About 60% of my silence here lately has been straight up too.much.busy and too.much.tired. But the other 40% is an odd sense of being Just Not Inspired. Not inspired enough to write anything pretty. Not inspired.
Maybe it’s winter dragging on. Or my soul reserving energy because it’s about to meet a whole new person for whom it will be undone, and being undone takes all of the energy. Maybe it’s this semester, these students, this much shoveling by myself, this much housework, this much grading, this much never-ceasing-beloved-exhausting toddlerhood. But whatever it is, I feel only about half alert most of the time. Maybe even half on a good day.
But inspired or not, Dragon is coming. Our Dragon is coming. And soon.
So here’s where I am as I prepare to be ripped open by love and exhaustion all over again. If I were a betting girl (I’m not) I’d say this kid’s face will inspire me. With some sunshine and that new baby smell and his face, I’ve got a good shot at finding my voice again.
In the meantime, Bram is sick. Has been for two weeks. And even before that, he was clingy. Clingy, needy, full of expressions of and demands for love. It feels like anticipatory separation anxiety. Because he is smart. He knows. He knows things are about to change and he doesn’t quite know what that will be like and so mama and pomo have to Stay Close. He’s even been asking to be front-wrapped again, which hasn’t been much of a thing since last summer. It is absurd. He is too big. Too tall, really, because I can’t even see over his head when he’s up there. But still. But still. “Carry me, mama. On your front.” I get to hear that. Every day. So yes. Need me this much for awhile longer. It is better than everything else.
And I made it through most of the baby-prep with relative ease. There are still cabinets to organize. Closets. Book bins in the basement. Things To Do that may not get done but that feel like they need to get done because God knows they may not ever get done if not now. And there’s a hospital bag to pack. And this seems to be a wall for me. I just can’t do it. Maybe I think he will come once I do and won’t if I haven’t and I’m not ready? Or maybe I’m just not prepared to face the fact that we’re really and truly going to leave this house without our little kid. For, like, days. Sigh. A hospital bag. It is a sudden shift. It is a new life. It is a wall.
In fact, I feel a little made of walls lately. I crave Stillness. Or even when I don’t, I feel vaguely Paralyzed (in the James Joyce/Ireland/Gabriel from “The Dead” metaphorical sense). I feel anticipation for Dragon, but in a subdued, uneven kind of way that feels cheap and insufficient to his monumental self. Because soon I won’t just be Bram’s mama. Soon I will sometimes have to choose his brother. Or worse: want to. That is a wall. It is confusing. It is impossible and also inevitable. And so: paralysis. And stillness as a way of making sense. I want to just sit down and drink some water. Sit with it until it makes sense. But there’s this toddler with a cough and a thousand needs that make up my days and nights. And his pomo with anxieties and late-pregnancy concerns and a need for rest. And so there’s no stillness. And I feel made of walls.
And that’s what I have today. But I did a writing exercise back in January that I’d like to share here. The prompt was With these hands. Here’s what I wrote.
With these hands, I rub my son’s back, his hair, his feet. His small arms and shoulders. I tuck my hair behind my ears and pull it around the back of my neck. I reach out. Offer fingers for steadying or picking up or taking something real or invisible, something or nothing passing from Bram’s even smaller hands. I hold tight. I carry. I roll blankets and towels and woven wraps. Fold clothes: big and impossibly small, all from muscle memory, all without thought. I wipe food off of fingers and faces and floors. I test hot steamers to see if they’re cool enough. I make coffee. I type. I make fists when I’m trying to fall asleep: notice and try to relax and straighten. I ache. I wear rings that say, in my son’s word, “married.” I take photographs to try to remember, hold still, capture. I touch my wife’s face. Hold her hand. Pull her nearer. Feel for movement beneath the stretched skin of her belly. Feel for connection. I search library stacks, scanning titles and author names, fingers bouncing, pausing, settling. I pick up the same toys. Again. I wrap fabric around my body. My baby’s body. Tighten, inch by inch. Again. Use my hips and hands together to put him on my back. My belly and chest. I struggle in the cold. I struggle to fasten the harness of a car seat. To scrape a frozen windshield. Sometimes I remember to pet our cats. I turn on a heating pad for our old girl cat: three quick clicks. I wash: my hair, my body, Bram’s hair, his body, wool scarves in the kitchen sink, pot and pans, stainless steel water bottles, glasses sometimes. I carry heavy laundry baskets. I squeeze lemons. I peel apples. Bananas. Sweet potatoes. I cut with dull knives on a beautiful cutting board. I flip pages. I flip pages. I play music: put CDs into the player, search for videos, pull up playlists. I can’t stand the feeling of dry skin: I put on lotion compulsively. I change diapers. I change wet shirts. I put socks back on. Again. I put jammers on at bedtime – leg, leg, neck, arm, arm – over warm, sweet-smelling skin. I pull them off in the morning, or sometimes not until afternoon. I Velcro shoes onto small feet, and boots. I button coats. Flannel shirts. Roll cuffs on too-long pants. I gather things. Sort and gather. I bring water glasses to my lips. Tea mugs. Coffee mugs. Jam jars full of wine. I carry things down stairs. I carry things up stairs. I pull covers up to my sleeping son’s shoulders. Pull covers over myself, finally. Turn on the lamp. Pick up a book. Turn the pages slowly. Pull covers back down when his cries have me moving before I even realize I’m awake. All from muscle memory. I rub his belly. Point to his button and ask who made it. I caught him with these hands. I used them to help make him. To warm the tiny frozen vials that impossibly contained half of both his and his brother’s DNA. I pushed hard into my wife’s back, contraction after contraction. Days. I pulled off my shirt to bring his slippery body to my waiting skin. I held my wife’s hand. I pushed hair from her eyes, and sweat. I used my hands to pull her chin up, to ask her to look at me, to tell her she could do this. I pushed the button in the elevator to leave the hospital, new child in hand. I reach out. I hope to catch this baby too.
(Our music lover.)
(Our last pre-Dragon date.)
(J’s pre-Dragon gift to me. The one behind the Bug’s is blank. Waiting for Dragon’s name.)