“Mama, Mama, Mama,” he wails. My head hurts and I resent my irritation at my crying child. “Mama, mama,” he hollers, fresh green mucous sliding from his nose and crusted around his nostrils. I grab another tissue and wipe his nose. He screams and headbutts my chest. Cold season is killing me. Sickness for months on end, my arms cannot stretch wide enough to hold all the needy bodies around me.
“I WANT MY MAMA BACK!” My two-year-old screamed after her baby brother arrived. She reached for me as I bounced her colicky brother in my arms. “I WANT MY MAMA BACK!” Helpless, I stroked her wispy blonde hair with my hand while rhythmically bouncing the crying newborn, tears filling our eyes.
Ground hogs day, colic ended but this winter the tears returned, teething, a runny nose, and a new bout of separation anxiety. “Mama, Mama,” he shrieks as I place him on the kitchen floor and swipe peanut butter across bread. I dip the knife in the jelly and grimace at the remnant of peanut butter in the jelly jar. “Mama, mama,” his arms stretch up to my robe pulling it and me apart.
“Mom, I need ice water!” the five-year-old screams from the table.
“Ice water,” shouts the three-year-old. “This is icky!” She spits the new cereal, a special treat purchased for her, onto the table.
“I don’t like it either,” the five-year-old announces.
“Girls, ask nicely. No spitting!” I say, lifting the baby onto my hip and filling two cups of water and placing them on the scratched wood dining table.
They clear their dishes. I empty full bowls of food into the sink and feel disgusted by the waste.
“Mama, mama,” the baby whines. I grab string cheeses, applesauce, and gold fish and stuff them into two lunch boxes on the counter. The poor baby, so sick, his nose dripping, I pull my white t-shirt up to his face and quickly swipe it. He screams and arches his back in rage.
I love this baby so much, but I resent his screams. I resent his neediness, his tantrums that spring from nose wipes, diaper changes, and sharing a lap with his sisters.
I walk through the supermarket. The mama fish with a school of children swimming behind me, we wind through the aisles. I stuff snacks in the baby’s mouth to ward off tantrums as we weave through the store. The girls point at cereal boxes enticed by cartoon leprechauns.
“Wow, your hands are full!” Innocent strangers chime as we pass through our days. Some mothers take offense to this comment, I wonder why? Are their days that much easier than mine?
I’m not offended. I appreciate the acknowledgement. I smile, “They are,” silently believing that a truer statement has never been uttered. Full hands, I had no idea.
After nap we sit on the couch, my three-year-old reaches for me. “I just want to snuggle with you! Not with him.” She says as she burrows herself into my lap and glares at the baby. He crawls towards us and swats her with his arms, climbing on top of me, jealous of his sister’s prime lap spot.
“Mama, mama,” he pulls himself into my face.
She sobs, covering her ears with her small hands. “He hurts my ears,” she sobs. “I just want to snuggle with you!” They all need me. Is there enough of me? I rub two backs, soothe two bodies, and sit helplessly on the couch. My hands are full.