The hardest part of having your husband in school definitely hits you on Fridays. Everyone’s all “TGIF!!!!!” and you jump in with the old habit of that relieved-and-exhilarated feeling… only to stop and realize that no, you will be on your own, following the same Mon-Friday early-morning, restless-night-feeding schedule with your children while your absent yet equally burdened spouse is in the university library studying and working on group projects. Saturday and Sunday.
As Liz Lemon would say, oh so eloquently, “Blerrrrrg.”
As each week screeches by with the same breathless rush of the rattley old trains my son adores, barely clinging to the rails and full steam ahead, I find myself slowly but surely stumbling upon secret ways of turning this season of surviving into a season of thriving. I had gotten really good at creatively enjoying my stolen weekends when it was just Will and I – whether that was window-shopping at a favorite store, getting a special treat like frozen yogurt for lunch, going for an extra long run… anything that shook up the weekday routine to make Saturday and Sunday somehow feel special. The challenge is daunting with a new baby – and yet I cannot let go of the hope that its possible.
The hardest thing that I buck under is the idea of “survival mode”. I have to accept that “survival mode” is common with so many much-more-seasoned mothers than I for a reason… but gosh, why would I be surviving something so beautiful as a new baby? We “survive” things that are often intrinsically crosses; my aunt “survived” cancer for a year in her early forties until she could survive no longer… my dad and mom “survived” a season of unemployment (with the 6th baby due in one month) when he was laid off by a crashing company… I hated the idea that I was going to have to “survive” life with a sweet-smelling newborn and my bouncing toddler.
But… the circles under my eyes… the permanent hangover that I awaken to every morning until the last drop of the 2nd cup of coffee (taken with a hefty dose of all the Vitamin B’s) has fully integrated into my system… the fact that I actually cleaned the 2 day old remnants of mascara from my face with a baby wipe today (all the while moaning to my husband “I am becoming a cliche!”)… the grocery bill (!!$%#(@$*T#*$$$$$$$!)… the mildewing towels at the bottom of my laundry heap… all come together formidably to smack me in the face when I try to convince myself that I am not in survival mode. Perhaps it is not my roly-poly little baby with his lazy blue eyes and his warm milk-breath that threw me into this state of survival; perhaps it is the fact that my husband is in school when I had him. Perhaps it is the fact that I am too far from family to benefit from the eager extra pairs of arms to hold him while I try to cook dinner and love on his wistful-to-petulant older brother at the same time during the long, exhausting evenings that Jason’s car doesn’t crawl up the driveway until after 10. Yet had I not said “Yes!” to the idea of Baby Henry, my life would be… boring. I would be restless and insecure where I am now overwhelmed and yet so proud of each day that I do one thing better than I thought I could. Despite my many failures, these days are growing closer and more frequent. No success is too small to celebrate – whether that’s doing a workout dvd during naptime, taking time for a devotion, writing!, teaching Will “gentle” when he wants to check out this baby dude, or cleaning. I can usually only accomplish one or two of these things in a day – but man does it feel satisfying!
This transition is a wholly good one; it isn’t like cancer or losing a job… But the “thriving” comes in spurts and short gasps for air.
You know what the absolute charm is, though? Laughter. Laughing with my husband at the crazy (tear-inducing) antics of our toddler, in the middle of the living room that said-toddler took from Perfectly-Tidy to War-Torn-Disaster in literally 60 seconds. Laughing at the first little coo’s and gurgles of the baby. [He beamed up at me the other morning, gave a little squeal and said, “Guh!”, which my best friend and I correctly interpret to mean, “I love you, you beautiful and perfect Mama!”]
Thank you God for laughter!
Baby Henry has been sleeping for a 5-6 hour stretch after I put him down for the night (after that though, its back to every 2-3 hours on the dot)… so a few Saturdays ago, the first chilly weekend we had, Jason and I sat on our front step in the cool early-Autumny night air for uninterrupted time with each other. I even pulled up a little James on my iPhone to set the tone. 😉 Shower the people, can’t you feel the sunshine, I don’t know no love songs, I always thought that I’d see you again… etc. If there was one artist who has recurringly played the soundtrack for our quiet little lovestory, its dear James Taylor. Listening to James brings back the magic days of our first dates… driving through the October mountain roads, shyly holding his hand, butterflies getting ready for him to get here from Charleston every Friday night (the man made that 4 hr one-way drive every weekend to earn my unswerving love), and putting too much thought into every sweatery outfit I wore… and then a year later, the next fall, still listening to James Taylor, this time leaning boldly over the inner console to kiss the side of Jason’s grinning face as he drove us expertly through the same winding, bright red and rust-colored heaven that is our beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in October.
As we sat on the step and drank in this golden opportunity to just be with each other – no distractions, no disasters – we were able to reminisce about our upcoming 5 year anniversary of togetherness. In a way, this anniversary feels more ours than our May wedding. I love that every year that I start to smell crispness in the air, feel a goosebumpy chill in the evening, and see coppery colors appear in the leaves, I go back to that first weekend that the man I had thought never even looked twice at me whispered in my ear that he had loved me for such a long time.
So, yes, I have little spurts like this one where I think, Hey, I am doing this! I am in love with all three of my guys and I am the luckiest! I believe Jason and I are getting better and more creative in seeking out these spurts, which – I don’t really know cause I’ve never been through this before, but – seems pretty crucial.
We ran to our mountains last Sunday after Jason spent all of Saturday away from us doing school and working on a work thing.
Will threw us a tantrum about every 15 minutes (he missed his nap completely, regardless of the Fresh Air episodes we kept playing in hopes that he’d drift off. Guess he likes him some Terry Gross. Me too, boy, me too). And even so, the cool mountain air and the pungent scents of sweet sap and dying leaves were so refreshing for our weary spirits.
As I write this post, I am spending a few days with my family in the country. I love being back here this time of year. Will loves the fact that he has so many young, attentive aunts and uncles, and my family loves the chance to dote on us. 😉
So here we are. Some days I do just tread water til 8 o’clock when I collapse on the couch, too tired to even know what to do with myself, [besides watching endless clips from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – hashtag, lololololol]. Other days I feel a little thrill from pushing myself til I get a second wind. Regardless, I keep going… And that fact alone is deeply, unutterably satisfying.