Not too long ago I was sitting in the living room of a friend’s house, watching her snuggle her two year old son. “I love you SO much,” she said over and over again. Later that evening, she looked at me and with a dreamy quality to her voice she asked me, “Did you know it could be like this? Did you know you could love someone SO much?!”
I was surprised by my answer, “Yeah… I mean, I guess I did….” I was surprised by the lack of feelings in my voice. My thought process was logical. Cold. I loved people very deeply before I was a mother. I loved my parents. My husband. I *did* expect to love my children as I do….
Cold logic though? When it came to thinking of how I felt about my babies?
I came home and I wondered and I stewed and I obsessed for days. Was it possible that I didn’t love my kids like other Mom’s did? Had my bout with Postpartum Depression permanently damaged the relationship I had with my kids? Could I never get that bond back? Was I just unfeeling? Callous? Was I missing something basic to my nature as a woman and as a mother? I thought over a billion scenarios and knew that I too had the mama bear instinct. But where was this primal rocking, this dreamy voice quality? Why was I not in the same sort of maternal bliss that my friend was in?
What was I doing wrong?
Tonight, at bedtime C was chatty and stalling. She looked at me and said, “Mama… When I get bigger… Who will I marry?”
“Who do you think you’ll marry?”
“Maybe Daddy…. ”
Long deep breaths, another turn. More stalling. “Mama… When I’m bigger…. I wanna be a doctor.”
Instant heart-rush. Agonizing ache. “Mama, when I’m bigger… when I’m married… when I’m a grown-up?” Where was this coming from? Where had my baby gone? When had she shifted into this big-girl stage of development? When did she start thinking her own thoughts and stopped parroting what I told her about the world? Where was the pudgy-armed two year old that I drug back to bed 57 times in one night only to have her stay up screaming for another hour reducing me to a nub of exhaustion? Where did this wide-eyed thoughtful little girl come from…
And then after that one started snoring, the other one: Not quite two, but very language proficient trying her best to sing along to her lullabies, “Flowers in the sunshine, Boats upon the lake… Sleep my little baby, I’ll see you when you wake.” Or in her version: “Flowwwwrsshine…. BOOOO… see you wake…” in the dreamiest little girl voice. She insists that I sit with her until she’s so rock asleep that she doesn’t know I’m sneaking away. Any little movement away from her elicits the tiniest, but completely unignorable, “Mama.” I freeze in my steps and resume shushing.
I’m leaving these girls for four and a half days the day after tomorrow. When I made the arrangements and bought the plane tickets all I could think of was freedom. My turn. I’ve sat through how many phone calls with my husband in port or on detachment? He calls from Greece, or Spain, or even Dubai. His time on the boat is far from glamorous, but his time off most certainly IS, at least sometimes. He would tell me of the amazing things he saw–cathedrals, and mountains, and historical relics, or even just… you know… really cool restaurants that don’t feature high chairs and oyster crackers to keep screaming at bay… He would tell me about these places and I would murmur back excitedly with all the convincingness I could muster and look around at my surroundings. Here I was, up to my ankles in diapers… while he was, kid-free seeing the wonders of the world. But then… this was my lot.
Tonight I can hardly stand it: this thought of leaving in two days. I’ve gone from excitement about my ‘freedom’ to agonizging over the thought of missing out on these precious moments and thoughts for even a few days. For a week now I’ve been trying to chase away anxiety. I’m not worried about leaving them with my husband. He’s a capable guy. He pretends to be overwhelmed by them, but they’ll find their way through. But me missing them. How can I enjoy anything 2000 miles away and missing them? The thought of them missing me, is equally troubling. I have said for so long that I was the constant when Daddy left. What will they think if Mommy goes too? And even worse–what if they DON’T miss me? What if I come home and they’re mad at me? Or they only want Daddy?
Silly, irrational thoughts that all Mommy’s think at one time or another in one form or another. It’s nothing new. Daddy will do fine. They will do fine. It will be good for them. It will be a time to make special Daddy-daughter memories. It will be a time for Daddy to gain confidence and find out that he CAN handle them on his own. And it WILL be a time for me to relax and have some fun outside the realm of Mommydom. (Have I mentioned that the thought of a plane ride with no one on my lap makes me monosyllabic with glee?)
But I see tonight–savoring every moment of the silken moonlight, relishing the words of the lullabies we sing and truly not minding bedtime taking over an hour before they both slip into calm, long, sleepy breath-patterns—that I *do* love these two tiny beings with every fiber of me. The feelings don’t always bubble up naturally…. I’ve had long nights and days and weeks and months of being THE parent of two busy little girls. I’ve had my share of Mommy burn-out.
Still, those deep, primal, dreamy, breathy, rocking feelings… That bubbling up of spontaneous unstoppable “I love yous.” That feeling of unimaginable love that my friend expressed… I DO have it too. It’s there. When the burn-out feelings reign I don’t locate them as easily, but in the quiet of the night, snuggling up next to their soft, glorious little bodies, I find it again.
I love you girls so much… SO MUCH.
I really, really do.