Don’t take this the wrong way, Month Seven, but you were not our favorite. You were supposed to be festive and fun, but you were rude, vindictive and selfish. Sure, there were bright spots. There were Christmas dresses and family sleepovers and eight loaves of cinnamon bread; but it was all enjoyed through the grey haze of sleeplessness.
A few months ago we thought Mary Virginia wasn’t sleeping well, but we were wrong. And we didn’t know until month seven. Naps were bad. Nighttime was worse. We tried a lot of things. We even tried reading Moby Dick aloud to her. When that didn’t work, Tom told me to take her to the doctor. No!, I said. She’s not sick! This is normal!, I said. A few hours later I was blinking back tears as our pediatrician told me she had a double ear infection and RSV.
Well. That explains everything.
The doctor prescribed Amoxicillin for the ear infection. Don’t worry!, the doctor said. Babies love it!, the nurse reiterated. It tastes like bubble gum!, the pharmacist assured me me. But I know my Mary Berry.
I know that my little Mary Berry Quite Contrary becomes a ventriloquist when I try to put anything in her mouth. She can laugh, cry, and recite all 15,693 the lines of The Iliad with her lips sealed.
It doesn’t matter what we’re giving her, Mary Virginia just doesn’t want a spoon. Or the medicine syringe. To get 4mL — less than a teaspoon — in her mouth, Tom has to hold her while I give her the medicine. And each time there is crying, singing, bouncing, and begging. After the first dose, Tom asked me, “How many times do we have to do that?” Twenty, I told him. He looked at me, defeated and covered in a sheen of sweet pink medicine, and said, “I feel like we’ve already done it 20 times.”
Mary Virginia is just fine with nursing, thank you very much. When she’s hungry, she reaches out and grabs my face with both hands. Then she locks eyes with me, tilts her head a bit to the left, opens her mouth, leans forward and starts sucking my chin with the unique urgency of a nursing baby.
Mary Virginia is growing and changing so much. She’s ramped up the baby talk big time. She says “DaDaDaDaDa” nonstop. If she was saying “MaMaMaMa” I might call it her first word, but since it’s DaDa I’m calling it nonsensical babble.
Now that she’s more aware she’s developed a little stranger anxiety. If I’m holding her and a nice, well-meaning man (she doesn’t mind lady strangers, it’s the guys she doesn’t like) comes over and says hello in a sweet, kind voice, she sticks out her lower lip and starts to wail.
She’s getting better and better at crawling; faster, more confident. She’s also starting to crawl up and over. Yesterday she crawled over two pillows and I praised her so much that David immediately got off the sofa and crawled over them even faster than she did. Well done, kids.
If they’re competing to be my favorite, they’re going about it the wrong way. Sleeping past 6 a.m., kids. That’s the way to Mama’s heart.
She can also climb onto the lid of our ottoman. And she can pull-up on our console table. It’s only maybe eight inches high, but a milestone nonetheless. And my favorite part? She scheduled these “firsts” when I had my camera nearby.
Along with the ability to crawl and pull up comes the ability to crawl over to mama and ask to be held. So she does. She crawls over, pulls on my pants, and looks up at me and smiles. It’s a very different tactic than the “Throw Your Body at Mama’s Feet and Scream” method and, I gotta tell ya, I think it’s worse.
As hard as this month was, we’re also very thankful that our kids are recovering, and we’re very, very thankful for medicine and doctors and the antibiotics that are being spit all over my kitchen.
We are thankful, and we are tired. I don’t think I even realize how tired I am, and I don’t know what I’d do if I ever got a full night of sleep.
Actually, yes I do. I’d finally beat Candy Crush level 336. I think it requires the brain power of a person who’s slept through the night once or twice in the past seven months.
Dear Mary Virginia,
Yesterday morning you and your brother were playing in the living room. He was building with his Legos and you were trying to take them. I was busy clearing breakfast plates, washing dishes, and starting a loaf of bread for dinner. I paused to look at you two. That moment is what I imagined being a mom would be like. I was busy and I was tired, but I was wasn’t undone. I was in control. I wasn’t having to neglect one child to care for the other while altogether forgetting my household. I wasn’t questioning myself, or being asked to do more than I could handle or eating another cookie at 8 a.m. because I’m convinced that putting my needs first for a moment will refuel my soul. This month, especially the past two weeks, is not what I imagined.
There were several days when, after a full day of being wrung out by my two little ones, I would tell Tom, “I think the kids are trying to break me.”
But broken is exactly what needs to happen.
I need to be broken, shattered. The pieces need to fall away and crash to the ground, as painful as it might be. Broken but not abandoned; broken so that God can put me back together, shiny and new and more like Jesus. Over and over again. And God does not grow weary of the again and again, the coming back, the picking up and carrying, the starting over. I am imperfect, but Jesus is at work. I want you to know that you are part of it. It’s part of what makes motherhood a holy experience. You help me see God and the fullness of the redemption he offers in a new, bigger, brighter way.
When I took you to the doctor and she looked in your ear and gave the diagnosis, you looked at me, smiling. It’s as if you were trying to say, it’s ok, Mommy. We’re all learning.