Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My cooing miracle cries too

As I sat slumped on a mirrored stool in one of the shoe aisles in Target, Allison crawled at my feet, shoving a Size 9 tag in her mouth that she grabbed from the floor. Next to me was my red shopping cart filled with the final piece to her Halloween costume, a non-slip bathtub mat, a few cans of formula, a box of diapers and an economy-size pack of condoms.

I had retreated to what I thought would be a quiet place in the store where Allison could get her energy out. If I really stopped to think about it, she had put up with being confined to a seat for much longer than most active 11-month-olds would tolerate. I guess that's part of life when your house is 35 minutes from the nearest shopping center and you have a baby to bring along. Even the most seemingly simple outing turns into an event.

Moments before giving up and putting her on the floor, I had been opening the musical greeting cards to blast their contents one by one. A warbled version of "Celebrate Good Times" and cats meowing the birthday song were the only things keeping her from convulsing in frustration. Before that, I had been attempting to, well, actually shop, but after bending over for the fiftieth time to pick up the plastic polar bear and lion figurines that I had snagged from a toy aisle for temporary use, I realized I shouldn't bother.

I feigned interest in a pair of boots when an older woman appeared at the other end of the aisle. She stopped to admire my little girl.

"Oh, she's adorable," the woman said.

"Thanks," I said, tousling Alli's hair. "She just got a little tired of the cart."

"Mommy, I just needed to stretch my legs is all," the woman said in a sing-song voice, bending over to inspect Allison a little more closely. "Although, that tag probably doesn't taste very good."

"Yeah, I know," I said, making a vague attempt at pulling the cardboard from her teeth and clenched fists until the woman walked away.

Inside I was screaming, I'M DOING THE BEST I CAN! But I know that pre-baby me would've been appalled at such a sight. That mother doesn't deserve her child, I would've said to Jerry when relaying the story to him.

The truth is, reality is a little different. Right now, as I type, my legs and arms ache from all the running around, bending over, lugging, lifting and carrying I did today. My entire morning was spent prepping her for our outing, and the entire afternoon was spent handing over snacks, wiping a drool-coated chin and keeping curious hands occupied.

What I really wanted? Ten minutes to look for a new shirt. Something. Anything. Because every single piece of warm clothing I own is at least two years old after spending last winter in maternity wear, and I honestly can't remember the last time I bought something for myself. Just yesterday my thumb popped a hole through my faded black hoodie. All of my socks are threadbare at the heel. I only have one pair of jeans that fit me properly. And even though I'm not breastfeeding anymore, I'm still wearing nursing bras because that's all I have.

Instead I was hunkered down next to an unnerving amount of pleather, trying to figure out why my daughter would prefer a small piece of cardboard to actual toys.

This is what I prayed for, I tell myself. This is the miracle I desperately wanted and cried over two years ago after my miscarriage.

How could I have forgotten that heartache?

It's just that my days are still a blur. An intense struggle to get everything done in a continual sleep-deprived state while fighting off the feeling of inadequacy.

Sure, there are times when I look at Allison and I'm overtaken by love. I feel indescribably privileged to have this amazing little being in my life.

I hold onto those moments. They help get me through the ones when I summon the courage to pocket the saliva-drenched Size 9 tag and endure the looks of others when I push my crying child to the checkout lanes.


erica said...

One word: Babysitter. Perhaps Alison needs to spend an afternoon with grandma so you can rekindle the romance between you and your wardrobe?

erica said...

But seriously... I should've added that I can't even imagine how exhausting all of this must be. But it won't always be like this. She'll slowly but surely become more independent, which will take a much less physical strain on you. Although once the first boyfriend/drivers license comes along I suppose that's a different kind of strain eh? Just please please please don't forget to take care of yourself. Alison will be much happier for it as well.

Anonymous said...

"the plastic polar bear and lion figurines that I had snagged from a toy aisle for temporary use"

Seriously? And then you're putting them back for another baby to drool on? Ew.

Ray said...

Awww, Kelly! I wish I knew you personally (outside of this blog) because I would have so babysat for you. You DO NEED a BREAK! You so deserve one. Just know that you're a great mother to Allison and a hellauve strong one. Motherhood isn't easy (I'm not a mom but I know that), but to see Allison smile must be heaven. Think about her smile when she's screaming and you're feeling frustruated. And as for the looks of others, they won't be looking so much when they become parents. And if they do have kids, "they're morons!" ;o)

Take, care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly
I agree with the first comment and a comment someone left a couple of weeks ago about getting a nice old lady to babysit. But even a younger person. I'm 22 and I babysit every week for an afternoon for a family with a 7year old, a 9 year old and a baby of 3 months and its going very well. The mom is grateful so she can go out and get groceries without having to juggle the kids and i enjoy just spending some time with the kids. Ofcourse you need to be careful who you hire but its very commmon to get students or neighbours to watch your kid a few hours a week for you. It doesnt have to be an expensive professional. Drop word to collegeagues and neighbours asking if they know someone reliable. It will take so much strain of you!
good luck!

Anonymous said...

Just breath! You can do it!

Marsha said...

sweetie, get a babysitter! Once a week, for an hour and a half or something. Well, if the shopping is 30 minutes away, maybe more. But really, yes you deserve a cojuple of hours here and there to yourself. If I was around, I'd watch your baby (but you'd have to watch mine once in awhile) LOL.
That's why it's important to make mommy friends, so you can drop your kid off when you are losing your mind. Even if y'all go shopping together, you can split up and get it done.

There's a reason we turn into junior high girls again: shopping together, hanging on the phone, finding "girlfriends". It's not really that we lost our brain cells when we had children, we just discovered how travelling in a pack can be helpful LOL.
Says the introvert with very few close friends. However, I do have a few I'll drop my kids off with when I'm in danger of losing it.

And FTR, you have NO idea how much cardboard Riley actually ATE in her first couple of years. And how I deliberately pretended I didn't say it and would gasp in horror when the afore mentioned helpful little old ladies would mention it LOL. If it kept her quiet, so be it, yk?

Same thing with my extremely high needs oldest. She'd chew on my keys. Ewww, nasty, right? What the heck, if it let me go through the checkout ?

I'm just saying: we get it. It's okay. But for yourself, you need to get some time for yourself. And I 'd like to see you try for more sleep. It takes a serious toll on your overall physical and mental and emotional health to remain constantly sleep deprived. I know whereof I speak, of course, having lived through it with my oldest.

And I didn't even have a job outside the home.

Marsha said...

btw, anonymous' comments suck. Just so you know. Ignore people who are not helpful and don't sign their names, okay?

the plainsman said...

Hi Kelly, Part of the answer is posted right here already, you need some free time and a sitter will give that to you for those several waking hours needed to recharge. The other important part is to allow for that at all importatant sleep too, that helps with everything you need and a sitter can allow for that too, given your somehwat unconvential work schedule. And take Gisela's comments to heart, too, as unlike most of us friends in the virtual world, she is a good one that knows you in the real world, too.

Anonymous said...

You don't know me, but someone once recommended your blog to me and I've read it religiously ever since.

I have two boys. Instead of suggesting you get a babysitter (duh, like you haven't thought of that). I would just like to say, "I know how you feel." Parenting is exhausting, and until someone is a parent they will never ever understand that.

I've gotten 12 hours of sleep in the past four days. I either find myself as having insomnia, waking up to any little noise, or one of my boys crying. Some days, like today, I feel like I'm going to lose it. I often think, "Why would God make me a parent TWICE if I feel like this all the time?" And then I came across your post. Let me tell you, I feel 100% better. Hallelujah...someone does understand!!!

I'd tell you to "hang in there", but I'd punch someone if they told that to me. So, I'm going to just tell you, "I understand".

kimiedawn said...

I just want to say that I agree that you need some alone time, however I know how hard it can be to find someone to watch your little one. You just never know with people unless family. I still have not left my son with anykind of like babysitter and he's 8. He does go to his grandparents and to a couple of friends homes who I know really well, but I understand the tension you might feel leaving her with someone. Try and plan a time with Jerry or some one you really are comfortable with to watch her. Because what good will it do leaving her with a babysitter if your worrying about her the whole time? Good luck.

the plainsman said...

I had an additional thought while at lunch and thought Kelly is going to be saying, "yes, yes, I know a sitter and some extra sleep, but they do not really understand, it is not as simple as all of that" so I though I'd come back and add this.

Not too many years ago, I ended up a sole-caregiver to an aging parent in their final years. In that last year, I do not believe I had more than three hours sleep at a time and it did not matter if I stayed or went home and was called back. That sleep deprevation alone influenced every other part of my life, every decision I made or did not make during that time. My consulting business ground to a halt. And of course, the ending was completely different than being part of a child's growth.

So while I have not and could never be in your shoes exactly, I can say with clarity that the lack of those simple things like time to attend to what I needed and most importantly more sleep would have made a huge difference in my world, as it did eventually.

julie said...

I wish I was closer and could give you a hug... then send you out of the house while Shobha and I played with Alli for a couple hours. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

Just remember - you are not alone. :-)

Anonymous said...

You know what makes your baby happy. You know what will stop the blood-curdling cries & if it draws attention, who cares? You know your baby. That's all that matters!

As for the nay-sayers, screw 'em. I'm sure at one point or another they've handed their kid a dirty toy out of pure frustration/exhaustion. And if they haven't I feel sorry for the kids that are so micro-managed that they'll never experience any spontaneous fun in their life :-)

Anonymous said...

Even though I am only pregnant now with my first child I notice myself looking at parents differently than I once did. I take in the frustration and defeat of the parent and think to myself, that is going to be us in a few months and just smile at the family. Oddly enough the parents who look as though they are ready to run for the door without their tot seem to have a certain amount of renewed energy and hope that this too will pass.
You are doing a great job. Take it minute by minute and if you can grab two minutes of peace and quiet to yourself in the bathroom or the car cherish it. In the future you will be wishing to have Alli this age again for just a moment.

Alison said...

Kelly, Every day I look at my children and wonder how they turned out to be such wonderful young people in spite of my parenting skills ... or lack thereof. And sometimes it occurs to me that maybe my imperfections contributed to who they are. They are kind, thoughtful individuals who, I'm proud to say, will not get into Harvard.
Listen to Gisela. She knows what she's talking about.

Marcy said...

Just this morning I had one of These Moments as well. There was my 8 month old strapped in his high chair, alternately eating cheerios and whining, and I felt just so so so tired of being whined and fussed and screamed at ALL.THE.TIME. I try to remind myself of how lucky I am in those moments,to have this sweet and healthy baby boy, and that helps, but sometimes it's just so frustratingly hard and exhausting.

To top it off, I'm still breastfeeding and the kiddo refuses anything but the boob, and thus even getting a baby-sitter is only a viable option for an hour or 2 at a time. Unless she follows me around with him.

Anyway, I'm right there with you. This parenting gig is hard as hell. It's a good thing they're so darn cute, ain't it?

Anonymous said...

in reference to the babysit comment i left earlier, i do undertsand it must be hard to leave your kid with a stranger. Its a good thing you feel that way. The families i babysit for are usually home the first few times I come around. That way I can see how they handle their kids and she can get to know me and decide whether to trust me enough to leave the house for a little while (or even just the room, go upstairs in the beginning). I am sure you might have already thought of all these things like someone else mentioned and maybe you aren't waiting on advice like this, especially from someone who has no clue what it's like to be in your situation.
I guess im just wondering in that case why you havent tried a sitter :)

good luck

Gisela said...

The irony of you writing this post was that I have been meaning to mention that I left your house in utter awe of your parenting skills.

Kelly, I honestly imagined that you'd be one of those fussy, overprotective mothers that freaks out at paper in the mouth and only feeds their kid organic mush made specifically for proper brain development. In fact, I seriously worried that you would be this way.

Instead, I was delighted to see that you're pulling off an envious balance of caution and comfort. You're a fun mom and yet you're a mom. You've struck the right chords, and I think you can tell by Allison's behavior that she's happy and very obviously ahead of most children intellectually. She's sharp as a tack. That's you and Jerry there, no one else.

Give yourself a whole lot more credit than you're allowing. You're doing a hell of a job. And please get yourself a sitter for just a few hours! Even supermoms need to recharge.

PS- she doesn't even cry that much!

Jennifer Suarez said...

It gets better as they get older. I promise.

As a Mom I can completely relate to how you feel right now. Being a Mom is tough, and the people that don't understand that - aren't Moms (or Dads). It's as simple as that.

If it makes you feel any better - every single parent in that check out line that saw Alli crying - understood. Because we've all been there. That's why now, when I'm out with my oldest daughter and I catch a Mom in a situation like yours I always take time to give her a "I totally understand" smile or "I know how you feel" comment so hopefully she'll know she's not alone.

(((hugs from a fellow mother who "gets it")))

Kim said...

I left a comment on your blog on Wednesday suggesting you might like the weekly "His and Hers" column in the Southeast Missourian.

Later that day, you post this entry and I can't help but notice some striking similarities in what Callie wrote in her column last week to your post.

Perhaps you just strongly identify with Callie's feelings -- and perhaps she'd be flattered -- or maybe it's all just a coincidence -- but as a former journalist, I personally feel conflicted about this entry.

Kristin said...

I understand. Well, kind of. I'm fifteen, and I obviously don't have kids, but I babysat a baby all summer, whom is a month or two younger than Alli. Of course I was just babysitting, so I can't say that I completely understand, but I do understand what that hopelessness feels like. I hope things get better for you soon, Kelly.


Anonymous said...

I feel the same way as Kim. I read the "his and hers" column and then read this latest post...and I was like "whoa, this sounds just like the semissourian column." In fact, there is a paragraph that is almost exactly the same...

Give credit where credit is due, that's what you expect isn't it??

Malorie from Connecticut

Marina said...

Wow. Because two people can't have the same difficult experiences with kids without it being plagiarism?

I really don't think Kelly would do something like that. Not just because she's a journalist, but also because it's just stupid, and Kelly is a smart woman.

Kelly: You will get through this. I know it. <3

Emmy said...

it's 11:27 pm and my brain is almost mush from the day i just had running around after my kids and getting all the things i needed to do all done. i've been reading you for a long time now, kelly. i was even subscribed to you through xanga and had usually been signed in as emmy or loveme_hateme before i had changed it to everyday_emmy.
i came here when you had stopped blogging at xanga and i've read your posts whenever you post them.
you are a good person and a fab mom. i'd say to hell with those who don't get how hard you work in, as well as, outside of the home while you're wonderfully caring for/loving your sweet little girl. and many moms have those kind of moments. it's only natural. it's not at all some bad kind of reflection on your parenting that you let her chew on that shoe tag. and there will always be people who think they have the right to judge or comment to you when they see anything they think is not up to par or whatever. but you don't pay them any mind. b/c they don't matter. only you and your girl matter. so rock on, sweetie. you're going to be just fine.

as for the comment about your post being similar to another's.... sounds to me that pettiness and misunderstandings run deep in some. and they should watch what they say b/c what goes around really does come around. i mean, honestly. it's not like experiences can't ever be shared by more than one momma. seriously! who the hell has the patent on what can happen or be felt during motherhood? i've had, on and off, an experience or two that resembled one that some other mom had. i even laughed about it over coffee one time with another mom b/c we both were going through the same kind of inner-struggle and we didn't think it possible that what we felt or went through was the mom norm. we had thought ourselves alone and as failing when that was far from the truth. we realized how great we actually were.

and i think the anonymous comment with "ew" is just not right. what the heck is wrong with that person? how rude! i swear! some people! if you can't say something nice, they ought to not say anything at all! :-(

Wren said...

Pathetic if you have time to analyze another persons blog for similarities. There are millions of people that blog, I am sure some of the entries are going to be quite similar especially if they are going through the same aspects of life.

novelle360 said...


I hadn't had a chance to check out the link until now because I get next to no leisure time on the computer anymore, but if pressed, I guess I see a vague resemblance.

The only thing I can say is that obviously every word here is my own, and if nearly five years of writing almost daily doesn't offer some credibility, well, I don't know what would.

Now that I've read it, I absolutely identify with the column and love the concept of the dual husband/wife writers. I can't wait to read more ... maybe when I finally get that sitter everyone keeps advising me about!