It’s June 1970. Mother has arrived and wants to be helpful. She is, and I’m grateful. I also wish I could just say, ‘No, I’d rather not have you in our bedroom right now while I’m nursing Daughter. I need to be alone with her.’
But I can’t get the words out of my mouth. She comes in and sits there watching us, trying to get a conversation going. I’m caught between guilt and despair. This feels instrusive. A familiar feeling from my childhood and youth.
I feel self-conscious. My body tenses up just when I need to be relaxed and focused on nursing Daughter. When Mom leaves to go back to Savannah, I think things will be easier. They are not.
I have no idea how to be a mother of two children in diapers. Nothing prepared me for the avalanche of non-stop diaper-changing, non-stop feeding, cooking and washing dishes, non-stop laundry plus hanging every diaper out to dry and folding every piece of clean laundry and making sure it’s in the right place, in order, so that I don’t go crazy the next time I need to use whatever it is I just put away.
Exhaustion. Mental and physical exhaustion from planning ahead, making sure I have things ready to go in the morning before the first child in diapers wakes up hungry and on go, setting the alarm early to get a few quiet minutes with myself if I can just get my feet on the floor. And now our lovely daughter is stirring.
Then there are night feedings. I almost forgot them. Blissfully quiet time with Daughter. But why don’t I have as much milk as she wants? I don’t know. Am I drinking enough water? Eating enough food? Resting enough? No. No. and No.
I thought I knew how to do this. Even with D home for most of the summer, helping as he’s able, I’m overwhelmed, undernourished and sinking. For the first time since I became a mother I’m feeling depressed, teary, and resentful. Potty training seems ages away. So does any semblance of ‘normal.’
Daughter is hungry. I get comfortable on the sofa, grateful for time to be off my feet and focused on her. Son comes along, almost on schedule, and wants to watch. No problem. Just sit right here beside me while I nurse Sister.
It seems, however, that Son wants me to watch him. He shows me things he’s doing or looking at out the window. He demands my attention. Sitting beside me doesn’t last more than a few minutes. I’m still trying to nurse Sister.
Now he’s pushing boundaries. D isn’t around, and I’m frantic. Words don’t work. A snack doesn’t even seem to help, except when his mouth is full. Now my relaxed state of mind and body are gone, and Daughter is crying for more milk than I have to give her.
I’m juggling and all the balls are dropping to the floor, bouncing into another room or disappearing under the sofa.
Now look at that. My hair is disappearing! Falling out in huge hunks every time I wash it. I’m alarmed. Sores show up inside my mouth and won’t go away. They burn every time I eat—especially pineapple or citrus.
Even worse, my milk is drying up! Daughter nurses for a few minutes, seems happy, then she’s crying from hunger. There’s nothing left. I’m frantic. Can it get any worse?
It can. The diaper pail is overflowing with stinking diapers from two children, not one. When is Son going to catch on that being potty trained is wonderful for him—not just for me?
Getting up in the morning feels like punishment. And no matter how many things I try, the exhaustion and despair don’t go away. Not even when D pitches in do some of the housecleaning, cooking and care of our children.
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 August 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1970