The #1 thing I miss…Sleep: oh, sleep, you beautiful thing. I miss you so much. I took you for granted. All those naps I fought as a toddler, all those bedtimes I rebelled against as a child, all those nights I stayed up just because I could as an adolescent, what I’d give to have them all back. Because now, I’m so tired. Is it even a thing to be a well-rested parent? Who are these people? What is your secret? And for those that do it caffeine free…like what? How are you doing this? I cannot even function without my first cup of coffee. God help me if the coffee is not already made. I’m stumbling around the kitchen with one eye half open, brain flickering like a 1950s television set, one arm toting Baby Belle, calmly assuring her the coffee grinder is not a monster, the other arm filling the carafe with water, reminding myself not to forget the filter. Again.
I know it’s bad form to complain about being tired. But I am. I. Am. So. Tired.
Although Bubba was always a fantastic sleeper, I have been tired since the day he was born. There was always something to do, somewhere to go, something to plan for, something to worry about. It wasn’t just lack of sleep that kept me exhausted, it was the stress and pressure of being a new and single mom.
And then I met my husband and I got some sleep. For a while. Until we had the bright idea to have another kid. And along came Baby Belle: the most beautiful and amazing girl in my whole world, but my god, this kid doesn’t sleep!
I feel like the old lady in Titanic when people ask me how long it’s been since we got a good night’s sleep. It hasn’t been 84 years, but my God, it really feels like it. Even before she got here, I was exhausted. It was not an easy pregnancy (neither was Bubba, but I was a lot younger then and bore the burdens a little easier) and I couldn’t get good sleep for at least 25 weeks of it. And then she came, 2 weeks early, and we haven’t slept well since.
First, she was nursing. And she’s always been (and still is) a snacker. Never a full feeding; it was always grazing at the boob. All day. All night. For a year and a half. And then we co-slept, which really means the baby sleeps and we catch minutes of rest with one of her feet kicking me in the neck and her hand flailing into my husband’s face as she sleeps sideways and takes up the entire bed when she’s only 33” tall. And we eventually did sleep train, which did NOT take 3 days like all the articles and testimonials claimed, and it was awful. It also only worked temporarily. “They” say to try again, but “they” don’t know my girl.
Baby Belle is a true firecracker of a girl, full of sass and spunk. And energy. So much energy. She loves to play and explore, to laugh and learn. She has about zero interest in naps or bedtime. Sleep is her worst enemy and she will fight it at all costs. And damn it, that girl is a warrior.
More often than not, once she finally is asleep, she will let us lay her in her bed and she will stay there. At least for a few hours. But it’s a rare event that she stays there all night, if at all. At some point, and we never know when, she will wake up crying for us to come get her. Hubby and I will eye the baby monitor and ask, “How long do you think she’s gonna let us have?” And with weary eyes we can only say, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Her night owl hours wouldn’t be such a problem if Bubba didn’t start school at the crack of dawn. Which is not at all his fault; it’s just one of the joys of parenting. And on weekends, that kid is still up early, without fail. And as soon as Baby Belle gets wind that Bubba is up, she’s up too. Sometimes, God bless that sweet boy, he will take her and watch Sunny Bunnies with her in the living room or pretend to play Xbox with her for 15 or 20 minutes so we can get a few more moments of shuteye.
And then, as we go through the motions of our endlessly busy days, the two that kept or woke us up are fast asleep, napping in the backseat of the car as we shuttle them around or on the couch while we flitter around the house tidying up. They are so beautiful when they sleep. If they could just do it at the right times.
Even on the rare nights we spend away from the kids (Rare by choice. They’re exhausting but we love those little buggers and don’t like being away from them often), we stay up too late just to enjoy the alone time and then wake up too early cuz we seem to have lost the ability to sleep in. I even have difficulty staying asleep because one ear is perched to hear the chime of a phone, a call for help from whichever grandma or auntie has the children. They never call, but what if they did?
Which leads me to #2: I miss the carefree, worry-free life of my early 20s. Carefree in that sense that decisions and choices were not so heavy, weighted down by the sheer impact each one could make. I only had myself to think of, care for, worry about. And now I have my husband and our two kids to think of, care for and worry about, the latter of which seem so helpless, delicate and fragile, their entire lives nestled in my supposedly capable hands. It is both empowering and terrifying and I spend most of my waking moments worrying.
Am I doing a good job? Am I doing enough? Am I the reason they’re going to need therapy someday? We are shaping who they will become each and every day. All of our choices, even the smallest ones, count and we don’t know which will be the most meaningful. As hard as we try, as good as our intentions may be, we are going to make mistakes. We are going to hurt our children. It is these thoughts and these fears that I fight off every day. How the heck am I supposed to raise an capable and productive adult when I don’t even feel like I’m grown up yet? I just wanna do right by my kids, give them the best of me and bring out the best of themselves. I just want them to be happy, healthy, safe and know how very loved they are.
And this, I think, will never go away. Even at 30 and some change (let’s not worry about how much change) I know my mom still worries about me on a daily basis. I have kept her up all night with an unexpected ER visit. I have brought her to tears simply by shedding mine on her shoulder. The worries do not stop; they simply change as our children change.
The #3 thing I miss most, and this is a confession in its truest sense, I miss being able to sneeze and not worry about peeing a little. I have terrible allergies so it’s rarely just a little ah-choo. It’s like a full on attack, 6 or 7 hefty belly sneezes in a row, the kind that can force the pee out of you in projectile fashion, and I’m clenching my kegels for dear life. This was a gift from my second child, who, despite a full labor and complete dilation and 3 hours of pushing, was a c-section. I was able to sneeze worry free before I had her and now, it’s like a game of Russian roulette when I sneeze. I will admit that I do not always win this game. Sometimes, despite the intense clenching and praying, I do pee a little. Okay, sometimes a lot. But then I hear her little voice saying “mommy, bless” and I don’t mind. As much.
But there is one thing I do not miss about not having kids: not having them. With kids comes a lot of work, a lot less sleep, endless expenses and a whole lot more responsibility. But it also comes with a love beyond anything I ever imagined.
I love my kids. God, I love them. They can drive me bat-shit insane, stretch me so thin I think I might snap and suck me so dry (quite literally so during those glorious cluster feeding days. Oh, breastfeeding, I don’t miss you at all) until I feel like I have nothing left. But oh how they complete me like nothing else. There are no words to describe the love a parent has for their child. The only way to understand it is to know it and to feel it. It runs deep, to my very core. It is both instant and eventual, evolving and growing as time passes. And it is pure, the purest love you can ever imagine. Because it is inherent, given without reason or expectation. And although they are not, my love for them is infallible. It is unwavering and unconditional. It is unlike any other love in your lifetime.
My husband put in the time and effort, and continues to this day, to earn my love, as do I for him. It is an active choice we make over and over again to love each other. But our kids, we love them no matter what. They “earned” our love by simply coming into our world. And as they grow up, that love grows and evolves. Sometimes that love with grab us completely by surprise, overwhelming us for absolutely no reason at all. It could be Bubba’s laugh from another room, so hearty and infectious, tinted with a youthful innocence that belies its deepening timbre. It could be Baby Belle’s head growing heavy on my chest, those gorgeous lashes casting shadows on her chubby cheeks as she falls asleep in my arms. It is not what they DO. It is simply that they ARE.
There is also the love I have for my husband that reached new depths when I saw how he loves our babies. It is a connection unlike any other to share something so profound. It has strengthened our marriage and enriched our life together. We both bear the marks of loving our children, the scars that parenthood leaves behind. And these are the ties that bind his heart to mine, and mine to his, forever.
And ugh, the way they love him in return completely melts me. Their excited voices when they hear the garage door open, their feet running down the hall to greet him each day, my heart just swells. And while their love for him now is the blind and unwavering love of a child, I know that they will always love him. Because he strives, even now when he doesn’t have to, to deserve their love, and he will continue to do so, even at times they don’t need him to. He is the type of man I and my son want him to be one day. He is the type of husband I dream my daughter will marry one day (or wife, whatever she chooses, just so long as that person loves and respects her in equal measure to her father). To love him as my husband is a blessing. To love him as the father of our children is an honor.
There’s another love, one I hadn’t given much thought but one that overwhelms me each day: the love they have for each other.
Just how much Bubba loves his Baby Belle, what a truly amazing brother he really is, that way he looks at her or holds her, it can make my knees buckle. The one that makes you a mother will always hold a special place in your heart. Not that they are favored or loved more; it is just a tiny piece of you that only they can hold. And Bubba has it for me. The mother-son relationship, especially one that started with just the two of us, it’s special and sacred, something unlike any other. And I never imagined I could love my boy more, until I saw how he loved his sister.
And oh, she so loves her Bubba. It is overwhelming how much love she has for him, how he can make her laugh like no one else, how he is one of the precious few who can make her stop crying. When she wakes up, she immediately runs to his door and says “good morning!” On days he’s not there, she hangs her head in sadness and says, “Bubba school,” and my heart both fills and shatters in a thousand pieces at her heartbroken face.
But as soon as he does come home, she’s yelling out the front door calling to him and he’s running down the street towards her saying, “Hello, baby! Bubba’s home! I missed you!” He doesn’t even bother to take his backpack off or put his violin down before he’s sweeping her in his arms.
Just when you think your heart cannot be any fuller or hold any more love, these kids find a way to stretch it a little bit more.
I wanted both of my children so very badly and have tried so hard to repay them for how much they have meant to my life, but in moments like these, I know I have already given them one of their lives’ greatest gifts: each other.
There are many loves that come with being a mom. But there is one that I feel is the very best of all: The way they love ME.
My baby girl, so headstrong and independent, her little pudgy hand sliding into mine seeking stability or support. My son, so close to being a young man, when scared or sad, his handsome face transforms into that of my baby boy, his eyes wide as he seeks me out for solace and strength. As much as they are my saviors – from life, from the world, from myself – I am their safe place. And that is a feeling unlike any other. It is both a responsibility and a gift, both inspiring and intimidating. My love for them has given my life purpose. Their love for me has given it meaning.
There are things I miss, yes. There are hardships, struggles and stresses, sleepless nights and dangerous sneezes. But oh, the love. So much love. It makes it all worth it. And then some.