Despite the sleep deprivation and the many other challenges in those earliest days, I was also experiencing the most intense joy of my life. I ached to be able to hold both babies more, in a constant dance of feedings and changings and soothing and naps, jealous of other moms able to dish out all their adoration on one baby. But in those exact instances, not in some mental argument with myself, I would think of my boy, my girl, and feel overwhelmed by my good fortune, that I got them here safely, that my son and daughter are here. The joy was so powerful that I honestly wondered at times if instead of post-partum depression I might have developed some abnormal post-partum euphoria. Perhaps all that marathon breastfeeding released the hormonal good stuff. Then I would shrug, a little Nirvana coming to mind. "I think I'm just happy."
It's actually now as the kids are older and some scary changes are approaching (potty training, big kid beds, separate rooms), and our house is shrinking around us, and I'm trying to navigate this life with goals that sometimes feel unreachable that I find I'm losing my buzz a bit. It takes more effort in life's stressful moments--a rocky bedtime, an argument with Mike--to center myself and dust the day's dust off the joy.
Of course I don't expect to go through life in a gleeful daze of motherhood bliss. I just know things go out of focus at times, that I slip deeper into stress and frustration than I did when my kids were babies, and I have to make a stronger effort to get perspective and right myself again.
I'd like to say that it's in those initial moments, before I overreact to a misplaced coupon or a cat under my feet, that I get a handle on myself. But it's usually after I've cried or yelled that the Goethe quote I read as I trained to become a teacher comes to me. "I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather." True in the classroom, true in the home (and I believe it to be true in the grander sense that Goethe surely intended).
I can't choose for naps at Grandma's to go like we planned, but I can choose to roll with it if they don't. Will bedtime and tomorrow's nap likely suffer a little as a result of overtiredness? Yep. But getting all pissy instead won't change that. Might as well make mild weather.
I can't choose for my house's value to rebound before Michael and Sophie need separate rooms or start kindergarten or before having another child is no longer a possibility (although the housing market will not make that decision for us). Nor can I choose for asking prices and interest rates to stay low until we have a down payment, find the right house, and have our ducks in a row to rent this bad boy out.
But in the meantime I can try to be grateful for this house, to enjoy the floors that we refinished, the kitchen we're prettying up, and all evidence of Michael and Sophie (even the push toy scuff marks on that refinished floor). They have added a dimension to this home that no amount of square footage could ever reach. The rest will work itself out--with some more overthinking to be done on my part--but it will.
I look at Sophie and Michael now...
...and I marvel at how they've grown over these short two years, at their senses of humor, their moments of genuine compassion.
The other day I looked back at old blog posts and watched a video of the babies resting in their Boppys, Sophie fussing with that squeaky baby voice as she drifted to sleep, Michael smiling and cooing in a conversation with me. I'm struck as I look at old videos and pictures at how it doesn't feel as though those babies are gone but that the intricate details of the Michael and Sophie I know now just hadn't fully surfaced. The Sophie and Michael they'll be when they're third graders and middle schoolers and teenagers...they're on their way, but these two-year-olds aren't going anywhere.
It's like that chapter in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. "What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight..."
In the same way that I see Sophie's newborn doll face in her giggling, baby-toothed toddler grin and in the same way Michael's round noggin honestly still feels to me like it did when it rested in my pelvis, like those babies that I will always know my children to be, I know my overwhelming cup-runneth-over joy is still in me...even when it's time to make dinner and the dishwasher is full and dirty and when Mike has to work late on bath night.
It's just probably going to take a few deep breaths, some spirited rounds of "If You're Happy and You Know It," and certainly another cup of coffee to help me remember.