I was putting LD to sleep. It was time for his nap. Normally, he’d go in his cot with a bottle of milk, drink happily for a bit, piss and moan for a bit and then, that beautiful moment, silence. But today, I was indulging us both in the big no-no of putting him to sleep in my arms. I don’t do it often because ultimately, I am selfish and demand that my baby-free time (two hours, three max) begin as soon as that little body has been dispatched to its cot. What can I say, I must have been feeling especially maternal because he had finished his bottle and now I was just gazing at his little face, the luminous, wide set blue eyes rimmed with dark, dark lashes blinking, blinking, more slowly each time. I love that moment when he just has to give in, his eyelids heavy with the promise of dreams. The little rosebud mouth falling open with the breath of the sleeper.
Still gazing at this little piece of perfection (that I made – snaps!), at the crusted on weetbix between his eyebrows like a little breakfast bindi and it occurs to me, he is not enough. If a person has ever loved their son more, I can’t imagine it and still, as beautiful as my son is, as entertaining, lovable and charming, he is not enough. And by that, I mean, this can’t be all there is for me now. And suddenly, I’m crying. Big, fat, guilty tears. Because when you’re given a gift, something you’ve always wanted that you can cross of your list of dreams, you’re not supposed to start writing a new list. Are you?
Why am I feeling this way? Why now? I think it’s been a creeper. In the initial aftermath of birth and for a good 6 months or so thereafter, I was floating a couple of inches off the ground. My son and I just clicked quite naturally into our roles. Of course, there were challenges. I was a crazy woman, long on hormones and short on sleep. Occasionally, I had to tell B what a giant fuckhead he was and curb thoughts of leaving LD out with the recycling when he was on one of his rare (but annoying!) crying jags. The point is, even when it got tricky, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I was content in the now. And Jesus H Christ, wasn’t that an amazing feeling?
In my previous life, I’d been an aspiring actor and thus, was in a constant state of want. I was always reaching out for something just beyond my grasp. It was an anxious-making way to live. Zero fun and yet I was driven to do it and couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what else I may have been put on this earth to do….aside from be a mum. As an actor, one is always striving to be PRESENT, to BE HERE NOW. And, in what surely must be an ironic twist (I’m never quite sure about irony but I know Alanis Morrisette had NO clue), as soon as I let go of that particular struggle and focused on what was in front of me, namely, LD, it all fell into place. I guess it’s not surprising though. Nothing demands immediacy the way a newborn does. It’s tricky to put them off until later. Tricky or like, something DOCS would probably label “neglect.”
The first hint that I was coming out of my baby-coma was that I became less sweet. Things started to bug me again. Like, for instance, my mum. Let’s call her Betty because she expressly forbids me to do so. Betty talks. A lot. Think underwater, brass monkeys sans ears….you get the picture. But in the post-baby bubble, the onslaught of Betty’s inane chattering just rolled right off me. Recently while watching a video of newborn LD, I was amazed at just how relaxed I had become. The screen is filled with a tiny, gurgling LD, B and I are obviously looking upon our son in wonder and meanwhile, in the background, Betty talks without pause about something completely unrelated but always related back to her husband who after years and years of marriage she still tries to “upsell” as though to a panel of judges. “Oh really,” I’m murmuring angelically, “Isn’t that lovely?” All the while, no-one can hear the sweet gurgling baby. Watching it back now, it was all I could do not to throw things at the computer screen and scream, “Shut the fuck up, woman! Get a sense of the moment and look lovingly upon your grandson like a normal person would and STOP TALKING!”
So I’m less sweet. But apparently, B informed me last week, I’m also less engaged. “It just feels like you disconnect from LD as soon as I walk through the door after work.” Which, to my ears, sounded like, “BAD MUM, BAD MUM, BAD MUM!” I told my next door neighbour, SS (Saucy Sally maybe?), who has a son roughly LD’s age and a big, fat gut full of baby number two. “Oh yeah, you do the ‘dump and run’ – that’s a no-brainer!” Vindicated, I went to B and told him, in no uncertain terms, that a. He is giant dildo for making me feel like a bad mum and 2. he has no idea what it’s like to be home with a toddler all day long and that if I ‘disconnect’ for half an hour (to selfishly go make dinner or GASP! check my emails) then it’s perfectly understandable and not an indictable mum-crime.
So back to my guilty tears which, with MacGyver like genius, I used to wash off the breakfast bindi. I adore being a mother. So much so that I want more little people. But I want more other stuff too. Betty tells me this internal struggle of wanting to be a mum but also a woman achieving stuff out in the world is nothing new. Which I know but it still helps to hear that you’re not alone. And it’s not as simple as just going back to work. God forbid! If I can avoid 9 to 5, I will! That shit breaks my proverbial balls. No, my dreams are far loftier. I have always dreamed on a large scale. Like supermassive. And it’s hard. A blessing, I’ve come to think, is the dream of a simple life. If only being a mother checked all the boxes for me. That would be bliss. But that’s just not how I was wired.
So I continue searching for the way to live my ultimate life, to reach my full potential and live as authentically as I can. With LD and B, I recognise I’m off to a cracking good start. But being a great wife and mother is just part of what I do well. And in the end, if I’m living my best life, LD and B are the big winners.
So what has motherhood taught me today? I’m a complex little human with lots of hopes and dreams….they don’t come away with the placenta. And neither should they.