huge grin, and I pause, just for a moment. I almost forget about the stretch marks and double chin. I grin back. Then, as he begins to squirm and his brother starts to move I snap back into action. I grab him up, rush him to the changing table and try whispering soothing words to keep him from fussing. As I sneak out of the room, I breathe a sigh of relief…his brother is still asleep.

As I feed him, I stare into his eyes. He has his father’s eyes. And nose. And those ears…definitely not mine. I look him over…nope. I don’t see me anywhere. Damn. I can’t find myself in the mirror, or my child. Where did I go?

As he finishes the bottle, I brace myself. Will he scream? There’s about a 50/50 chance. My days are filled with his cries…not unlike his older sister when she was his age. I don’t remember much with her, though. She was only one baby. There was always a hand-off and a break. Now there are few moments when their father and I are not holding a baby. Every time someone tells me, “Oh my children are only a year apart in age, so I know exactly what you’re going through!” I want to say “Um, no, not really. You have no fucking clue.” But I always just smile politely and nod.

As I put him in his swing, trying to not get my hopes up that this is one of his better feedings, I hear his brother begin to fuss. Feeling more confident…they didn’t wake up at the same time…I go back to repeat the process with Owen. As I sit down with Owen’s bottle, my hopes go up in a pouf of smoke. Connor begins to scream. I set the bottle down and get up, Owen in tow, to try and give Connor his pacifier. Owen starts crying as I postpone his feeding further by trying to shush Connor. Why did I think this would work? It never does. Well…Connor will have to cry. He is fed and changed…his brother needs to be fed.

I quietly rock with Owen. He is leisurely enjoying his food, while his brother gets more and more worked up. I cringe as I hear a voice from down the hallway.

“Mom! Maaaama! I want out!”

I interrupt Owen’s feeding once again, to his dismay, to free his older sister from the confinement of her crib. She is old enough for a toddler bed. However, she has yet to learn to climb out of the crib…I plan on keeping her caged as long as possible. I still need naptime, even if she doesn’t think she does.

I feel guilty as I turn on “Dora.” I sit back down to finish Owen’s feeding. I stare at my toddler, who probably desperately needs a new pull-up. And breakfast. But a screaming baby is priority right now.

I put Owen down in his swing, and glance nervously at Connor, who has exhausted himself…he is momentarily out. Next is the wrestling match with Irelynn to get her out of her overnight diaper and into a Pull-up. Which has become a joke. Potty training, which seemed to be going full steam has hit a major roadblock. Jealousy is an ugly thing…no matter what form it takes on. Whether it is a toddler who wants the same undivided attention as her baby brothers, a preteen older sister who wishes she had the same childhood (and mother) as her younger sister, a preteen oldest child who wishes he had the same money and privileges as his friends. Or whether it is a haggard woman in her late 20’s who covets the figure, the career, and freedom of her good friend.

The day passes with many feeding and soothing rotations between babies, episodes of “Dora” and “The Backyardigans” echoing in my head, Pull-up changes and tantrums, and a few brief moments of cuddles and games. The dishes are still in the sink. A load of laundry got moved from the dryer to the couch. I am still in sweatpants. They just have a few spots of spit-up on them now.

The clock is ticking. Soon the older kids will arrive home from school. My stress levels begin to increase, because I know that with their arrival will come the arguing, the door slamming, the rummaging of food (which will lead to more messes, empty graham cracker boxes being put back into the pantry instead of the trash, and crumbs all over the table.) There will be lies about homework (or lack there of)…frustrations over math…and eye rolling. All while I’m holding a screaming baby. Then there is the countdown until my husband gets home from work. Activity speeds up…but time slows down. How is that even possible?

I want my husband here. I don’t want to do this alone. I wouldn’t get a break…but I wouldn’t be alone. The words “be careful what you wish for” ring in my mind as this may all too soon be a reality. His company is folding, and as soon as the wind down process is finished, so is he. He will then be plunged into the growing mass of people clogging up the unemployment offices of Michigan.

Dinner is ready. The toddler climbs excitedly to the table…somehow gets food all over her face, although her plate looks untouched…and she claims she is finished. Five minutes have passed. I sigh as she climbs down. The babies fuss again. They always seem to know exactly what time dinner is…regardless of how often I try to change the time in which it is prepared, or feed them as close to dinner as possible. They have this internal timer that goes off everytime they know I want to eat. Dinner is postponed. Why is it that I feel as though I never eat, yet I remain fat?

Dinner is over. I keep glancing at the clock, anticipating bedtime. When is the earliest I could feasibly send the preteens to bed? Perhaps I should just ban them to the basement for awhile. At least then I won’t actually hear them argue. I am tempted to lock the door and tell them not to come up unless there’s blood. Perhaps they will just take each other out, and I’ll have a few moments of early peace.

Evening looms, and with it comes the bickering, the sassy toddler comments as she imitates the older children, the groans and complaints from my husband, and Connor’s Screaming Hour.

Finally…we can tell the older ones to go to bed. They don’t actually go to bed. Despite countless efforts to confiscate Nintendo DS’s, MP3 Players, book lights, and other digital apparatus, they find ways to stay up and occupy themselves. I have given up, for the most part, because what truly matters is that they are confined to their rooms and we have quiet. It’s pretty much a crapshoot anymore as to whether or not Irelynn, the toddler, will go to bed now. Thank goodness for crib bars.

After hours of walking, bouncing, rocking, shushing, and a beer or two (and some Previcid for Connor)…we lay the boys down gingerly in their crib…hoping not to wake them in the transition from arms to crib. I look around at the mess. Dinner dishes in the sink. Graham cracker crumbs and wrappers on the counter. Something sticky on the table. Toys and blankets littering the living room floor. The clean clothes still unfolded on the couch. I turn to say something…but Bruce is already heading for the bedroom. Oh well…there is always tomorrow, right? I know I’ll have a few moments before the twins wake when I’m drinking my coffee. Tomorrow I will use the time wisely.

1 comment:

  1. That's why you are so amazing. You are the bravest, most intelligent, receptive and strongest person I know. I only hope that I can live up to you.

    Your sister,