This essay from Danielle is what inspired our Candid Motherhood series. Reading her words immediately brought us back to that chapter of Motherhood.
I remember it clearly as if it happened in the small hours just this morning. Dark, sleep-deprived, teetering on the delicate edge of feeding myself while simultaneously supporting two small human beings, I hear him call out for me. The distinct sound of a newborn cry pierces through my bedroom door. Bathrobe, slippers, damp shirt…was I leaking again? I pad out of the bedroom and creep into the twins’ shared room.
Muggy, warm air scoops me up. Did we really have to keep the house so warm? It’s so hot in here. All. The. Time. Or maybe it’s the hormonal night sweats that no one ever tells you about. My eyes adjust to the deep black and I make my way over to the edge of his crib. There he is, all packaged up in his preemie swaddle, squishy little cheeks – despite his small frame – set in a cherub’s face. Even the hungry cries couldn’t touch that beautiful little boy. He is perfect, and he is mine.
I nestle him in my arms and quietly carry him into the living room where, after weeks of trying various configurations, we’d decided was the best way to do the whole diaper, feed, swaddle thing. There’s nothing like being elbow deep in, excuse the imagery, mud, with one screaming baby while the other one is trying to sleep. And darkness is NOT your friend in these situations. Trust me.
We wrestle our way through the changing part of the act and finally cozy up on the couch for our favorite time: milk and cuddles. Oh, how I Iove this boy. Soft, warm, embraced by his own personal scent. I remember laying in my hospital bed while the twins were in the NICU, dozing in and out of sleep with the nursery swaddles my husband managed to swipe from the matrix of wires that was their crib. I smile at the thought. They’ll appreciate that story someday. But for now, it’s just us. Milk and cuddles.
Sleepy-eyed and content, he’s coaxed into a wet little burp, snuggled a little longer, and then it’s time to start making our way back to the crib. His sister usually wakes up about 30 minutes after him, so our “date night” is coming to an end. Within a few short moments of placing him in his crib, soft nasal murmurs from the next crib over gradually break into high-pitched screams. My heart falls. She’s so little, so delicate, yet so much tenacity is packed into those four plus pounds. I try to muster up the same type of affection I had just moments ago with my son, but it is quickly drowned out by the urgency to rush her out to our changing station and get some milk into her raging mouth…pronto.
Changing her is a feat of strength, both mental and physical. How can this pint size boxer manage to defeat me with nothing but legs and noise? I’m already exhausted by the time our milk and cuddle session begins – if you can call it that. This girl could milk-bong any other baby under the table. There’s no casual happy hour, get to know your date, have an aperitif. Within minutes she’s downed her share of milk and is ready for a little back rub. It would seem that, given the urgency and business-like atmosphere of the situation, her post-burp plans would include paying the check and getting back to bed. But, tonight, like many nights before, she has an issue.
Is it with the meal? Was it not to your satisfaction? Was the service lacking? I tried, I swear! In her satiated state, she starts to cry. We snuggle, but it’s as if she’s pushing me away. We walk, bounce, do the miracle baby hold that I watched countless times on YouTube. Nothing. NOTHING. Her small cries crescendo into loud wails until I’m forced to leave the premises and wind my way through the dark hallway, past that comforting, warm room where her brother is angelically sleeping, to the guest bedroom.
There is a spare crib there. It’s my emergency crib. I can feel the tears start welling up in my eyes as my tired body starts to give into the sick feeling of failure. One more hug, two more rocks, three more bounces. I. Just. Can’t. I place her down in the spare crib, close the door, and walk back into the living room cloaked in her sorrow where I curl up and cry.
Why is loving one person so easy, whereas loving another one is SO HARD? I’m taken back to a pre-baby time when one of my seasoned mommy friends was giving me a tour of her house. As we walked up the stairs, admiring all of her family photos that adorned the walls, she looked over her shoulder and whispered to me, “He’s my favorite.” My other mommy friend behind me smiled a knowing grin. I must have looked appalled, although I tried my best to hide it through polite laughter. How can you choose a favorite child? Isn’t that some kind of sacrilege? It’s widely known throughout literature and beyond that
How can you choose a favorite child? Isn’t that some kind of sacrilege? It’s widely known throughout literature and beyond that choosing a favorite never ends well. Take the biblical story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, for example. He’s a long-awaited son, doted on by both mother and father who gift him a whimsical, multicolored coat that none of his other brothers receive. And do you know what that got him? A swift kick in the rear when they dumped him into a ditch and sold him into slavery to the first caravan that passed by.
Or perhaps you’ll recall a more elegant tale. Three sisters, one stepmother, a loving father who played favorites with his girls and then kicked the bucket and left his golden child to scrub the floors. Bad juju.
Still too passe? Fancy me this: Harry Potter, loved by his parents and taken in by his Aunt who knew he was “special”. Cupboard under the stairs. Need I say more? It’s a slow, windy drop down the rabbit hole when you play favorites.
As the tears sink down my cheeks melting the confusion clouds away, I began to look at things from a different angle. Maybe “favorite” wasn’t the right word. Do I favor one child over the other, or do I just love them differently? My son is my squishy. He’s gooey and smiley and will cozy up to you for hours on end. He’s sensitive, even at this age, and wears his heart on his sleeve. There’s a special place in my heart for him, and him alone. It’s comfortable, like a broken-in blanket, like a hot cup of tea, like listening to the rain hit the windows while you warm up by the fireplace and read your favorite book for the tenth time. It’s home.
My daughter, on the other hand, is my fire. She’s passion and crashing waves and the smell of dirt under your fingernails from a long day exploring outside. She’s strong like a boulder, despite her tiny frame, and will hold you up to the highest standards while simultaneously chiseling you into the best possible person you could be. There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by her. It craves long hikes in the mountains, infinite sunrises, and sunsets by her side, circumnavigating the globe with nothing but boots and a backpack. It calls for heated arguments and equally fervent embraces. It thirsts for tears, sweat, blood, and laughter. It’s possibility.
I wipe my bathrobe sleeve across my face and take a calming breath. I don’t even remember walking to the spare room, but in an instant, I’m there. A deep, consuming wave of emotion slaps me from behind and propels me to her side. I pick her up. She stops crying instantaneously. Her delicate little body wraps so tightly into mine that we become one. She is mine. She is love.
Flagstaff Moms Blog presents Candid Motherhood as a movement to recapture and record our story.