They say this will pass. This perspective indicates that I’ll miss this stage or that one. That I’ll yearn for these challenges when it comes time to battle the emotional hurts and obstacles yet to come in this work of raising human beings.
But I have no energy left to cope with more than this moment in which I find myself. Chasing a now 16-month-old demands all that I have.
During the last few months, I’ve found myself not feeling myself.
Of course, it’s difficult to bring yourself to do the soul work of creativity in such a state. Which is why I’ve been absent from this space for so long. With my return to work, coupled with the tendency I have to say yes to my own expectations more than I say no, I have taken on too much. In this fatigued state, with a toddler who has been sleeping less than normal, despite being busier than ever, I haven’t had much left over.
This tale sounds so similar even to me, and not wanting to burden you, dear readers, who are also juggling your own struggles, I’ve kept mostly silent.
The ingredients for mama blues
Back in September, Joel had been working a lot of overtime, which happens to all of us on occasion. The extra time I spent parenting solo, coupled with a long period of interrupted sleep as we battled the constant struggle of teething, the excitement of walking, and whatever else I can come up with as an explanation for frequent nighttime nursing had me at my wit’s end.
Add to that the Groundhog Day experience that has come with an extended maternity leave that has me waking each day in monotony, and you have enough of the ingredients for mama blues.
Seeking the company of similar-minded mamas, I headed off to the Friends of Muskoka Midwives annual picnic on one of those mornings when the walls of my beloved home seemed to be closing in on me. There I found so much to soothe the soul.
Joanna Crichton Photography was offering mini sessions, and I’m never one to turn down a chance at having her capture the moment for us. I was drawn to more of her work, but also time with a friend to whom I could be vulnerable with.
Learning to be in the moment
As I made my way down the grass at the park toward a beautiful tree that hung over the nearby river where Joanna had set up to photograph a line up of families, hunger struck my toddler. While we waited in line, Finn gobbled a peach, the messiest of all snacks, in the outfit I had planned for him to be photographed in.
Someone called out to the mother who was photographed ahead of me to say that her daughter is always so well-dressed. Funny, I thought smugly to myself, that’s what people used to say of Finn. Today, all I could manage for him was a shirt and pants, the few remnants of his wardrobe that hadn’t yet hit the dirty laundry pile. Now even that was soiled.
In my fatigued state, I try to shrug off the feelings of helplessness and dig deep to make it through this moment.
Surely you know this moment. You’ve arrived at your destination, an utter mess and with devastation in your wake, but arrived nonetheless. What of your energy that remains allows you to care not for the state of the stained shirts, the inability to manage mere small talk like an adult, and how you’re going to get through more than the moment at hand.
As if that weren’t enough, my water-loving boy recognizes a warm, end of summer day when he sees it. He took this opportunity to run straight for the water and there he remained. I struggled to chase down my busy toddler as he ran to the beach. It felt a lot like trying to catch an elusive chicken. Or here’s a comparison I can relate to – a dog with a fresh poopy diaper in its clutches. True story.
Unable to regain control of the situation, I gave in to Finn’s simple pleasure of splashing around. I stripped him of his clothes, trying to pretend I didn’t want to burst into tears.
Actually, maybe I did.
More than once, exasperated, I asked Joanna how she was ever going to photograph us in this scene of utter mom fail. Calm as ever, she reassured me that this is the moment I’m in and it’s okay that it’s hectic and it’s okay that it feels crazy. She said, just be in this moment.
Of course, she was right.
Looking back at the photos she took that day, it’s not the hot mess I felt that stands out to me, but rather a happy toddler, eager to experiment and explore the world around him, safe in the knowledge that his mama is there, not far behind him.
I see a beautiful day, and a lesson in motherhood captured in stunning photography.
I hear my friend’s voice telling me to breath and be okay with the mess of today.
Funny, the difference a shift in perspective can make. Suddenly, my memory of that day is coloured by how Joanna saw us that day, and all of these difficult days suddenly seem a little easier.