Holidays, fork-mashed with sweet potatoes and breast milk. Part two.
In my first holiday season as a mother, I decided I would sail through in a completely stress-less state, laughing and snickering at the ease of it all in a most festive holiday spirit. My strategy involved completing 98% of our Christmas shopping in one morning online, and cramming 98% of our holiday erranding into three insane days of babies-in-tow mayhem.
By day three of our festive erranding, my state of stress-less-ness was hanging by a very wispy little thread. Despite the seventeen degree weather and whipping wind, in and out of the car went the babies and I - unbuckling car seats, hoisting babies onto hips, using my feet to open doors and enter buildings, and maneuvering my wallet with my one free pinky finger before re-buckling car seats, tightening the straps, and heading to the next stop.
It was at our third-to-last stop where things started to get hairy. First was the fact that the store I chose to complete our shopping in did not have shopping carts as I'd hoped, leading to an unusual shopping experience that entailed wearing one baby on my front and holding the other on my hip, using my one free arm to shop, select, pay, and be done with it. And then there was the issue of the babies requiring nourishment. I had planned ahead and brought bottles of pumped milk to give the babies so I wouldn't have to tandem nurse in public. I was feeling quite satisfied with my forethought as I leaned into the backseat of the car with their bottles. It took me about four seconds to notice a bizarre, rotten cheese sort of smell. Almost like rotten milk. Rotten milk. Shit. I took the bottles away. The babies started to scream.
I got into the driver's seat, turned the key, and weighed my options as I drove to the next stop. All I had left to do was purchase a bottle of rum and go grocery shopping. On the plus side, the liquor and grocery stores were in the same mini-mall. On the negative side, that meant at least another two hours before we'd be home. And two babies screaming in the back seat, scorned by a mother who first fed them rotten milk and then had the gall to steal it away. I pulled into the parking lot and the babies' continued screaming made my decision for me: boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.
Getting the babies out of their seats and into the front of the car was challenging. Even more challenging was getting the three of us settled into the driver's seat, removing the babies' hats, mittens, and jackets, using my feet to kick the keys out of the ignition, and then not dropping the babies onto the floor as I pushed the seat back as far as it would go, unzipped my coat, and inched up my shirt in the most discreet parking-lot fashion I could muster. Keeping an eye out for overly curious cart-collection boys, I fed the babies, and all was well. Time to buy that rum, get those groceries, and get the hell home.
Except. I now had two babies in the front seat. Both needing to be re-bundled for the cold, both needing to somehow be carefully carried into the store, and me feeling perplexed about how to accomplish anything other than sit there and wait for a second set of arms and hands to sprout from my body. But I did it. I used my knees, my feet, my elbows, and my teeth. By the time I emerged into the parking lot, my car safely locked, both babies carefully bundled, Rhys happily on my front and Quin in the front of our cart, I felt really damn proud. Okay, so maybe Quin was precariously balanced in the cart because I couldn't get the seat belt to buckle and it was just too damn cold to mess with it any longer, but I had a death grip on him and we were on our way into the liquor store where I planned to buckle him in for real.
As we crossed the parking lot, I noticed an old woman break from her hurried path to bolt in my direction, yelling. I couldn't hear her at first, her voice lost in the wind. As she got closer, her shrill advice slapped me in the face. "YOU NEED TO BUNDLE YOUR BABIES!!!"
Perhaps it was a beautiful display of motherly decorum that led me straight into that liquor store without another glance in her direction. Perhaps it was my complete inability to think of an appropriately feisty response.
And so just in case it was the latter, let me take a minute to respond now.
Because I kind of think I've got this thing down.
Because not only were my children both wearing wool hats and mittens, not only were they wearing fleece lined pants and warm jackets, not only was I wearing one of them snugly on my chest and holding on to the other with every cell and muscle in my body, not only had I just whipped out my naked breasts in front of the entire parking lot to feed them, not only that, but have I spent my entire life waiting to love them and mother them. And maybe I'm not quite as perfect as I'd hoped to be, or wanted to be. Perhaps I am a bit sleep deprived and perhaps I have days where I NEED A BREAK. I am still doing the best that I can and have finally realized that I am a competent and fairly good mother to these two perfect babies. And I get it, parking lot lady. It breaks my heart and tears at my soul but I get it. I realize that as much as I love them and try to hold on to every bit of them and every second of every day, I know that life will go on and moments will pass by and sometimes it will be seventeen degrees and we will still have to leave the house and the wind might bite their sweet little noses and make them cold and I get it! I get it! I cannot always keep them warm enough. No matter how hard I try, life or the weather or some shrill stranger will butt in. And so I'm just doing the best that I can. In spite of life, in spite of the weather. And that is why being a mother is hard. Really fucking hard, parking lot lady. It is wonderful, and break-your-heart beautiful, and really, really hard.
My babies are bundled, parking lot lady. Bundled, and bundled, and bundled.