If you’ve been keeping up with this little story of Boyo and me, you know that lately, I haven’t been in the sturdiest of places emotionally. (Catch up here.) My knees have somewhat buckled under the weight of of a very difficult year and I feel very much on-my-face these days. The transition into motherhood has been a brutal one for me, with doubt and guilt and fear having Kanye’d the microphone away from faith and confidence and chutzpah. I’m now in therapy and getting some much needed “brain training” to help loosen the vice-grip these emotions seem to have on my spirit. Having admitted that I needed help seemed to be a herald of the dawn after a very long, hard night, because the light of better began to glow almost immediately. And then…
Something happened last weekend, y’all. Something big. In the bathroom of a La Quinta in Tallahasse, Florida, I had a breakthrough moment with my boy that has raised me up off my face and onto my feet which are now firmly beneath me for the first time since my beautiful boy made his debut.
It was the end of a lovely day. Boyo, Daddyo, Puppyo and I drove up to Tally to support Daddyo as he presented some new research at a regional conference for the Society of Music Nerds being held at his beloved Institute of Higher Learning and Championship Footballing. (Go IHLCF!) Daddyo’s presentation was a success, it had been a beautifully clear and chilly day, and Boyo had been a sweet mood all day. We were just walking back into the hotel after dinner when I realized – OMG! – the SAG Awards were on! The SAGs are always on cable and we don’t have cable, so I was stoked to indulge in the luxury (ah yes, the legendary luxury of a La Quinta) of our weekend home.
This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it’s not, so bear with me. When I tuned in to the broadcast, they were showing a clip of The Butler. A mouthy teenage boy made some quip about his father being “just a butler.” And here comes Oprah. (Of course Oprah had a hand in my big epiphany. Of course she did.) She smacks her son in his smart-alecky mouth and says something like, “Everything you are and everything you have you got from that butler.” Okay, so that line was kinda rattling around in my head.
While Daddyo was getting some things out of the car, I started to tackle the question of how the eff you get a baby to go to sleep in a hotel room. I decided to tuck the crib into the darkened little vestibule of the bathroom and hope that the relative dark and not being in direct line of sight would help Boyo drift off. Like bloody hell. What started with a whimper was a full on air-raid siren in just a few short minutes.
I went to him. At this point he was snotty-nosed and splotchy-faced and doing that rattly whine that makes me want to run away. I picked him up and held him against me as usual, but the words that came out of my mouth weren’t the usual, “There, there, Mommy’s here” or “sssshhhh” or the opening bars of blazillionth encore of “Grand Ol’ Flag.” I just spoke to him like a person, like someone I know, like a friend who is melting down and needs some talking off the ledge. I said, “I know, bud. We screwed with your schedule, and you’re upset. I get it. It’s okay.” And “I don’t blame you, I’d be pissed if someone tried to make me sleep in the bathroom, too.” As I talked in this real way to Boyo, he began to relax and soon he had melted into me, still sniffly, but calm. I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror, this big, bright boy in his footie pjs poured over my shoulder like Hershey’s syrup on a sundae. A wave of emotion, slow and steady like unerupted lava, swelled up from my chest, tightening my throat and flushing my cheeks. When this glowing orange surge of emotion reached my brain, a stark, crystalline clarity exploded, fully formed:
This boy is mine, of me and by me.
Everything he is, everything he has, everything he thinks and feels and does, comes from me.* That won’t always be the case, but it is right now. He’s not just a baby, he’s my baby. He’s not just part of a family, he’s a part of my family. And if there is one thing I know how to do, it’s teach someone how to be a part of my family. Suddenly, the cold, wet balustrade of fear, guilt, judgement, and paralysis began to crumble. The ever-present internal whispers of “What the fuck am I doing” and “This was a mistake, I can’t do this” were silenced. All of a sudden, my quickening heartbeat began to tap out, “OMG, I know how to do this. I can absolutely do this!” This kid is one of us, Team Us, for better or worse, and I happen to be one of the founding members of Team Us! I have written the book on what it means to be Team Us which means that in order to make all of the decisions that are to come — the good and the bad, the brilliant and the poorly thought out, the “Fuckin’ A” yesses and the “Oh hell” nos, the solid and the shaky, the right and the wrong — all I will ever need to make those decisions is my own intuition and the opinions and suggestions of those I choose to advise me.
In this flash of clarity, all of the extremely frustrating and diametrically opposed opinions of experts and lactivists and concerned parents and warrior moms and share-happy Facebook friends which I have allowed to torture me into paralysis just shrunk and shriveled and were ground into dust by the millstone of my instantly formed and entirely new confidence.
Team You might think that it’s abhorrently neglectful to allow your baby to cry-it-out. But here on Team Us, we sometimes need time to be upset in order to figure out how to calm down. Team You might bend over backwards to do whatever it takes to have a chance at a VBAC, but if and when our family is ever blessed with another little soul, you’ll find Team Us in our scheduled vagina-free C-Section. Maybe Team You believes that television rots the brain and that there is no greater harm you can do a child than to allow him time in front of it. I don’t understand that, but I don’t have to. I’m not the captain of Team You. I don’t know how to raise a You, so I will leave that in your very capable hands. I’ve got my own team to lead and I can’t do that properly if I’m all wrapped up in how you would do it. As that thought settled into my open and eager heart, and as I wept sloppily and happily all over Boyo’s head, I whispered wetly, “In our family, no one ever has to go to bed when the SAG Awards are on.”
When Daddyo came in and saw this blubbery joyful tableau, I explained as best I could what was happening. We marveled together at the completeness of this shift in perspective and of the instantaneous clarity that it brought to me. We spoke out loud of our gratitude for this day, this moment, each other, and our plenty. We speculated on how my epiphany would affect us all in the days, weeks, months to come. Daddyo said, “Well, at the very least, things will be different. And lately, for us, ‘different’ has meant ‘better.'”
And so Team Us stayed up past our bedtimes and watched TV and laughed and talked and snuggled and eventually fell asleep, all together in the luxurious La Quinta king sized bed.
When the next day dawned, everything was different.
Everything was better.
* This moment happened to me and so I am telling it from that perspective, but I do not mean to imply that I am the only parent on Team Us. My husband is the most wonderful, supportive, in-the-trenches partner and I am blessed down to my bones to call him mine. All of my success as a mother is due, in part, to the unconditional love, support, faith, and most importantly, participation of my husband.