I'm under the impression that we're not honest enough about motherhood. It's beautiful, yes. But sometimes, it's fucking hard.
Because sometimes, Aspen wakes up at seven in the morning with a smile, and by 7:12 is quite possibly the most exhausted that she's ever been in her entire 6 months on the planet. And it's an emergency, obviously, because she starts to tear her own face from her skull and rub her eyes into oblivion and scream and cry and flail her arms like a broken windmill after every yawn. She hits me in the face and kicks me in the stomach. I bite my lip and try not to cry out. And then I pick her up, and tell her "shh, shh, my little love, it's okay. I know you're tired. Here, let's go back to sleep." I rock her gently and play the song that was playing when she was born. But she doesn't want to sleep. She wants to arch her back and remove her pacifier from her mouth and hold it above her head with both little fists and examine it with narrow eyes until it frustrates her enough that she throws it across the room. And then she cries, and she cries, and my husband wakes up only slightly and says "goodmorning," before rolling over to sleep. I want to kill him, but I don't. I want to not-so-gently put Aspen down in her crib and cover myself back up with the blankets so I can't hear anything but the sound my own heartbeat. But I don't.
Because sometimes, I've taken a shower for the first time in three days, and I smell like lavender and clean skin. And then, just like that, I'm covered in milky vomit. It's in my bra, and in my belly button, and somehow it's on my feet, too. And Aspen smiles up at me, half-digested milk covering her chin, and I want to think she's cute, but I'm disgusted, and I feel like crying, because I probably won't get to take another shower until my skin has crusted over and turned sour.
Because sometimes, I feel entirely absent from motherhood and entirely present in the sun-bleached skin I used to know before Aspen was born. And I want to run away. To travel to Norway, or Italy, or San Francisco. I want the time to draw something, or to write something, or to watch an entire movie without breaks. I mourn the life I used to have, sometimes. I can feel myself shedding layers, my bones growing long, becoming new, becoming Mama. It's painful. And it's beautiful. And equivalent in depth and travail as giving birth - though this labor is much, much longer.
Because sometimes, Aspen falls asleep at 7 in the evening without a fuss. She tucks herself up into a little ball of milky flesh under the bedsheets, and I marvel at her for a moment before quietly closing the door. "I made you," I think. "I made all of you." I walk into the living room and think of all the things I ought to get done, but I somehow spend four hours looking at photos of Aspen, and thinking about Aspen, and wishing Aspen were awake so I could kiss her and hold her and toss her into the air. I feel myself drowning in a love so ancient and consuming that my uterus actually contracts, as if I were in labor all over again. I think that I might be having a heart attack. I debate whether or not to wake her, just so I can see her eyes. I decide that I can wait until morning.
Because sometimes, I fall asleep beside my babe thinking that motherhood is the hardest thing ever. That I had no idea what I was getting into. And then I wake up four ours later beside that same babe, and she's wide awake with the sun, licking my armpit and singing a little song in baby-tongue. And I think about how beautiful motherhood is. How lovely. How sacred.
We post pictures of our children and caption them, "My sweet baby," and "the best thing that ever happened to me. I love her so much." And those things are true, yes. But they could just as easily be captioned, "I feel like I'm losing my fucking mind right now. Someone please send help," and "I really love this kid but please for the love of everything holy someone come hold her for a second so I can wash the milk from my hair."
When we minimize our emotions & close the drapes around the fact that motherhood is the hardest fucking thing we will ever do, we unknowingly tell all the mothers who are weak in the knees that they aren't trying hard enough. That in some way, they're not doing a good job. That they're less Mama and more Monster for feeling angry, for feeling sad, for feeling as if their child hates them and never wants them to sleep again.
But when we're honest, and we share both the good & the bad, when we ask for help, we are allowing other mothers to soften around the edges. To see us as mirrors to their own vulnerability, their own travail, their own love. We're inviting those who understand to say, "fuck, me too." To reach out. To laugh. To offer a loving hand.
And, above all, when we make room for radical honesty, we show those who haven't yet found their voice that they are not alone.