Right before we moved this summer, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Actually, it was more like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad MOMENT, that then soured an otherwise totally fine day.
There are some moments in parenting that you count on to be iconic. Moments that you know, in advance, will evoke great emotion, moments that will act as touchstones in your journey as a family, moments that will overcome you with pride or despair or love or sentimentality or fury or joy.
Classic stuff, like holding your baby for the first time, sending your kid off to the first day of kindergarten, your child's first public temper tantrum, baby's first epic diaper blowout, the stuff of memories!
But then, there are these unexpected, iconic moments in parenting. Moments that, completely unpredictably, make you feel like an absolute, shining, paradigm of mothering, or alternately, moments that make you think that you actually might have made a terribly poor decision in deciding to procreate.
Today, I will tell you about a moment that falls into the latter category. (Because, OF COURSE I WILL.)
So, this happened back in June. We were preparing to move. Again. The house was full of boxes. I was full of angst and hormones.
Esther Rose was not quite three months old yet, and I was still desperately trying to find my footing in this whole third baby thing. (truth time: STILL kind of trying to find my footing.)
It was about 10 am, the kids were playing in the living room, and Rosie started to wake up from her morning nap. And, of course, she was waking up hungry.
I go to pick her up, and as soon as I do, Maggie yells that she needs to go potty. She's not quite able to get on and off the big potty by herself, but she refuses to use the little potty anymore, because she is not a baby, SHE IS A BIG GIRL.
I run into the living room and hurry her into the bathroom and onto the potty because the time between when she says she needs to go potty and when she starts to actually GO potty, is a very, very, very small window. And it has no regard for actually being ON a potty.
So, I'm in the bathroom, holding a newborn in one arm and hoisting a toddler onto the toilet with another arm, and while I'm doing this, Henry is running around in the living room. Not for any particular reason, just running, in the manner of 4 year old boys everywhere.
And then he fell. Not for any reason, just fell, in the manner of 4 year old boys everywhere. And he slammed his face into the wood floor and screamed the scream of real, true, pain. (As opposed to the pissed-off, 'I'm mad I fell' scream, which is much more common, and much less worrisome.)
So, I tell Maggie I'll be right back, and I leave her in the bathroom and run into the living room to find poor Henry sitting on the floor with a bloody nose. I go hug him with my free arm (remember, still holding tiny baby in other arm) and inspect the damage. Thankfully it doesn't seem awful, not a gusher, just a good punch-in-the-nose bleeder. So I leave him still crying (understandably so) on the floor and go grab a towel and an ice pack to help him clean up and get the bleeding to stop.
While I'm doing all this, Maggie has of course finished peeing, and has begun yelling for me to come get her off the potty. At some point, she decided I wasn't moving fast enough, and decided to try to dismount on her own.
It didn't go well for her, you guys.
She fell off of the potty, face first, into the edge of the white porcelain bathtub. If Henry screamed the scream of real, true pain, poor sweet Maggie's scream was true agony.
I run into the bathroom and find her face covered in blood. I start to panic, grab a towel and just kind of press it on her face, having NO idea where the blood is coming from. Upon further inspection, it was clear that her lip was split in two places, one on the outside, and one on the inside, and the majority of the bleeding was coming from inside her mouth. (In retrospect, it is a great mercy that she didn't knock any teeth out.)
So, I'm holding trying to stop her bleeding, trying to put ice on her mouth (and, honestly, trying to determine if she's going to need stitches), Henry is still crying and still ALSO bleeding, and poor, hungry, neglected Rosie, finally starts to scream. Because, yo, it is LOUD up in this place, and now she is HANGRY.
Three sweet children. Three very real legitimate needs. Pitiful crying, times three.
Only one mommy.
You see the problem, yes?
I sat down on the floor of the living room, used one arm to get Rosie latched on and eating, the other arm to hold Maggie on my lap while also holding ice on her face, and apologized to Henry for not having another arm for him, and told him to come lay his head on what was left of my lap and to keep the ice on his nose until he felt better. (Once the crying had died down, I also used good 'ol Siri to call the pediatrician to see what the protocol was for deciding if inside-the-mouth-wounds need stitches.)
And, I just have to say this last part. People, I hate blood.
I hate blood and I hate bleeding and blood was EVERYWHERE. On all of my children, all over my floor, all over my clothes, it was even in my hair. MY HAIR. That may be selfish, but it feels like a very significant thing to me. MY HAIR.
In the end, it all ended up okay. The bleeding stopped, and Maggie did not need stitches. Henry's nose was okay. Rosie finished eating, and felt MUCH better. Eventually, I had BOTH arms to give Henry and Maggie each all the hugs they needed.
But in the moment, the "on the floor, everyone needs me and I'm not helping anyone" moment, it was really, truly awful. It was stressful, yes, but mostly it was sad. Like deep, heartbreak, despairingly sad.
It made me feel like I was failing everyone. Like I should have done better. I should teach my kids not to run in the house, and I should not leave my 2 year old alone on the potty, and I should feed my baby BEFORE she loses it, and I should not care if there is blood in my hair. It felt like everything I had was still just not enough.
The hard part is, that I think there really is some truth to that last statement. Everything I have is not enough sometimes. It's a hard thing, but it's a true thing. Sometimes, everything I have, all my love, all my attention, all my effort, all my good intentions, is not enough.
Sometimes, it's not enough for our really hard days.
It's not always enough to protect them, it's not always enough to prepare them, it's just not always enough.
And since the day Henry was born, since the day I became a parent, I have struggled mightily to make peace with that truth.
I would love to be able to end this post with a beautiful summary of how I HAVE made peace with that truth, how I AM trusting God to take care of my children in the spaces and moments where I cannot, trusting myself to be a good enough mom, trusting that all things will work out well in the end, and that the good of our good days will be enough to overcome the bad of our bad days.
But the truth is that I'm still kind of hobbling along. Still reminding myself every day that what I have is sufficient for my children. That our pairing was not an accident. That I was chosen to be their mother, and they were chosen to be my babies, and that there is grace to be found in my shortcomings and mercy to be found in all of our mistakes. I'm still haltingly praying for the Lord (not me) to be their ultimate source of joy and peace and comfort. I'm still trying not to rely on my own strength, my own shallow reserves of patience and kindness. I'm still telling myself every day that the same God who loves me and cares for me and has met me in my darkest, loneliest moments also loves my children. That the One who has never left me will also never leave them.
But it's hard. And even though I'm really, really trying to be super-zen mommy, the honest truth is that I'm still panicking when I drop Henry off at preschool. Because, what if he needs me and I am not there? What if he needs me? What if I am not there?
I'm still telling myself, over and over, the exact same thing I'm telling my kids: Jesus is there. He is always there. You are always loved and you are never alone.