First of all, my hotel stay was totally, ridiculously relaxing. I read in bed, ordered take out, did a facial mud mask, sat in the whirlpool, went to bed early and took breakfast in my room. I showered in the morning and I didn’t even have to rush or strain to be as quiet as humanly possible so as not to wake any babies. I even dried my hair with an actual hair dryer. It was outrageously, perfectly, exactly what I needed.
When I checked out in the morning and pulled my suitcase to my car, I was squinting into the cold, bright sunlight. It’s been rainy here lately. I felt like something new. I felt like a person, and not just a busy worker bee with nothing to call my own inside of me. I was about 15 minutes from home, but the suburban town of Bridgeville, PA felt exotic. It felt like one of those mysterious, anonymous towns you pass through after staying in a hotel room on your way to the beach. I looked around and thought, How weird that people just live here. I saw everything the way a visitor might, because that’s just what you do after you check out of a hotel. Despite the fact that Bridgeville, PA houses the Chuck E. Cheese that we frequent at least monthly, I looked around and made note of new things. Hm, I thought, There’s a Texas Roadhouse. I mean… I’m a vegetarian and I’d never dream of setting foot inside of it, but still. I’m noting it because it’s there and things seem new.
I had no idea it was even possible to feel this relaxed and… I don’t know. Normal?
I was working under strict Saturday morning orders from Daddy and the girls not to return home until this evening. I called to double check that they still didn’t need me, and went to a coffee shop to read. I walked around Mt. Lebanon in the sunshine, feeling like I had never really seen things like this, before. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it wasn’t just the hotel stay, but the fact that I never have a huge block of time to myself, to just use however I want to. Before I was a mommy, I did not spend my insane and unending free time trying as hard as I could to be good to myself and to respect and admire the world around me. I spent my pre-mommy time trying to black out the sun. Having babies opened my eyes to the way the world really looked, but I never had the opportunity to see things just for myself.
I tried so hard not to be mommy, last night. I was languid. I was lazy. I sent my husband a picture of myself, naked and red cheeked and melting, in the hot tub. I am myself, every day… but I lived only for myself over the past 15 hours. There has been a lot I’ve missed, running around, keeping a schedule, answering questions from the back seat, searching my bag for a pacifier. Had I ever even been to this little town without my kids? No wonder everything looked different.
Then I passed the hospital where I gave birth to Louisey. The day we brought her home was absurdly sunny, just like today. A little electric memory shot through my spine. Incapacitated and vulnerable from surgery, I sat in a wheelchair holding my 8lb. 2oz. baby in my arms. A nurse stood behind us, manning the chair's brakes, wishing us luck in a distracted tone. Kurt pulled up in our rattling red car and I thought, Here we go…
My stay at the hospital with Louise was amazing, considering what it was. We had very few visitors and so much time to hold and feed and stare at the face of my new daughter. It was uncomplicated and comfortable. We were just parents with the world in our hands. It was hard, too because I was reeling from the pain of a c-section. It had been so much worse than I remembered. The nursery had our baby, and Kurt helped me gingerly to my feet and I gasped and cried out at the unbelievable pain. My legs were shaking and then my teeth were chattering until my whole body was overtaken with convulsions. The amount of force it took me to speak aloud was too terrible, so I had to whisper. "I can’t, darling. I can’t lift my foot, not even one time." But he urged me forward, whispering back to me, "You can, honey. Just try."
He helped me into the bathroom and I thought I would faint. It was first thing in the morning. I should have waited until I could have a pain pill before trying this. Still… the nurses told me I needed to be tough. I needed to get up and get moving.
“I’m going to throw up,” I told Kurt and he rubbed my back while I bent, impossibly, torturously over the toilet, my stomach muscles contracting even though they couldn’t. It was not possible to bear this much pain and there was no way this was actually happening. Muscles that had been cut and forced apart the morning before, they were heaving, heaving, heaving until the edges of the world turned white and I thew up a string of saliva and bile. “I’m fainting,” I barely whispered, and Kurt lowered me to sit on the toilet seat. “I can’t,” I said again, my vision was a tunnel. I was bawling, and the force it took to cry was unimaginable. I wanted to be healthy. I had two girls counting on me. I needed to be whole, for them.
Kurt knelt in front of me on the cold floor of the bathroom. He placed his cheek on my bare thighs and he apologized for my pain. He thanked me for being so brave and he wished he could take my place. My sweet boy lover who was always quiet and still, who never cried. His tears were slick against my bare legs. His sadness took some of mine away. I could do this. I could get through this shower and I would feel a little better when I was clean. I had two girls waiting for me. I could stand with my pretty boy husband’s help and do this one thing.
There were a lot of one things to get through, but I did them. By the time we were leaving the hospital, I had even walked the length of a hallway a few times. This was okay, right? I couldn’t stand on my own or lift my children. I couldn’t walk upright or lie down without help, but I was ready to be a mom of two children, wasn’t I?
I didn’t feel even the slightest bit ready.
I felt like a baby. All raw and new and scared and helpless. I wanted to stay in my motorized hospital bed for forever, or at least for a few more days.
When we got home, Scouty instantly seemed like a big girl, where she’d been my baby only two days before. I slowly shuffled up the drive and saw that she and Grammy were playing with the water table in the front yard, waiting for the arrival of her little sister. I wanted to run to her and grab her tightly. I wanted to bury my face in her hair, to smell her and kiss her. I wanted to hold her and cry and cry for how terribly I missed her, and how scared I was to start our new life as a new family.
All of these things came flooding back to me, driving past the hospital, this morning. I pulled into the parking lot and circled around to the place where patients waited for their rides. I remembered waiting with my head on fire for Kurt to pull up and take my baby from my arms. I remembered fighting off an impuse to panic and tell the nurse, I’m not ready! Take me back inside! I need more time here, with you. Please, I'm not ready! I remembered smiling nervously at Kurt after settling uncomfortably into the passenger seat. He asked, “Are you okay?” and I nodded and wanted to scream.
This morning, I drove away and it was nine months later. My Louisey is no longer a tiny bundle. She barely fits into my arms, anymore. She laughs when I nuzzle my face into her neck. She waves and crawls backward. She dances when I make up songs about how she’s the cheesiest Louise in the world. She reaches for me and smiles so easily. She’s a fat, happy baby. She’s had nine months of being the most loved baby in the world. I knew this would happen.
Pulling away from the hospital that day with a silent, unfamiliar infant, some part of me knew that everything would be okay. I had daddy and my Scouty, and Louise was just going to be another part of our beautiful life together. She was part of us, one of our family. We might not know her, yet, but she was us. Scouty had been scary, too. Even more so than this new baby, and we loved her now so easily that it was just like breathing. I knew that I would get used to her, my Louisey Lou, Cheesy Louisey, the Cheeseman. I knew that I would be whole again. I had two girls and the love of a fair-haired, quiet boy who never cries... only sometimes, when the sorrow is too much for one person to handle. I had everything I needed. Somewhere inside, I must have known that I was enough.
So, I had a night to myself last nightand things seemed new, this morning. No matter where I am, those girls, the way I made them and how they were taken from me. How they scared me and how they saved me. No matter how hard I try to be just a girl in a hot tub, I will always be them. Throwing up under the yellow bathroom light in the hospital and fainting from the effort. Fighting and surviving for the chance to serve them. Even when I'm lazy and naked, eating pizza on starched hotel sheets, I will always be a sacred and perfect thing. Things will always be changing, and no matter how much I am me, I will always be them, too. I will always be mommy. I'll never be perfect and I'll always be at odds with myself and the things I want to be, but I'll always be enough and thiers, too and I couldn't be more elated. If I ever had any doubts about it, I can say, I am whole, again.