As I sit on the toilet, the ring around the tub glares at me and I think: I should give it a quick scrub right now.
I am not quite three weeks post-partum. And the baby is starting to fuss. And it’s 2 o’clock in the morning.
When the sun is up I watch P tidy up behind me in the kitchen, fold the laundry, put the groceries away in the fridge. I watch him with the words “I’m sorry” ready to leap from my lips a thousand times; with a feeling of guilt churning in my stomach. I imagine he is irritated, resentful, tired. I bumble along in his wake, trying to step in and do it all one handed, the baby balanced with the other hand against my shoulder.
“Sit down, sweetie,” he tells me. “You just had a baby. Relax.” I apologize, again, but I can’t sit down.
Later, I stand at the bottom of the stairs, Charlotte in my arms, while Colm stands at the top of the stairs, looking down at me, forlorn. He lifts his arms up: “Carry you?” he calls down to me, over and over.
“No, baby,” I say, tears in my eyes. “Mama can’t carry you down now. You can do it. Mama can hold your hand.”
“No!” he cries. My heart is already broken; I imagine I’ve broken his now, too, that he feels abandoned. I’ve pushed him to fledge before his feathers are grown.
In one day I take the baby to Costco, then, with my sister, walk to the park and chase the kids around. It’s been two weeks, I figure. It’s time for life to get back to normal. That night, sore and exhausted, I cook dinner, too. The next day, my feet crotch hips back ache.
An adequate amount of sleep is something I chase: it is impossible, like a dog trying to catch its own clipped tail, but I wake up early and refuse to nap. Instead I get up with the boys and dole out bowls of cereal and almond milk; I read the news; I write; I stare out at the garden overgrown with weeds and fret that I’m not out there on my knees in the dirt. What must the neighbours think of me?
I feel like I’m doing nothing, being lazy and burdensome, when really what I’m doing is recovering from 10 months of sharing my body in what is essentially a parasitic relationship. At the end of those 10 months, I pushed a 9 pound baby out of my vagina. And now I feed her from my breasts. Quietly, pretending like it’s no big deal, I’m sustaining another person’s life. Why can’t that be enough? Why do I undervalue this work? It is enough for my kids; why can’t it be enough for me?
It is so hard for me to sit, and feed the baby and let my body heal without enormous amounts of guilt and anxiety weighing on me. I have to try, though.
So I turn my back on the dirt-ringed tub, and hurry back to bed, curling around my baby, gently shushing her with my breast. We drift off to sleep together, and that is enough.