Sunday, June 5, 2016

I could be depressed, but at least my baby is cute!

The morning is gloomy, as I drive through the drizzling rain to my local Whole Foods grocery store. I don't usually shop here, but there are a few things that I need for my favorite meals that I can only find here. I find that a lot of 'typical' grocery stores have become much more diverse in their organic and non-GMO options, allowing me to only have to drive to the other side of town once a month these days. But my diet requires a few specific items, and so here I am. It's 8am, and I just dropped off the girls at the bus stop. I can't help but feel a little bit relieved. They have so much energy, and I am just so.. drained.

A fuss from the backseat snaps me back to reality. Little O is in the back, and he didn't fall asleep yet. He doesn't like to be alone or without entertainment, so I gather myself together and climb into the back seat. My body really doesn't like to bend like this.. but the little whimpers will soon turn to all out screams and so I will myself to squeeze into the booster seat beside him. "Hey there little guy" I remark as he cranes his neck to see me. He squeals and smiles. I can't help but smile right back. He is such a little ray of sunshine when he's feeling happy and cute. It makes up for all the time when he is screaming and nothing will make him happy, or when he's fighting sleeping for the tenth time today. It can't fix the belly-aches and projectile spitups.. but O sure does look cute when he smiles.

I pull him into my lap, and put my head back. I remember this feeling. I remember wondering if getting out of the car was worth the hassle; if the good food inside was really worth the extra time and money that it took to get it. I remember sitting in the car willing my body to move and hoping that I could find the energy to get up, never mind having to walk around a store and deal with other people while I'm still in my sweatpants. The last time that I felt this way was after my 8 year old had her heart surgery at 3 months old. Nothing was normal, nor would it ever be again. It was my introduction to the world of motherhood, and it hit me like a ten ton pile of bricks.

Back then I didn't have my awesome baby carriers or the years of advanced study in behavioral science as it pertains to pregnancy and the first 5 years of life. I remember that point vividly, as just a month ago I was still carrying the infant bucket seat in and out of my car daily while cold wind and a very chilly spring came late to the northeastern corner of the US. Today I am grateful that I have learned so much about alternative parenting techniques like babywearing, and I tuck little O into the Tula that I have left in the car for just such outings.

We head across the wet parking lot into the store. I grab a cart. There are just 3 things on my list. It should be a short little task, easy peasy, right?
Well, today one of the things that I have to get I am buying in bulk. Shouldn't be too hard, right? There is nobody to be found in the 3 aisles near where I need to get the item down from the top shelf. That's ok though, because I've never backed down from a challenge and I'm always ready to prove that I don't need anyone to help me. So I reach up and very carefully start to lower the item I'm buying down off that top shelf. Out of nowhere a pair of arms reach around O's head and take it from me just as I"m getting to the bottom. I'm surprised, and let go. As the woman puts the item into my cart she gently scolds "you shouldn't be doing that yourself",  I laugh and retort with my usual "well I never let that stop me before". 

She seems nice enough, and asks about the baby. We have a few moments of general chit chat before the conversation begins that always makes my heart sink. 'Is he sleeping through the night?'.. no. 'Is he a happy baby?'.. only when we're not home and he's smiling at strangers. 'But he doesn't cry all the time does he?.. well yeah, he kind of does. He's got a yeast rash in his diaper, gas in his belly, and lots of people trying to help him heal but not enough relief just yet. 

It always starts off so simply. I don't smile quite broadly enough when they ask if he's a happy baby, or I'll brush off the question about if he's 'good' because I don't think there is such a thing as a 'bad' baby. Then they prod a little more, and find out he's colicky.. and then there's that phrase. 

"Well at least he's cute"

Slam. Right there. Well yes, thank goodness he's cute. Thank goodness all babies are cute, because if they weren't so gosh darn adorable they wouldn't survive infancy. Thank goodness he's a cute baby, and the baby next door is cute and  your cousin's baby is cute and thank goodness you were cute as a baby too. Mothers have a biological imperative to think that their baby is cute. It is the little coos and smiles that keep us getting up in the middle of the night to feed the wailing children instead of putting them out for the wolves to get them so they can get some sleep. It's the adorable toes and sloppy kisses that implores us to change their diapers and clean up all of their messes when we would much rather be sleeping or eating or working or doing anything other than being a parent to this very needy and obnoxious little thing that depends on us to do absolutely every single thing.. PLUS they are whiny, cranky, colicky and spit up 20x a day. Thank every sacred good thing on this earth that he's cute. 
Can I go home now? 

On a different day, that would have broken me to pieces. Every bit of my worth as a mother used to depend on what others said and thought about my children. The 9 month old having a tantrum in the grocery store aisle used to make me have panic attacks. The hungry baby who needs to nurse NOW in the middle of the checkout aisle would have me cowering in my car hoping nobody was offended by what I needed to do. Thank goodness that person is gone and was gone a couple of kids ago. I hated being that person and I vowed when my surrogate daughter was diagnosed with birth defects that I wouldn't let the thoughts of others determine my self worth or pressure me into compromising my personal integrity. The children are my reason for being on this earth. They are our hope for the future; our chance at the survival of the human race, our legacy. Their well being trumps anyone else's preferences 1,000% in my book. 

Today I'll stand there and smile. It's a little sideways smile; mostly just because I am glad that I am here. I am glad that I can stand on the other side of postpartum depression and feeling judged and uncertain about every move I made as a parent despite years of practice in childcare. Today my 6 and 7 year olds are healthy, strong, and amazingly well mannered children. I don't know how that happened. They fight, they have big personalities and they don't always use their words, but they are good kids with good hearts and very full schedules and big stomachs. I hope that they don't remember me as the depressed person that I was during the first few years of their life, and I hope that I never falter to that level again. Whatever my mental hangups may be, I don't want to share those with them. Instead it is my motivation to research and tackle child emotional health proactively with my own children. This motivation has turned into a business helping other families do the same for their own families. 

'Cuz cute only lasts so long.. 
and being tired is real.