Being Fragile

Something happens to me after a baby is born. If you’re a mother, it’s probably happened to you too. I suddenly feel like the world around me is breakable, myself, my family made of shatter-resistant glass that’s fully capable of shattering if given the right opportunity. Like Corelle on a tile floor, we look sturdy but at any moment, SMASH! We could all fall to pieces.

With Laylee, it was a happy fragility, sort of a dreamy bubble where I smiled, clutched her fiercely and dressed her up like a doll, loving her and yet somewhat unable to believe that I had created something so wonderful. I was having the time of my life playing mommy and wondered if at any minute someone was going to wake me up from my reverie.

As I’ve documented here and elsewhere, the dish hit the tile when Magoo was born and then I spent 2 years seeking out every last shard of broken glass and painstakingly gluing them back together. There are so many happy memories from his babyhood but in between enjoying the kids, I spent much of my time searching for shards, painfully aware of just how breakable I was.

And now I’m on round three. I feel like I’ve got things together… a bit. Most of the time. There are sublime moments like last week when Laylee and Magoo cleaned the entire main floor of our playdate-trashed house as a surprise for me while I was feeding Wanda. Then there are moments like today when I found the big kids sitting with their arms crossed on the trampoline, facing each other and screaming until their brains were gone about who had won whatever game they were playing. In the end, Laylee tried to reconcile by saying, “I’ll teach you a new game then where there are no winners and no losers. It’s called Butt-Punch.” Magoo declined the game. I rolled my eyes and walked back into the house. Dan says that in a game called Butt-Punch, he’s pretty sure everyone is a loser.

Through the highs and the lows, I find myself managing but holding on to that glued-together plate just a little too tightly. Am I depressed? Tired? Afraid of descending into the pit I discovered Postpartum II? I’m kind of afraid to ask myself. It scares me a little that I have to try so hard.

My pendulum swings precariously. One day my house is a mess and I can’t force myself to deal with it. The next I’m cleaning and scrubbing like mad. Many days I feel like a hermit, not wanting to be bothered to answer my door or phone and the next I’m sad because people have stopped calling. I’m not doing the best in my church work or my role in the PTA. I’m letting things slip.

I tell myself that this is to be expected. The baby’s only a month old, two months old, five months old. Why shouldn’t I want to spend all day holding her and squishing her, playing cards with Laylee and Magoo and reading books at home? I should like my home, my little hermitty cave. Why would I want to go anywhere else?

I’m just holding on too tightly. There is a slightly strained sensation to the sweetness of this time. I’m cherishing the time with my kids because realizing that Wanda is our last has also made me realize that Laylee and Magoo are growing up too quickly and I don’t have a freeze ray. Heck, I don’t even have a time machine. I have photos and videos and the ability to make more. Dan just bought about a terabyte of storage space for our computers because I am on a memory-capturing rampage.

How can I make the most of every minute with my kids without squeezing the life out of those moments? How can I allow myself to just be the mother I am without questioning myself into a spiral of self-doubt? If I could just live in the moment, just be here and love it, love myself as much as I love these stinking wonderful Butt-Punch-playing, breast-sucking kids. If I could be as forgiving and gentle to their mother. If. I think I’d find that I could relax my grip and the fear in my throat and there’s a good possibility that nothing would break but my stifling itch for perfection.

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12 Responses to Being Fragile

  1. Kathryn in NZ says:

    you go right on squeezing everything out of every moment – cos I didn’t, aren’t and probably will never and I regret it.
    Our camera broke when Tink (youngest of 2) was only weeks old. We have no photos of either of them until she was nearly two, only those taken by others, the odd one of which was given to us.
    And when I did replace the camera, I was out of the habit of having it to hand and snapping anything and everything.
    So, the only thing I’m gonna tell you to stop is “stop beating yourself up!!! You’re wasting energy – go play with your kids again”
    I’ll be checking up on you…

    btw – love the new photo of Wanda. Can’t believe how grownup Magoo is now. Laylee is just still Laylee – go her

  2. Mir says:

    For those of us who struggle with PPD, I don’t know that there’s a magical enjoy-it-without-struggle button. Even if you never experience full-on PPD this time, your experience last time is going to make you look over your shoulder, grab too tightly, worry. Which is as it should be, in some ways.

    Schedule a small number of time-with-other-adults outings (one a week? two a week?) and go whether you feel like it or not. And keep talking. Either you’ll notice it’s getting worse or one day you’ll realize it’s better. The middle place where you’re not sure is, in some ways, the hardest.

    Love to you and yours, my friend.

  3. FawnDear says:

    The whole fragile/shattering thing, I am well aqainted with. And I’ve come to realize that the whole looking over my shoulder/what-if, life stinks. So I try really hard to realize and accept those feeling as part of my non-perfect existance. Those thoughts are who I am, YET I can still make happy moments and dreams come true even with them in my backpack.
    I applaud that you are sqeezing life out of every moment instead of curled up in a fetal position wishing your were anyone but you. Yes, it’s hard but you’re amazing and your doing it. Take a look at your family – they are proof that your succeeding.
    As always I think you are incredible. Hang in there.

  4. cheetah says:

    Thanks for that. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Is your medicine balanced? Can you look into that? I often wonder what is wrong with being a hermit. Maybe that is what you need right now and maybe church and PTA need a change. YOu can do those for forever, but Wanda will only be a babe or the next few months.

    Wish I had the answers for you, but i know you’ll figure it out as you always do…and help me and other’s through the process.

    The fear of re-breaking is a terrible feeling so just focus on how not- broken you are. Maybe that will help.

  5. karen says:

    After Jack was born I slowly came to realize that I had to stop trying to be “just right” in every aspect of my life- friends, church, extended family, kids’ school, etc. and just settle in and “be”. To do what I can do that day and not expect to do it all EVERY day.

    I think that as mothers we have this idea in our heads that we should be perfectly coiffed, out and about and involved with friends and volunteer work, schedule playdates with regularity, and have wondefully decorated houses to be living a fulfilled life. I just don’t think that is realistic for everyone.

    Give yourself permission to bow out of extra responsibilities and focus on your home and what you and your kids need during this time. It’s okay to go for days without leaving the house for anything but taking kids to and from school if that’s what you need to do. It’s okay to let the phone ring without answering it. Be what you need and want to be within your own home and then slowly add things as you feel able, not as you feel required.

    Take care, Kathryn. This is me hugging you.

  6. Pam in Utah says:

    Marriage and children are quite the roller coaster ride, even without the extreme biology going on that some get delt. Sometimes you do just have to hold on for dear life, pray hard, learn how to forgive yourself and others (especially spouses) and let things go, figure out what things are most important each season, know when to bend and when to stand tall and immovable, and enjoy the sweet spots all the more for the challenge turns. Because they come to all. Dearest Kathryn, know you are so (emphasis to the max) LOVED. And appreciated. By many.

  7. Heffalump says:

    I think that holding on a little too tight is better than not holding on at all. You appreciate what you have, and that is more than some people ever find out!

  8. Kerri says:

    I’m delurking to tell you how much this post touched me, and also the three-pt series you linked to. I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided PPD, but I have family members who have struggled hugely. It’s so wonderful to have your story out there to give comfort and reassurance that yes, you can feel OK again.

    But if you can figure out how to let go and just enjoy, please let me know. I haven’t been able to figure that one out yet.

  9. I hear you. I feel you. Just remember that perfect isn’t something any of us are ever going to see–in this life on this earth. Sometimes it’s amazing to look at life and think about how flawed and yet beautiful a thing it is.

  10. Your Friend says:

    I have those days where I can’t deal and those days where I can’t stop. It all sounds so normal to me. We women have hormones that change constantly. Even though I have never suffered from postpartum there are days where I wonder what is happening to my body. And then add the daily guilt that comes with motherhood. I feel you sister. You are not alone. You are beloved to many.

  11. This was a wonderful post and I’m so glad you were able to write it and get it off your chest. (Plus, I got a good laugh from the butt-punch :)) Like others have said, it’s got to be a good thing that you’re holding on tightly because that’s better than letting go altogether. I think, even being several years past the PPD I went through, I still hold tight. Kind of a ‘fake it till you make it’ thing. And right or wrong, it’s how I live. I’m hoping that one day the fake will wear off and I’ll REALLY be a good mother. I’ll REALLY be confident.

    I think I’ve worked hard over the years at trying to make sure my plate is a paper one….it doesn’t shatter. The only way to destroy it is to rip it up myself when I’m ready to graduate to fine china. Or even stoneware 😉

  12. LooneyJen says:

    Oh friend… I am so glad you articulated that. Because I spend half my time trying to hold on and squeeze the kids into not growing any more…. and half lamenting that they’ve grown as much as they have. And almost all of my time trying to remember to enjoy them instead of holding on so tight. Parenthood has totally flipped me out.

    I am totally for hermitage 🙂

    Do what you need to do to love on those kids and enjoy them. Because that’s what matters… not PTA or the rest…

    You are so amazingly inspiring. Thank you for sharing your words and pieces of those amazing little people in your life.

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