This morning, very early long before the sun peeked through the window blinds, I woke up to Madeline’s announcement, “I have pee dripping down my leg.” Not exactly an alarm clock, but hearing these words has the same effect.
I stumbled out of bed and dug in Madeline’s drawer for a pair of panties. Then I heard Rae’s first squawks of the day. As soon as I sat down to nurse the baby, Madeline expressed another need. “I’m hungry,” she said. One child fed, another seeking sustenance. I told Madeline she’d have to wait. She did. She had no choice.
After Rae finished her meal, I was downstairs rushing to get Madeline’s breakfast ready and to get some coffee in my system so I could kick my drowsy body in to gear. (And to think I used to be a morning person!) I was getting ready to open the fridge when I noticed a mother’s prayer I’d wisely posted for moments like these. Oh how I needed that prayer. I paused and read it silently. When I got to the line about asking for patience when I have none left, Madeline, hovering at my legs, started asking, “What are you dong?”
“Praying,” I told her.
“Why are you praying?”
I didn’t respond.
“Why are you praying?”
Louder. “Mommy, why are you praying?”
Inside I was screaming for her to be quiet, begging for just a moment’s peace and wondering why, even when I was in the midst of praying for patience, I had none.
Instead, I just told her I needed to. And I did: I needed to pray. I needed to find respite in God and in his graces.
Later, I found myself needing him again. Madeline had just finished her swim lesson. She was shaking all over and her lips were a bluish tint…really. I was feverishly drying her off with a towel and was about to get her dressed when I heard: “Attention members and guests. Will Kasey Wicker please report to the Play Center? Kasey Wicker to the Play Center.”
That had to be me. Surely, there wasn’t a Kate and Kasey Wicker both with kids up there. My heart dipped in my chest. This was the first time I’d ever left Rachel Marie in a nursery. I handed her over and then squeezed in a quick 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer before going to retrieve Madeline from the pool area. Was she hurt? I imagined her being trampled by a bigger kid or face planting on the ground. I’m normally a pretty mellow mom, but I just couldn’t imagine why they’d need to page me unless she was hurt. I’d left a happy baby with a full tummy. What possibly could have gone wrong in just over 20 minutes?
I raced up the stairs to the Play Center, holding a shivering Madeline, her bookbag, an oversized, obnoxiously big purse (not a fashion statement, simply a necessity being the mom of two little ones) and a wet towel.
“Did you page Kate Wicker?” I asked the first person I saw.
I received a blank stare in return.
“Kasey. You paged Kasey Wicker. I think you meant Kate Wicker,” I explained, while scanning the room for my bloody child.
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Are you the mom of Rachel?”
“Yes. Is she okay?”
“Yeah. We just couldn’t settle her down,” said one of the Family Y employees. Then he turned a stroller around and strapped inside was my little Rachel Marie, her face red and splotchy and stained with tears. As soon as she saw me, she started crying hysterically. No blood, but my typically happy, laid-back baby was beyond distraught.
I wanted to scream at them. Why didn’t you come and get me sooner? Instead, I raced to her and scooped her up in my arms, feeling her tiny body quiver in my embrace.
“She wouldn’t take a paci,” the employee added.
“Maybe she’s hungry,” another suggested.
No, no, no. She just needs her mommy. Haven’t they heard of separation anxiety?
I held her close and she immediately stopped crying and started saying what sounded like “Mama” over and over. (She’s just started doing this and every time it makes my throat catch, even if it’s just by accident.) She was still shaking and trembling and so was Madeline, whom I’d left standing alone at the Play Center’s entrance, although she was quivery for different reasons.
“Can I just get her dressed here? She’s freezing. I was down in the pool area trying to get her dressed when I heard the page.”
“Sure. There’s a bathroom over in that room.”
I needed my arms free to help dress Madeline, so I put Rae down and she was reduced to hysterical crying again. I have never, ever seen either one of my babies like this. She was an earthquake of sobs, ready to split apart at any moment.
As for Madeline, she was dawdling, seemingly impervious to her sister’s squalling, looking around the room, pointing to baby gear we owned. “Please, Madeline, help me get you dressed. Can you put your jeans on for me?”
“No, I can’t,” she said, not in a bratty tone at all. It was a simple fact. Her body was still damp. It was like putting clothes on Barbie – no easy feat. I wrangled with her jeans, trying to ease them over her slippery legs.
Meanwhile, Rae continued to bawl.
When Madeline was finally dressed, I found a rocking chair and plopped down and immediately began nursing Rae. For the record, I’d just nursed her before dropping her off at the nursery. I knew she wasn’t hungry, but she did need to be close to Mommy and there’s nothing like a breast to pacify a crying babe. She immediately settled down and her little hand reached for my face. That’s when I felt a rush behind my eyes. I tried to blink back the tears, but Madeline never misses a beat.
“Mommy, why you crying? What you worried about?” she asked. “You worried about Baby Rae?”
And my mothering skills. And the fact that I sometimes can’t seem to take care of both my kids, not very well at least. And my lack of patience sometimes. And the fact that my one chance at a break obviously isn’t going to work for Baby Rae for awhile. And how I feel like a big mommy loser right now who abandons her 7-month-old and gives her preschooler hypothermia.
Hearing my simple “yes,” Madeline came over to us and gently kissed her little sister. Then she hugged me, as best she could while standing on her tip toes and stretching her arms as far as they would reach. And in that small gesture, in a moment when I almost felt as if I could not go on, I could not possibly meet these children’s endless needs, and I had nothing left to give, I thought, I can do this. This little child – my child who sometimes drives me crazy refusing to nap or to poop on the potty or with her dawdling or her waking me up at the crack of dawn because pee’s dripping down her leg – is like the most encouraging prayer. In her wisdom and through her love for me, she’s letting me know that I can do this. She was my prayer answered.
“The eyes of all look hopefully to You…” (Psalm 145:15)