So I decided it would be interesting to keep a log of what I did during a typical day in my life. Only, the day turned out to be anything but typical. In fact, as I read back over my notes, I’m almost chickened out. I thought, “I can’t share this day with the world. This is not how our typical modus operandi.”
First of all, Madeline and I usually have at least one “field trip” – to a park, to the bookstore, to the grocery store, but not today. We’ve been sleep-deprived all week and needed a day to re-group. Nor do I lose my temper very often. But I did today. Then there’s the chaos that ensues during the bedtime hour(s!). Madeline has always had some sleep issues. She didn’t “sleep through the night” until well past the six-month mark. I voraciously read books on infants and sleep – Elizabeth Pantley’s book “No Cry Sleep Solution” being my favorite. We tried many, many different approaches (co-sleeping, putting her to bed while she was awake but tired, sitting in her room reassuring her, etc.) with little success. Then one day she just started sleeping better. I still didn’t have one of those kids who takes three-hour naps and asks to go “night-night,” but we were managing and for the most part, I thought our sleep issues were behind us. Until last Saturday when she refused to go to sleep. I am usually not one to cave in. I do my best to practice consistent parenting, but she was crying hysterically. Dave and I finally let her sleep in our bed. Big mistake: Ever since then she’s been pleading to sleep wedged between us. Only, she doesn’t sleep well in our bed. Nor do we. She kicks and twists and turns. She whimpers. She flings her arms and her legs like helicopter blades, over and over…
Now every night she’s asked to snooze with us. She’s cried and cried. It’s been awful and tonight was a record. So all I ask is that you don’t judge us, our behavior or our daughter’s.
Another caveat: This is a LONG blog entry, but that’s what you get when you have a LONG day in the frontlines of motherhood. I did try to be as accurate and honest and possible, which means I won’t be up for any Mommy of the Year Awards anytime soon. In all honesty, this was one of the toughest days I’ve had in a long time. Madeline is usually very easy-going, as am I (at least when it comes to being her mommy), but we definitely hit some rough patches today. Still, it’s an honest account of one particularly challenging day. Perhaps that makes it more real… every day can’t be glittery gold and full of sunshine and agreeable, angelic children, right? Plus, if I documented one of those near-perfect days, other moms might start to despise me or they’d probably think I was just lying through my teeth.
But here on these web pages, I am telling the gritty truth. Yet, one truth I neglected to mention in the course of my day is that despite everything – Madeline and my own tears today, my frustration and exhaustion and my seeping guilt – being a mom has made me happier than any other job I’ve ever had or any other part I’ve played in drama of life. This is my God-given vocation – to be a wife and mother – and I am thankful every day for my husband and for each tiny soul God gives me.
So buckle up and come along for one bumpy ride:
PART I: What I Did Today… (An accurate, dependable account of what happened on Friday, April 20, 2007 in the house of Kate, Dave, and Madeline Wicker)
12 a.m.: Officially, the new day has begun. I’m still not asleep. Madeline has started to boycott going to bed and didn’t fall asleep until after 10 p.m. last night. I caught up on email, brushed my teeth, chatted with my husband, flipped through a magazine, remembered that I still need to wash my face, came to bed, prayed and lay in bed feeling powerful roundhouse kicks and jabs while Baby started her nightly kickboxing routine in the womb.
3:03 a.m.: Baby is no longer kung fu fighting; she’s doing a headstand on my bladder. I get up and pee.
3:44 a.m.: Madeline wakes up sobbing. I sigh, waiting and hoping her cries won’t last long and that she’ll drift off to sleep. She does.
5:34 a.m.: “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” I wake up hearing more plaintive cries from my wonderful, but sleep-disordered 2-and-a-half-year-old. Usually, I go to her, but I’m too tired to move. I can’t help but think, “How am I possibly going to nurse a newborn all through the night AND cope with a toddler who still doesn’t “sleep through the night” on a regular basis? I start to pray, “God, give me the grace.”
5:44 a.m.: She’s still begging for Mommy. I am a horrible mom because I just can’t get out of bed. Dave eventually wakes up and says he’ll go to her. “No, she’s calling for me,” I say, slowly swinging my feet to the ground. “I want to,” he insists. “I haven’t gotten to spend much time with her. I miss her.” I relent. A part of me feels guilty for not “rescuing” her. Another part of me is resentful and wants Dave to stay in bed with me. “Wake me up when my alarm goes off,” he says as he stumbles to her room. I consider following after him. Instead, I go pee.
6:45 a.m.: I’ve been waiting in bed for the alarm to go off. Its hideous noise rings in my ears. I say another quick prayer, “God, please help me get through this day.” Then I go pee…again. I stagger into Madeline’s bedroom, toting my body pillow with me. I nudge Dave. He slowly stirs. Before passing like ships in the wee morning, he plants a gentle kiss on my forehead. Madeline’s supersonic hearing detects the lip-smacking noise and she lifts her head. “Mommy,” is all she says. “Go back to sleep,” I say softly. I lie next to her and spoon my stupid body pillow that’s supposed to help preggos sleep (I think at this point, I’d need a high dose of valium). Madeline gropes for my hand in the dark, finds it and holds it tightly.
8:29 a.m.: I wake up from a restless sleep. My knees crack as I try to make my escape. Madeline stirs. I immediately throw myself back on my body pillow. She’s still again. I move in slow motion and travel down the hall to my bedroom’s bathroom. I go pee.
8:41 a.m.: “Mommy, don’t go.” I hear. “Mommy?” Then the pitter-patter of feet. At least she slept in and we thankfully don’t have any plans today.
8:43 a.m.: Madeline finds me. I’m on the toilet again. “I’m happy now!” she exclaims as soon as she sees me. In her world, she apparently can’t be happy while in a horizontal position. “Go downstairs now, peas,” she politely requests. So our day has started. Or did it begin at 3:03 a.m. during my first voyage to the commode?
8:55 a.m.: I start my first load of laundry while my little cowgirl rides her golden steed (AKA a Palomino-hued rocking horse that was a 2005 Christmas present from Gaba and Papa). I hear her happily shouting, “Wee! Wee! Wee!”
9 a.m.: We’re heading downstairs for breakfast. Madeline pauses at the top of the stairs and makes some beautiful butt music and grins. “Excuse you,” I say.
“Ma-Ma pooted,” she informs me, still grinning. My potty-humor-loving dad would be proud.
9:08 a.m.: I give Maddy two breakfast choices – cereal or juice (AKA smoothie made with fruit and plain yogurt). She wants cereal, so I offer her more choices. At first none of the cereal we have in the pantry is appealing. She starts whining. Before I can prod her to make up her mind, I hear the washer thundering upstairs. “Washer make noises,” Maddy says. “Silly washer.” I race upstairs to the silly washer. It’s as off balance and out of control as I feel. When I return downstairs, she’s decided on Clifford’s Crunch (I feel like such a good mom because she’s opted for a healthy, organic cereal). She wants to help me “make” the cereal, so we get out her safety stool. I pour the cereal and milk. “More milk,” she requests, even though I’ve filled the small bowl to the brim.
“Honey, we’d need a bigger bowl. I can’t fit anymore milk.” Wrong thing to say.
“Different bowl,” she demands. I know this is typical toddler behavior, but it’s NOT typical Madeline behavior. I curse her lack of shuteye.
“No. Mommy already got this bowl out and looks your cereal is already in it, ready for you to eat,” I tell her. She complains a little more but eventually relents. I ask her if she wants water or milk to drink.
I pour the chocolate milk and ask her what kind of fruit she wants. Maybe I’m giving her too many choices, but she quickly replies, “Apple.” Apple it is.
9:15 a.m.: I sit down with Maddy and have a cup of coffee. I always drink decaf, but today I added one scoop of the real stuff. It also has skim milk and cinnamon in it. Tasty.
9:17 a.m.: I read my daily meditation from “A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days” aloud. Maddy listens. Its closing prayer reads: “Lord, send your spirit and lead me to wherever I am needed today.” No leading is necessary. I am sitting right next to a little black hole of need.
Madeline notices my breakfast and asks to have some of my “nola bar.” It’s not a granola bar, but a protein bar that’s good for the growing baby. I share a few bites with her. She sees me dipping it in my coffee. “Dip in Mommy’s coffee, too?”
“Not too hot?”
“No.” She dips the “nola bar” in my coffee. Then she requests that I read more about Jesus, as she dodges bites of that healthy, organic (not to mention expensive) cereal and spoons out only milk.
9:18 a.m.: Before reading more about Jesus, I tell Maddy I need some more coffee.
“Why?” she asks. The interrogating has begun. Fortunately, her apple distracts her from this line of questioning as she sinks her teeth into it. “Brrrr… Apple cold, Mommy!” she exclaims.
9:22 a.m.: I read about Jesus from one of her religious children’s books and sing songs like “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
9:25 a.m.: The washer is at it again. “Washer make funny noises!” Maddy says.
9:27 a.m.: I fix the washer and then return downstairs. “Read more about Jesus,” Madeline says. I pour a little more coffee into my cup. (Hey, it’s halfway-full with skim milk, okay?”) Maddy notices a picture in her book of Jesus holding children. “Where’s Mommy at?” she asks.
“She’s not in this picture. It’s just Jesus holding the children,” I explain. “Remember how I’ve told you that when Mommy’s not around [HINT, HINT: Like at night in your bed!], Jesus will take care of you. You can just imagine him holding you anytime you want.”
She considers this for just a moment. “No. Mommy hold Ma-Ma,” she says as she reaches for my arm and gently caresses it and smiles at me. I don’t feel worthy of her unconditional love.
9:38 a.m.: Madeline wants her apple cut up. I get up and cut the apple into slices and dust them with cinnamon. Then I say I need to get a little bowl to hold the slices. “Why?” she asks. Then out of nowhere, she bursts into tears. “No, Mommy, no! No cut it up!” Tears spill down her cheeks. This is how I know she’s exhausted. She’s such a happy child who only cries at night when nightmares creep into her mind. She’s not prone to unreasonable fits and requests. I know I’m tired because I don’t feel sympathetic; I feel frustrated.
I sigh. She settles down. “Just a tiny bite,” she says. “Want apple back.”
9:41 a.m.: I oblige this diminutive dictator and bring the apple back to her. When I place the apples in front of her, she bursts into tears again and immediately pushes the bowl off the table onto the carpet. There’s cinnamon and apples all over the carpet. I just vacuumed last evening. I throw my own tantrum; only I’m 28, not 2 and should be better able to control my emotions. “No!” I yell, slamming my hand on the table. She’s silent. So am I. I roughly pull her out of her booster seat and she falls onto her Thomas the Tank Engine train set and begins sobbing. She runs to me and clings to me with all her might. The guilt is already consuming me. I rock her like an infant. I feel more unworthy of her love than ever. I want to cry along with her, but I’m too tired, too defeated. I was just reading about Jesus; yet, only minutes later, I transformed into a mommy monster.
We both settle down. “Let’s clean up,” I say. We pick up the apple pieces together. The carpet is stained brown with cinnamon. We put the apple slices back into their original bowl. I can’t help but imagine they are pieces of her broken heart. I can gather them up, but I can’t make it whole again.
But her forgiveness is quick. “Mommy silly,” she says. I don’t feel silly. I feel like a horrible, horrible mom and person. I head to the kitchen and look through my arsenal of carpet stain removers. I grab some “Spot Shot.” I vacuum first and then I let Madeline use the vacuum hose on the kitchen floor while I tackle the cinnamon stains with the spray and some warm water.
“Ma-Ma help Mommy,” she says, smiling. And she does help me in more ways than she’ll ever know. I have to be a better person because of her. I have to be more humble and ask for God’s help. So I do – just a quick prayer. “God, give me the graces to get through this day.”
9:56 a.m.: Madeline wants to eat her apples now. “Ma-Ma won’t spill ‘dis’ time,” she says. I kiss her on the forehead and say, “I love you.”
9:57 a.m.: I call my mom for moral support while I clean up the kitchen. She’s not home, so I leave a message. Maddy wants to leave a message for Gaba, too. “Hi, Gaba,” she says into the phone. She then sings one verse of “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” “Wuv you, Gaba. See you soon.” She tries to hang up. I grab the phone and say one last good-bye. I hang up. “Where’s Gaba?” she asks.
“I don’t know, but she’s not there,” I say, thinking that you never stop needing your mom.
10 a.m.: I swig the rest of my cold coffee.
10:01 a.m.: “Finished now,” Maddy says. “Ma-Ma didn’t spill her apples ‘dis’ time.” As I’m getting her down from her booster seat, she says, “No Mommy push Ma-Ma down on Thomas. No hurt Ma-Ma.”
My heart breaks. DFACS should be called. “Oh, Maddy. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I say, looking into her bright brown eyes. “I shouldn’t have pulled you out of your booster seat like that. Will you please forgive me?”
“Nam.” She says her word for “yes” and takes my hand and kisses it. I thank God for such a sweet child.
“Mommy, play with choo-choo train?”
10:07 a.m.: Before playing with Thomas, I make a trip to the bathroom. I try to read just a bit of “Canticle” (a publication designed to help women grow closer to Christ) because God knows, I need to feed my faith right now. Maddy comes in, holding her baby doll. “Mommy, wrap up baby, peas.” I wrap her doll up like a burrito in a blanket we once used to swaddled Madeline with when she was an infant.
10:11 a.m.: We play with Thomas together. As we race around the track, Maddy says, “Better go fast. Thomas is late.” She informs me that he’s headed for the “quarium” (translation: aquarium). I look at her smiling face and notice I never washed it after breakfast. Blonde wisps of hair are caked on her face. Clumps of cinnamon cluster at the corners of her mouth, and she has dribbles of dried milk on her chin. Thankfully, I can’t see any remnant of tears her face.
10:19 a.m.: I can’t focus today. I’m wired, probably because I’m past the point of exhaustion. I change the kitchen trash and bring the trashcan in from the curb since today was garbage day and they’ve already made their stop at our house. Maddy follows me and brings in what she always refers to as “Daddy’s paper” (the “Wall Street Journal”). As if I don’t read anything cerebral. Does “Kid Cooperation” by Elizabeth Pantley, the book currently on my nightstand, count for anything?
10:23 a.m.: I have to pee again. Maddy says, “I lock Mommy in bathroom.” She shuts the door and stays in the living room. I hear her singing, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” It’s what she calls the “Mommy Song.” I smile at the tribute. When I’m finished, she is hiding behind the kitchen table. “Hide from Mommy,” she says. It’s all in jest, but the guilt creeps back in. I wonder, “Would she ever really want to hide from me?”
10:25 a.m.: We go outside to water our flowers. We have a pitiful bed of pansies (a few unseasonably cold spring days have wreaked havoc on Georgia’s plant life. I don’t have the greenest thumb, but I’m really not to blame this time for the paltry garden). We also have two flowerpots with begonias and one with a rose bush. I point to a rosebud that’s ready to burst. Maddy touches it. She then uses her own watering can to give the flowers water. “Not dying anymore,” she observes of the pansies. “Ma-Ma watering them to make them feel better.”
10:30 a.m.: This is not a typical day. We are still in our PJs. I had planned on going to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens today, but I think we just need to be at home to re-group.
10:33 a.m.: We play with “Ma-ma’s choo-choo train” again.
10:37 a.m.: I read Maddy two Thomas board books – “Go, Train Go!” and “Stop, Train, Stop!”
10:43 a.m.: I remember that I need to take my prenatal vitamin and also do a few Kegels. With my hand on my growing belly, I whisper, “I love you, Baby.” As if she hears me, she gives me a little kick and the left side of my stomach jumps.
Maddy sees me get my vitamin and for some reason it makes her think of gum (she likes to unwrap my gum for me). “Mommy, you want some gum?”
“Just a little bit?”
“No thank you.”
She ignores me and starts opening drawers and cabinets searching for my Trident.
“Where’s more gum at?” she asks. “Oh no, Mommy. Where’s gum?” She’s getting more desperate.
She sees me taking my fiber pill. “Put in Mommy’s mouth?” This is her new thing: She likes to pop my vitamins in my mouth. I let her put the prenatal vitamin in my mouth. “Not too big?” she asks.
I shake my head “no” and gulp it down. She returns to her search for my gum but is distracted when she finds her potty stickers. “Potty sticker! Need potty sticker from last night!”
I realize I forgot to give her a sticker last night for peeing on the potty before bed. How many strikes is that against me? She picks out a tiger sticker.
10:49 a.m.: This is insane. I have to pee again. When I return from another trip to the potty, Maddy is busy putting tiger stickers all over a piece of paper with a zoo scene printed on it. I pick up my dumbbells and try to squeeze in a few exercises. Who cares if I still haven’t put a bra on?
10:54 a.m.: Madeline notices me doing bicep curls. “Mommy exercise on TV,” she says, clearly thinking of the prenatal workout DVD I sometimes do in her presence.
“That’s okay. I’m just exercising a little bit while you play with your stickers.”
Now her mind is on the television. “Watch TV, peas.”
You’d think I told her the apocalypse was approaching. She throws herself to the ground in utter despair. Looks like my workout is over. Fortunately, the tantrum is short-lived. Still, once again I am surprised by her behavior. I suppose my expectations are too high, but I know she’s just exhausted.
We’ve been having sleep issues for over a week now. She’s never been an amazing sleeper, but we’d make great progress and then suddenly, last Saturday she threw a fit and didn’t fall asleep until 11ish. I’ve tried to be consistent and firm yet loving, but the problems continue. I am slightly panicked, knowing our baby will soon be here. Maybe we should try co-sleeping again. In the past, it hasn’t worked. She is an extremely restless sleeper and we only have a Queen-sized bed. Dave is about 6’3” and my growing belly and side-sleeping position makes it hard to sleep with a child who is comfortable with a foot in my butt and her head pressed against Dave’s thigh. Maybe tonight will be better…
10:56 a.m.: I tell Madeline we need to go upstairs to get a shower. She starts throwing another fit, but I am too quick for her and have her laughing before she can start crying. I’ve pulled out her three favorite plastic animal figurines – a yellow Lab that looks like Ivy, my parents’ dog whom Madeline adores, a black Lab, and a pig she calls “Babe.” I smell them and crinkle my nose. “P.U. These animals are stinky! They need a bath.” Madeline convulses into giggles and pretends to smell Ivy.
“P.U. They smell!” she agrees. “Wash ‘em up with soap.” One point for Mommy. We head upstairs.
10:59 a.m.: I toss in my first load of wash into the dryer and start the second load. I go to my bedroom and discover the door is locked. Madeline is inside. “Honey, please let me in.”
No response. “Sweet pea, please let me in.” Slight pause and then she comes and opens the door.
“Locked Mommy out and went to sleep,” she proudly announces pointing to my bed. If only she’d be so willing to climb into bed at night without me around…
11:07 a.m.: We finally get in the shower.
11:28 a.m.: Maddy is still playing in the shower stall (the water is off, of course). She’s babbling, consorting with her animals and amusing herself with an assortment of plastic cups and plates that litter the floor of the shower making it a regular obstacle course.
I feel my legs. They’re smooth. I actually shaved today. Hooray for Mommy!
I take advantage of the free time and quickly check my email. I find a few emails from Totus Tuus, my awesome Catholic homeschooling group; an email from a stationery website I ordered Madeline’s second b-day invitations from; and some good news – WritersWeekly.com wants to publish an essay of mine. Yippee! Before I can really celebrate, I hear urgent cries from the shower stall. “Ouch! Mommy! Mommy! My boo-boo hurts!”
I run to the shower. I discover Madeline covered from head-to-toe in soapsuds. She’s rubbing her right eye. “Tings, Mommy, tings!” There’s no water to wash any of it off. So we’re back in the shower together. “Pick Ma-Ma up,” she begs. I scoop up her slippery, naked, soap-covered body and hold her close. She clings to me. It reminds me of the first time I held and nursed her skin-to-skin, moments after she was born. I can feel us both relaxing as the warm water runs over our bodies.
11:54 a.m. “Boo-boo feels much better,” she informs me as we get out of the shower. I let Madeline pick out her outfit for today. She chooses a Cubs t-shirt from my mom and a Cubs sun hat. (See photo.) My die-hard Cubs fan of a mom would be proud.
11:59 a.m.: Maddy pees on the big-girl potty. Yippee! I give her a high five.
12:00 p.m.: Time to brush her teeth. I pretend her teeth are railroad tracks and the toothbrush is Thomas chugging across on his way to an important destination. Madeline opens wide.