After The Baby was in the hospital over Christmas, I realized that I had actually lost weight. I was able to do some yoga and I made a point to have healthy food available instead of eating shit out of vending machines like a rat in the corner of the hospital room.
The news of weight loss made me feel pretty fancy so I was going to write a blog about how good I was at managing stress.
Cue The Baby waking up several times a night every night since that discharge. Alex and I have been trading off nights on the couch so that one of us can get a good night’s sleep. We haven’t slept in the same bed in 6 weeks. We’re so tired that when the boys go to bed, so do we. I’ve been guzzling Nyquil and my Dairy Queen habit is back (darnit).
I don’t want to get into his medical history publicly, but last week we went to the ER because we thought The Baby had measles (that was fun- almost making the evening news and the health department getting involved). Thankfully, we are measles-free but he’s been in the hospital since Sunday and the doctor’s don’t know what’s wrong.
To say that the stress levels in this house are inhuman is probably an understatement. On Sunday, we loaded The Baby and our hospital go-bag (which we’re experts at packing now) into the car and then I sat in the car and bawled. Alex took the keys from me and refused to return them because he wanted to go instead. I wouldn’t get out of the car because he had pink eye and needed to go get medicine. We didn’t *technically* wrestle in the driveway for the keys but it sure felt like we were going to for a second. The headline in The Wise Family Times reads “Hysterical Beth Stealthily Defeated Pink Eye Alex in Driveway Throwdown”.
I bawled all the way to the ER and then shut off the waterworks in the parking lot. I have a very thin veneer that I’ve had to employ to function since Christmas. I can charm nurses, chat with doctors, do the physical act of mothering. I suck it up and stuff it down because it’s what I have to do. There’s no other option. It’s all hands on deck time and has been for almost 2 months now.
I sat in the car on Sunday and told Alex tearfully that I’m not enjoying my life right now- that I feel completely joyless. There is very little that is fun right now. I’m a parenting robot who expends all her energy during the day on doctor’s visits and baby feeding and dishes and homework and supervising chores and baths and once the task of parenting is done for the day, my batteries fall out and there’s nothing left. I feel like a shell of a person.
This is the side of parenting that doesn’t make sappy commercials or Hallmark cards. This is the side of parenting that makes me want to hide from friends and family cause I don’t want to talk about how I’m feeling or burden anyone by being Eeyore. Also, what can they say? What can one say to make anything better or easier? No one talks about this side of parenting.
After a few hours in the ER on Sunday, The Baby was transferred to another hospital. I followed the ambulance in my car and I cried some more and prayed.
If you’ll remember, I don’t even really know what I believe about God right now except that She exists. I haven’t had any mental energy to expend on thinking more about this so everything is still very much in the air. If I’m being honest, I can’t tell you my theology around the act of praying, but it felt comforting, like a comfort blanket that I used when I was a kid. This prayer, in the midst of a faith deconstruction when I’m pissed, was probably more honest than most prayers.
“God, what the hell? Why are you being such a jerk? Why can’t you just fix this or make it easier? Didn’t you want us to do this? Are you trying to make me miserable? Cause YOU’RE WINNING IF YOU ARE.”
It made me think back to Jesus crying out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”. Like that’s the Aramaic equivalent of “What the f?”, right? So, I’m in good company.
And you know what? In the pit of being pissed and stressed and empty and abandoned, God came.
I had asked Alex to bring me pajama pants and he brought me my most ostentation, candy cane striped pants with a green cuff. Once The Baby got settled in our awkwardly-shaped room with a window that looks out on a dark alcove tastefully decorated with pigeon poop, I laid on the short couch with my feet hanging off, listening to the quiet in and out breath of my baby. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and thought about how God is always with me in my breath. I felt the short, clown couch beneath me, pressing against my back, and remembered that, for as long as I’ve lived, the ground has always been beneath me. Ready to catch me, even if I fall, even if it hurts, I’ve never tripped and fallen through to the center of the earth. It is consistently consistent.
In those two simple things, God reminded me that She’s still here, even when the weight of life feels like I’m going to be crushed.
That doesn’t mean that I’m still handling things like a professional or even well. After I fell asleep, I awoke to the nurse standing over me because some meds were due. The Baby then screamed inconsolably for three hours, passing out at about 3:15am. 20 minutes later, a clinical tech came rolling in “to get vitals” and I did the hospital equivalent of, “If you wake up this baby, I will cut you and then your obituary will read that you were cut by crazy woman with greasy hair wearing Christmas clown pants. Is that how you wanna do this?” and she ran away.
I still burst into tears if someone looks at me with one iota of sympathy. My stress levels are still a raging dragon and, honestly, I don’t know that life will necessarily get easier any time soon. My mom made me talk about how I was feeling and I know that I need to make time to see a counselor (even though I haven’t been to the doctor in three years and I haven’t had a haircut since August). There’s drive-thru counseling, right? Like a Dairy Queen/counseling center. Actually, I need to TM that. I think it would be highly successful.
I know I need some help.
I don’t even really have a point to this blog except that I want to document this. I hope that other struggling parents who want to spend the whole day in bed under the blankets know that they aren’t alone. I hope that other parents who are feeling crushed under the burden of parenting know that it’s okay to be crushed and that God can handle our cursing. I hope that someday, when life is easier, I can look back on this and marvel that we’re still alive.