The Mother in the Mirror

Someday, when you get out of the house with your new baby, it will happen. It has to happen. Think of it as a rite of passage. You drag yourself, your toddler, and your newborn out the door for the first time as a mom of two. You barely manage to remember to brush your hair, because it took you 45 minutes just to get the baby fed and the toddler into unstained clothes and a clean diaper. Then you buckle them in, drive to the grocery store, put the toddler in the cart and the baby in a sling, and try to recall what the heck you need in order to survive the next week.

And at this very moment, when your brain and body are both exhausted and on overdrive, trying to complete the bare minimum shopping you have to do before the toddler gets cranky or the baby gets hungry, some smiling older woman puts a hand on your arm and says, “Oh, enjoy it while you can. It goes by so fast.”

She is probably a very nice, well-dressed woman, with her hair perfectly in order and her teeth brushed and her shoes matching her outfit, but you want to slap her right upside the head. Because yes, of course, you should be enjoying this time. What kind of monster mother wouldn’t enjoy this time? But truth is, life with tiny people is NOT always a party. And no, you do not, in fact, enjoy every waking, waking, waking moment of this. So what does that say about you? And who needs a guilt trip on top of the stresses of sleep deprivation, constant conflict with a two-year-old who hates pants, a never-ending list of work and laundry and diapering and feeding tasks, and more sleep deprivation? Nobody.

So you smile (sort of), and say, “Yes, it does go fast,” even though it feels like you will be wallowing in the trenches of poop and colic and sleeplessness for the rest of your foreseeable life. Then you push right past her as quickly as your flip flops will take you, and try to remember why you were in the soup aisle before you were so rudely accosted.

Later, if you’re still awake after the babies are in bed, you might think about that woman again. You might imagine a whole litany of scathing comebacks to use the next time someone insinuates that you’re not enjoying your children properly. But there’s good reason to just smile and nod your head. Because that woman is you. Not yet. But someday.

You’ll be older, and well-rested, and your kids will be away somewhere at a friend’s house or a school activity. You’ll visit your friend who just had a brand new baby. She’ll let you hold her and rock her on your shoulder, and you’ll smell the shampoo scent on her hair and think, “Oh. Oh, I remember this.” And something powerful will wash over you as you fish for moments and hints and flashes of your own two babies. But it won’t feel like enough. You’ll wish you had memorized their weight, their quick little breaths, the swirly cowlick on the tops of their heads. And you’ll wish that you had paused a little more often, to rock in a chair, to watch them play, to savor that time.

Today you are on the side of the mirror where there is spit up and unnecessary laundry and split peas ground into the carpet, where the car seats always smell just slightly off, and your new shirt lasts three washes before it’s christened with ketchup or juice. But someday you will be on the other side, looking back. And all of your littles will be bigs, and your new problems will be phone calls from the school about detention, or how to pay for soccer clinics and science camp at the same time, or where to put the growing collection of instruments and basketball shoes and college brochures.

And someday, on the other side of that mirror, you’ll see a woman cradling her brand new baby, hustling through the market with one hand on the cart and another on the sling, and you’ll just want to warn her that it doesn’t last long. You’ll wish that you could hold your baby like she does, one more time, and breathe that scent from the top of his head, and wrap him tighter in the sling, just a little longer. And you can’t. But she can. And you don’t want her to miss it.


Ana & Dani