Since becoming a Mum, there are only now two things that drive most of my activities:
- Keeping my child alive.
- Avoiding AT ALL COSTS any situations where Ella Cracks, especially when In Public.
So far, it has not been going well. The baby crying part, that is. Ella now apparently cries. Often. Continuously. She wants to be held. She wants to be put down. She wants to be fed. She doesn’t want to be fed. As you can see, it’s been fun at our place lately.
As of late, each morning when I get up, I look out at the bright sunshine of my window, the bright sunshine of the Outside World. I look with longing to all the Free People and I imagine all the things I would do with my day, all the writing, all the silence, all the free time I’d have. And then I feel guilty that I’m not treasuring every moment because ‘they grow up so fast’ and ‘isn’t it just the best thing?’. I half-heartedly tell myself Ella is just going through a bad phase and then go back to my only two goals in Current Life.
Must keep her alive.
Must prevent her from crying.
Yesterday, for some crazy reason, Joel and I decided we wanted to feel like normal people. So we made a plan to meet at the movies after Joel finished work. With Ella. Our first date, as parents. I should have known it would not be pretty. Still, I was hopeful.
To cut to the chase, I know where I went wrong. The moral of this story – and there are no surprises here – is NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY.
Now can I just say, navigating any kind of outing is stressful. Ella apparently has decided to HATE driving and cries every time we go somewhere. However, smart little me thought that if she was asleep as I transferred her to the car, all would be well and I would arrive at my destination totally unfrazzled and parading around my shiny Ingenious Mother trophy.
I got her to sleep.
I packed her things and mine.
I texted Joel to tell him everything was on track and that I’d be there soon.
I got her into the capsule.
I started the car.
I’m smiling. I’m a genius.
I start driving.
And she wakes. Not happily.
I spend the next 20 minutes driving with a wailing baby. Howling. Honestly, it sounded as if she was literally dying. LITERALLY. That kind of intense noise would cause anyone to have a cardiac arrest, let alone the mother of the crying noise. I am sweating. My blood pressure is rapidly rising. By the time I get there, I am officially Stressed. I spill out of the car, grab the bags full to the brim of baby stuff, calm her down, buy tickets, find somewhere to feed her and wait for Joel.
She’s got that feel about her that I have come to dread. That mood which tells me that I, under all circumstances, must play by her rules. That I, under all circumstances, need to Be Ready. Because with the wild eyes and the wriggling and the scrunched up face getting redder by the second, I know she’s about to Crack It, in public. 10 minutes passes and I am sweating. I am desperately pulling out every trick card that I’ve used in the past with some level of success, but nothing’s working. Things are starting to go downhill very quickly. I – a little too sternly – hiss What?? What do you WANT from me Ella? For God’s SAKE!
Of course, this only made things worse. Because once I Crack It, Ella reaches the point of no return. That’s when it really gets ugly. And for God’s sake, I am in public.
Joel finally arrives. He sees The Situation and the look on my face and knows better than to say anything.
The first scream. It’s started.
With great disappointment, I know we have to give up our dream of being normal. We have to leave. And quickly, because this is not going to be pretty. Back to the car. Back to the howling. Back to the dying sounds. All the way home.
I held it together the whole way back. Joel gives me a hug. He tells me I’m doing a great job. I stay silent because I know if I opened my mouth to speak I would crumble into a defeated mess of frustration, isolation and inadequacy. Joel tells me that it’s just a phase, that it’s not forever, and although I know there is truth in what he says, I could not, in that moment, see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could just remember the light from my bedroom that morning and the Life Outside it represented.
He, wisely, takes Ella from me.
I go to the kitchen, rummage through the back of the freezer for some pumpkin soup I keep saved for emergency situations like these.
I heat it up and call for Joel.
Joel (without a hint of sarcasm): Oh yum, this is DELICIOUS.
I stare, suspiciously.
Joel: It’s so balanced. The flavours.
More staring, more narrowing of the eyes.
Joel: Just what I felt like. Delicious. So good!
There are many things Joel doesn’t do. He does not pick up his dirty socks from the floor. He does not bathe unless absolutely necessary. He does not change the sheets. He does not do his tax on time. He does not know where the cleaning cupboard is.
However, this pumpkin soup comment? This is what he does do. And he does it well. This comment says, you are amazing and I want you to feel better and I think you’re doing a great job.
And even in those moments when I don’t believe him, I soak it up because the words sound nice coming from his lips. The words make me realise why it takes 2 people to have a child. Yes, to share the load, but most importantly because that child makes those 2 people there for each other. Really there. And that love, that bond and that intense support is one of the greatest things in this Life.
So thank you Ella. Thank you for being difficult and moody and inconsolable. Because the harder you are, the stronger your Dad and I get. And not even your foulest mood can take us down, honey. Nice try though.
I’m all for the sisterhood, the Red Tent, but sometimes you also need a Joel by your side as well.