I take a deep breath and look into the bathroom mirror; mascara trails mark my cheeks and pools of concealer-hued tears shimmer beneath my eyes. I am a mess. I splash water on my face and smooth my hair, trying to render myself ready to re-enter the office.
I think that my youngest son has yet another ear infection. We’re sitting in the stands for what seems like the 20th inning of the worst game ever – waiting on surgery for ear tubes and watching the infection tally rise on the garish scoreboard.
Well I should say I’m sitting in the stands. At work and unable to leave I have called on grandma to take him to the pediatrician. I’m so thankful for her help, but saddened by it at the same time: the image of my chubby-legged toddler being chased around the waiting room by someone other than myself pricks at my heart. The thought of him crying for me in my absence skewers it.
I flash back to my baby shower and a friend’s voice, clear as day, rings through my head:
“It really does take a village to raise a child. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!”
Well I’m not afraid - I know I can’t do it all. But I wish I could.
I didn’t know handing off tidbits of time with my offspring would feel so much like carving out chunks of my soul.
I walk back to my cubicle with a professional smile plastered on my face. I sit down in the silence and try to breathe. The absence of my kids suddenly feels profound and my desk becomes a solitary island.
I work in ten minute spurts of concentration, pausing to check my phone for updates or a precious life-giving snapshot.
Instead I see a message from that same friend, just checking in. Her husband has been very ill and for a month or so, their future was precarious. She didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what to say. But we carried on, our sometimes late night texts linking us over the miles - a reminder of a friendly face sending love through the dark.
Even now that they are ostensibly in the clear, I feel foolish. Fingers poised to text, my brain struggles to translate my anguish into words. Who cries of a splinter to one who almost lost a leg?
So I keep it simple and just type: “I think the baby has another ear infection. I hate it.”
And her response resonates in my heart like a vibration. She replies: “Oh no, I’m so sorry. It’s so hard when they are sick.”
And just like that the weight lifts a bit. It hurts a little less. The invisible chord of motherhood that binds us all shows me our common ground, and reminds me that I am not alone.
A few moments later my phone rings with grandma’s report. I can hear baby gurgles and laughter in the background. He is happy and content. And I see that like so many things, it was all in my head. He never felt alone at all.