The Other Side

I find it hard to describe just how hard it is to take care of an infant day in and day out without a break on the weekends. It’s just not something you can understand unless you’ve actually experienced it, and I like to refer to parenthood as “being on the other side.” It’s like I’ve crossed over some invisible line, and once I did the whole world changed. Now when friends of mine have their first child I usually say to them, “Welcome to the other side. It only gets worse from here.”

That sounds a bit pessimistic, I know, and of course there are many wonderful things about having a baby. But when we had Leta in February it was like a bomb exploded in our house, and we’ve been slowly putting the pieces back together. Just last night Jon and I were trying to figure out how we’ve made it this far. How did we make it through sleepless night after sleepless night, and the screaming? THE INCESSANT NEVER-ENDING SKIN-MELTING SCREAMING! I don’t know how anyone could make it through this battlefield without going crazy.

I went crazy. Somewhere along the road of putting everything back together I broke down. But going to the hospital was the best decision I have made as a mother. And I made that decision as a mother with the health of my child as my singular goal. Making that decision was as instinctual as feeding her and clothing her. I feel so much better. I am sleeping through the night, hours and hours of sleeping! And I wake up in the morning thinking, BRING IT ON. Whatever this child throws at me — hours of cranky bleating, diapers with nuggets of noxious, rotting nuclear fallout, short naps and subsequent tired groaning — I can take it.

I can take it!

In the past week Leta and I have formed a bond that was unable to take form when I was in my anxious, clenched state of unhappiness. She has responded to the new look in my face, the look that says, “I am winning this war.” She is constantly giggling and cooing and slurping and kicking her frog feet in glee. And I just can’t get enough of her.

Because of this new bond I had a difficult time yesterday when the new nanny we hired came to take care of her for a few hours. As part of my ongoing therapy we have hired someone to come help with the care of Leta for nine hours a week while I work on writing and freelance projects. It’s just nine hours, per week. That’s fewer hours than “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. That’s fewer hours than the sleep I get in one night. BUT OH THE GUILT THAT SHOOK ME TO THE CORE.

I sat in the basement trying to work, but I wanted to throw up the entire time. How could I leave my baby in the care of someone who would play with her and feed her a bottle? How wicked and uncaring of a mother could I be? I might as well throw her in the middle of the street and walk away, OH LOATHSOME EXCUSE OF A PARENT!

Not once did she cry; in fact I could hear her laughing and having a good time upstairs. But downstairs my soul withered as Satan took hold of my being and twisted it like a dirty wet rag. So I tried to work, and then I cleaned the entire basement, dusting the crevices with a q-tip to keep my mind off the fact that I had abandoned my baby upstairs with a caring, qualified nanny.

My friends have told me that this will get easier with time, that the guilt will fade because HEY! LOOK! Other mothers go back to work after having a baby! And the world still turns! But yesterday afternoon my world stopped, and God, I missed her.

And you know what? Sometimes it’s okay to miss your kids. I am learning to be okay.