“I’m sorry,” I say as I plop a laundry basket of clean cloth diapers down on the small kitchen island, “I haven’t had a lot of adult interaction lately, and I feel like I’m way too excited talking about diapers.”
My firstborn, 3-months-old, is pressed against my chest in a soft, blue wrap. Eyes closed, her long eyelashes—her daddy’s eyelashes—feather out from delicate lids.
I glance up from my baby to my load of diapers to my friend unsure of what to say beyond the mundane related to being a mom, beyond the overwhelming upheaval of being a new mom, beyond the all-consuming, all-sacrificing nature of motherhood.
Just months before, we’d been co-workers. Sharing ideas for natural history programs, curricula, lessons.
Now, although she is a month away from giving birth to her first child, I can’t put my thoughts into words and instead apologize again. Apologize for being—what? Someone just as new to the earth as my daughter? Someone I don’t yet know? Myself devoid of me?
This can’t be my reality now.
What have I done to myself?
How can I explain this?
Should I even try?
In this moment, in the kitchen of a 100-year-old house, standing above pizza, salad, and cloth diapers, the recognition of loss drapes me. I’m not here, and I see no path back to me.
Tossing my 3-year-old daughter in a fit of fury onto the striped quilt atop her twin bed, she cries out, “Mama, don’t throw me!”
Filled with the heat of a thousand fires, I turn away and retreat from the lime green confines of her room, slamming the door behind me.
After years of giving it all away I am smashed against the cobblestone bottom of motherhood. Our weeks become marked by tears, desperate cries of “I wasn’t meant to be a mom,” and, never looking into their eyes, shouts of “I hate being with you two all the goddamn time!”
Sobbing on the kitchen floor, I mumble again and again, “I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to make it better.”
For when you martyr yourself to Motherhood, Motherhood joyously accepts your offer. The price you pay to appease her greed is the totality of yourself.
Driving away, prior to ordering, from a restaurant with outdoor seating, a playhouse, and majestic views, my daughter and son in the back seat and mountains behind us, I watch myself in the rearview mirror. I see my face red, my eyes hurting and hateful as I erupt into a scream so loud it makes my throat raw.
“I’m never taking you anywhere again!”
“Why can’t you just let me have a little fun for once? I took you to a place with swings and a slide. Why can’t we just have a good time?”
As the car throbs with my pain, the mirror reflects clarity and finality: The victim. The martyr. The identity. The story.
I shift my eyes to the road ahead and realize there is always a choice.