Last night my husband and I were talking about plans for baby #2. I told him how I was feeling overwhelmed wondering how I was going to make two babies “work” for us. He mentioned, among other things, that “by the time we have another baby, Gia will probably at least be in preschool.” I breathed a deep sigh of relief at that milestone just off on the horizon – preschool. Time for me to be alone, or at least with just one baby. Things didn’t seem so bad after all.
Then this morning I had the bright idea of researching preschools in the area. Because there is nothing a Type A planner like me loves to do more than plan extremely far into the future. I looked at several websites and read about a couple different types of programs. Then my eyes settled on one program in particular and I scrolled through pictures for several minutes before I noticed what was happening. I was crying. Like, really crying.
I was thinking about how I have been with my daughter every single morning and afternoon of her life, give or take some weekend day dates with grandparents. I realized that preschool meant our leisurely mornings of bed cuddling and Sesame Street and talking and burrowing into piles of blankets was going to end. The thought of taking my tender-hearted baby, dropping her off with a stranger and a bunch of kids she doesn’t know, and then trusting them to take care of her made me feel a level of anxiety so intense I didn’t know what to do with it. I reasoned with myself that preschool didn’t have to happen at 3 if I wasn’t ready. Then I realized I was basically delaying the inevitable – that someday she was going to have to leave me.
Tears, tears, lots of freaking tears. As I wiped my eyes with the sleeves of my hoodie, I swore to myself that I was going to take every single moment with her until then and just soak them in. How I would cuddle her and breathe in her hair and take mental snapshots of the way she throws her arms around me and says “Love you SO much.” I vowed that I wouldn’t take for granted these little moments any longer.
And then, three hours later, I caught myself, how shall we say … NOT soaking in the moments. Rather, counting the moments until nap time when I could have a shower and go to the bathroom alone.
Please tell me I’m not alone in this. This phenomenon of vowing you will EMBRACE THE MOMENT and then NOT EMBRACING THE MOMENT. This phenomenon of promising you will HUG YOUR LOVED ONES A LITTLE TIGHTER because of whatever tragedy and then just wishing you could have FIVE MINUTES ALONE JUST ONCE several hours later. Our culture has recently become absolutely obsessed with EMBRACING THE MOMENT. I do not think this is a bad thing. I think it is a beautiful thing. I just massively suck at it.
Those of you who have been following me for a while might remember the health scare I went through at the end of the summer. I can vividly remember the entire day after I got the news that all results were totally normal. I went and bought cookies from my favorite bakery, I spent time looking outside and just breathing and saying thank you thank you thank you for letting me be alive and healthy. I thought this scare could easily carry me through some tough times in the future because I realized how lucky I really was. But you also probably know, or can guess, that didn’t last long. It wasn’t long before I was working myself so hard and my anxiety got so high that I got myself physically sick. Not for one moment did I stop and remember that point late last summer where I was in a state of overwhelming gratitude for simply being alive.
In my mid-morning yoga sessions (very spiritual, by the way. Gia crawls under every bridge or downward dog and brings me plastic food to feed me while I am in a headstand) I sometimes am so overcome with gratitude for my body, it can make me literally tear up. I can’t believe how faithful my body has been in keeping me strong and healthy and how lucky I am to not have any idea what chronic pain or illness is like. I think about how healthy it grew Gia and how it allowed me to conceive her without any effort and birth her (with a LOT of effort) and how my body never tells me no when I want to do something. I think about how unkind I have been to my body since having Gia – how I don’t eat healthy and don’t go to the gym and spend hours hunched over my laptop working and yet still my bloodwork is pristine. How is that fair, how am I that lucky?
And then the next day I am sure I am the unluckiest person ever because my stomach refuses to be flat and that no matter how much weight I lose, my thighs will always be described as “muscular” or “athletic” or something else that means “not small. Not skinny.” And I forget. I forget those moments in yoga where I see my body bend and stretch and balance and keep me steady and strong.
I often think about things like infertility and how that affects gratitude. I can’t pretend I have any idea what infertility is like, but I often wonder how it feels for women who finally get a baby after years of struggle and prayers and who may find themselves in the throes of post-partum depression or just plain old real life and feel incredible guilt for not being constantly “thankful” for this thing they worked so hard to have and prayed so fervently for. I kind of hate the idea that just because you don’t like something or don’t inherently enjoy something or just have a bad day that that automatically translates to being un-grateful. I think the idea of staying silent about struggles because you don’t want to appear un-grateful is one of the most damaging ideas out there, particularly for women.
I once received a comment from an angry reader after I posted about how much I struggle with lunchtime. She wrote to tell me I should be grateful for messes and all of the hard parts of parenthood because her child had died and she would never have those moments with him. She told me to stop complaining and feel lucky. While I again, cannot even comprehend the pain this woman must be going through – I have found this idea particularly hard to implement. Surely, every time I hear about a baby dying or a young mother widowed or am witness to tragedies that friends and loved ones must face, it causes me to pause and spend time in deep gratitude for what I have. But living in a constant state of gratitude because of the losses of others, for me, seems unsustainable. For me, that intense gratitude is not something I am able to stay with all day every day. It is a practice I come back to again and again. I forget how lucky I am and then I remember. I embrace the moment and I waste the next one. I’m constantly trying to balance this mindful life with an outside world that wants us to just keep going going going with not a second to pause and really FEEL anything. The culture that says EMBRACE THE MOMENT but also be a perfect mother and wife, have a perfect body, a fulfilling, successful career, and NEVER COMPLAIN. In short, I am human.
I’m no expert at embracing the moment. I am a student, probably a C- student, just trying to do my best. So today I will say “thank you” to the universe when I remember. I will try to remember more. And then I will fail and try again, and thank the universe for giving me that luxury, of finding my way back to gratitude.