While trudging through the snow carrying my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to her Little Ranchers class in 20-degree weather this morning, I noted the burn in my hamstrings. The soreness has been lingering since the last time I trudged in the cold, several days ago on a frigid morning solo speed walk. As I clomped my boots one foot in front of the other, toddler on my hip, it occurred to me that motherhood is always basically being in some form of pain. Neck pain, back pain, leg pain, heart pain. The way this role has captured the unique paradox of desperately loving someone(s) so much that you yearn to be a part of every single detail of their life and yet sometimes the intensity of it all makes you crave your bed and sleep at the very least, and complete disappearance at the most extreme.
It reminds me of that scene in Bad Moms when the unlikely trio of mothers ends up sitting at a bar sharing their fantasies. One mom confesses she imagines getting in a car accident, not bad enough to kill her, but just impactive enough to land her in the hospital for a while, a room all to herself, to be waited on, doted upon, and sleep whenever she wants. Naturally, these musings ignite laughter in the regular moms who watched this movie, because let’s face it, they’re saying out loud some of the things we’d never admit cross our minds.
I have three children. Their ages are 12, 9, and as stated, 3 ½. My eldest has been on a school trip over the last three days that involved crossing a mountain pass (after it opened back up again and the buses could continue on after being delayed at a rest stop) and a great deal of outdoor activity in single digit temperatures. I haven’t ceased monitoring the weather and the road conditions since I watched the bus drive away from the school on Monday morning. My son, age 9, has recently been having trouble with his sleep rhythms. Sleepwalking, difficulty falling asleep, anxious thoughts of losing family members to death (especially me, the mom). I’ve been trying all the things to remedy this. Last night was a combination of essential oil blend, a weighted blanket, a melatonin, and allowing him to sleep on the couch closest to my bedroom. Go ahead, judge any ingredient of that cocktail that you choose. It worked, and we all get desperate sometimes. My 3 ½ year old daughter experiences leg pain, at night, most often in her right leg, and while I chalk it up to growing pains, I’ll expose the God’s honest truth by telling you it absolutely sends me into a tizzy of horrifying ‘what if’s’ that keep me awake long after I’ve calmed and settled her into the nook of my arm. She sleeps soundly, I stare into the darkness and question terminal illness. It is a cruel and unusual form of torture.
The cruel and unusual form of torture, of course, has a name. Anxiety. I am a deep sufferer of anxiety. My Apple watch tells me to breathe about 20 times a day. After all, it is monitoring my heartrate and can detect when that pumping spikes. I will say, hats off to Apple because it does work to receive that reminder, albeit temporarily. So between our rapid heartrates, our aching muscles and joints, the debilitating 3 AM worry that plagues us in the dark, the guilt of our addiction to our phones (Thanks Apple), and the incessant self-examinations of our parenting methods (making it up as I go, y’all), where do we find peace? I find myself sitting here with the ever-present knotted stomach and thinking, am I the only one?
My answer to that question is ‘absolutely not.’ On the flip side of this coin, we mothers know intimately what it means to sacrifice self for the benefit of others. Because of our children, we have been given the gift of understanding unconditional love. We soldier on, every single day, to reach for the places we are going, gently forgiving ourselves when we lay our heads down at night if we haven’t yet arrived. To be frank, I really can’t imagine a more powerful, resilient group than mothers, across the entire world. Regardless of your culture, your upbringing, your methods, if you stay at home or if you work, the number of offspring you choose to create… if you are laying it all out on the line day in and day out, you are a force to be reckoned with. For me, my peace that I so desperately crave, it comes from God. I grasp the faith that He made me a mother to my three babies for good cause, and He expects to see me through raising them. In congruence with that notion is the village He put in place to help me. We weren’t meant to do this alone, ladies. Regardless of what your personal belief system may be, embracing the family and friends and community around us is vital to the success of our children, and the reprieve for ourselves. It isn’t a skill I’ve honed well. But it is one I’m working on, and let’s face it, when we are working on something, there’s bound to be some pain. Thank goodness for the joy that nestles itself so closely to the pain; like us, it is a force to be reckoned with.