I wear glasses because my eyes are too tense and struggle transitioning from different focal points. I get migraines from the strain. I wore them all the time before Augustine came, and I wear them less now because some how, no matter how many packs of those silky glass cloths I buy and stash around my life, I always have finger smudges on my glasses. Not wearing my glasses means I can’t see much of anything very clearly but also that I don’t have smudges in my view.
It feels like an easy metaphor for my life right now. A metaphor right before my eyes, if you will, that explores an aspect of motherhood I didn’t know was part of the deal. When I’m out without Augustine–working out, running meetings, doing errands and taking deep breaths behind the bathroom door while he watches TV–I’m not really without him. His body started in mine and has since departed, but mine still remembers him. I think of his needs through out the day, even when we’re apart. His fingerprints invade my view of the world, he’s left them inside my head, inside my heart, and now on the outside lenses of my glasses in those smudgy fingerprints he has.
And maybe this is an obvious thing to anyone else, but I didn’t expect to have my mind and heart so taken over when I became a mom. I knew everything would change and that Ted and I would need to fight so that I wasn’t lost in the likes of diapers and laundry; but, I thought so naively that when I wasn’t with him, my mommy-brain would power down, or at least take a rest. I’d leave him with a sitter or put him down to nap and then I’d write and read and workout and live the life I’ve fought my PTSD for. But it isn’t like that, and not just because I lack will power.
My brain just remains in mommy mode. Wondering, analyzing, thinking, praying, planning. Saying goodbye to the baby that was and hello to the growing burst of boy that emerges. And, of course, resting from the twin exhaustions of being his constant companion and also bored out of my mind parking his cars and driving through lego tunnels, and wiping up tears from the sorrow of his timeout.
Sometimes I sit in meetings wondering if he’s focusing enough to eat lunch with his babysitter; wondering if his little heart is ok with me being out three bedtimes in a row; wondering and praying and wishing and never again being able to be fully present or abandoned wherever I am. And I sit across the table from him at meals and snack times ad nauseaum and wonder how I became his mom and what to do with my leftover and untapped ambition to engage and lead in our world. I sometimes feel that I became an adult and recovered my mental health just in time to relapse into motherhood’s body-centric, home-centric lifestyle.
His fingerprints are always on my glasses now, and his little fingers have landscaped the world as I see it. And as his little brother tumbles around in my belly, I try to savor the space I have in this two and half hours of afternoon nap, even as my lungs fight for space to fully expand in my ribs and that little foot stretches against my rib, his little back presses painfully into my opposite hip. My back bends automatically in response and I shift my hips to make room where there is no space for my second little boy as he stretches his body in mine. In 8 more weeks he’ll have his own place in the world, and I’ll still be wondering where mine is and if I will ever, truly have space to breath on my own again.
Maybe it’s because I’m 8 months into a tricky, sick pregnancy and still haven’t stopped throwing up the blood and fighting to keep weight on. Maybe it’s because I’m looking ahead to this next year of our lives and all I can see are two sets of little boy fingerprints clouding the lenses of my glasses, the smudges of postpartum recovery, newborn exhaustion fog, my two year old toddler turning into a threenager and big brother all at once, life in a city that’s new to us and newly devastated by Hurricane Harvey and devastatingly without the dear friends and lighthouses we found in the first round sleepy newborn days.
Is this depression or acedia? Selfishness or normal life? Something to medicate and share in therapy or simply repent of and try to overcome? Is this just life stage or life choices that need to be evaluated? A self-pitying blog post or a therapeutic exercise?
I’m grateful for the smudges on my glasses. Really, deeply I know that I am. I’m irrevocably changed by them and eagerly anticipating a whole new set of finger prints smudging them up this fall. But I can’t shake the confusion that these are also the glasses I bought so I could see my philosophy books more clearly and now they mostly only read board books and dinner recipes.
Maybe I just need to line words up the way my little lines up his cars and remember that these days pass quickly. Maybe I just need to remember that someday I won’t have a toddler following me around the house wondering out loud how I could have lost my penis and wanting to be so close to me that my glasses are always covered in his fingerprints. This too shall pass; but will I be unrecognizable to myself when it does?