I was changing my seven-almost-eight month old this morning and every time she opened her mouth I was looking for teeth. She’s been up from about 230am-500am the last three nights in a row and I am a barely functioning human in the base case – this period of sleeplessness has really pushed me over the edge. My husband remarked yesterday morning, after I giggled for about five minutes about the Oregano being low, that he was seriously worried about my mental health and concerned for Ellie’s safety when he goes back to work on Monday. Killjoy.
Anyway I realized when I was looking for teeth (all that fussiness and no reward – yet!) I noticed her nose had some boogers in it. After I cleared those away I realized she was staring at me, in my eyes, and probably had been for the last five minutes I was staring at her gums, her nose, that flake of skin on her cheek – is her skin too dry? I forced myself to focus on her. I locked eyes with her. She smiled. I smiled back, glad I caught on to this moment of connection before it slipped away. While I was worried about making sure she looked clean and healthy and perfect, I had almost missed an opportunity to connect with her, to communicate to her through eye contact and facial expression that she is loved, and seen. Whoops. Being a mom, a good mom, requires so much more of me than I am used to giving. Giving a good nights sleep, giving solid love and attention when I am so fractured and frazzled I barely remember to give any to myself. I have to remember to give love to myself.
I’m learning to try and not be the ‘perfect’ mom, because there’s no such thing and it’s the road to martyrdom and madness. My husband, Bill, thinks I already give too much of myself. ‘You don’t have a life outside the house.’ He pointed out helpfully last week. I’m Canadian, living in northern Virginia. We’ve been here two years – two years in which I was not able to work as we were waiting for my Social Security number from Immigration, and two years in which we tried IVF and were successful with Ellie, on the first try. (Huzzah!) I suspect he is being a little hard on me, which is to say I reacted by defensively yelling that I was a first time mom alone, all alone, in a strange new country where I have no opportunity to meet people my own age and no support network, and by the way you work too damn much. (Cue tears).
It has never been easy for me to make lasting friendships – I like to think its because I’m too picky. I’m not lonely, I’m just discriminating. The truth is I’m shy, I’m more comfortable staying at home reading a good book than I am putting myself out there, braving the awkwardness of meeting new people, learning the ropes of getting to know strangers, being vulnerable, being open, those things are incredibly hard for me. I am still good friends with a circle of people I went to elementary school with. When I find what I like, I stick with it. I’m not shy, I’m loyal. That would have worked fine if I had stayed in the same province I was born in, unfortunately I married an American and moved hundreds (billions?) of miles away from my nice, safe support network of family and friends. And in six months we are moving again, to Houston, Texas. I’m actually excited about the move, and I tell myself, once I get there, then I will join groups and join a gym and get a part-time job and make friends, and stay out past seven on a weeknight and drive to places I’ve never been across a city I don’t know. I will get out of my comfort zone of couch-snuggie-cheesy Hallmark movie-popcorn-slippers-Ellie and I in PJ’s all day because its too cold to go outside. I will! And now, I will go put on my snuggie over my PJ’s and grab Ellie from her playpen and go watch the Hallmark Christmas movie I recorded last night.
Change comes slowly, if at all here in my own little Shire.