On Impermanence and Mothering

They say that first year is so fleeting. And you’d think that I would know, having gone through it before. I can tell you without a doubt that the first year with your second goes even faster than the first year with your first. There is just so much happening in our full family life. And so much laundry.

It has already been 10 months since I last blogged. I was sure that I would be writing regularly all this time. But we are so far away from that sleepy newborn phase, and my maternity leave has long since passed. I am a busy working mom even though I only “work” part time.

A few weeks ago I started drowning in laundry. A friend gave me a bunch of baby clothes, and I became a trafficker of used baby items – sorting through piles and shuffling them off to different friends, to a local boutique and also to a home for mothers in recovery where my sister briefly stayed 9 years ago.

And it just so happened that my husband was out of town for a few days for work when the piles were taking over the living room. Around this same time, I had a few too many balls in the air with my little side business. And my 10 month old baby was getting into everything. Everything.

All caregiving activities became either a battle or a huge mess: diaper changes, feeding and putting her into the car seat were all just too hard. I was getting into power struggles even though I knew better. 

I started to lose my way… I was yelling at my 8 year old and feeling frustrated with my baby. I was getting triggered. Something about being left alone with my 2 kids felt very dangerous. Maybe because it had been dangerous to my biological mother. Even deadly.

So, I got an appointment with my therapist on the calendar, my husband came back from his work trip, and we went to the mountains with some friends. But my mood continued to nosedive, and the anxiety got stronger. I was beyond overwhelmed. I was flatlining.  I hadn’t felt this way in years. All the projects I had taken on just seemed like chores. The little business I have so wanted to build for so long felt like a burden. The irony of trying to create a business to support parents that takes you away from the joy of being a parent is so painful. Socializing even felt too difficult and only contributed to the overwhelm. I just wanted to escape.

I had big plans to go out to a closing reception at an art gallery. I was going to go all by myself, but I ended up taking the baby because of the timing of things.

And so there I was with a baby on my hip perusing a retrospective of the work of Jan Lynch who documented Knoxville’s gay scene back in the 90’s. I never met Jan, but I will never forget seeing photos of him on his deathbed as he succumbed to the effects of AIDS when I was in my early 20’s working the counter at Thompson Photo Products.

Jan has been quoted as saying that in his work he was “trying to perhaps subtly tell you something about yourself or about the world, or about the circumstances of yourself in the world…”

His photographs are definitely about exposing something, revealing what is not usually seen “out” in the world… And I guess this inspired me to take a breastfeeding selfie. Yes, this is a thing. All the young moms are doing it. And it is one of those things that I feel like I haven’t done “enough” of in Ayla’s first year – documenting the precious miracle of feeding my baby. 

I got three shots. This wasn’t even the best one. But can you see it? Not just the way she’s looking at me, but the way that I’m looking at her. I needed to see this. I needed to see myself being a good enough mother. This is my life right now, and it is gorgeous and it is enough. This picture literally snapped me out of my funk and helped me fall in love with my baby again. Just in time…

breastfeeding-at-jans-show

Because this first year is fleeting, and it is almost over. Babies don’t stay babies forever. And artists like Jan Lynch die too young. We only have so much time here on this earth with our loved ones, and we really don’t know how long it will be. I know this all too well.. My art, my projects, my businesses, the laundry piles – they really can wait… I’m back to my primary task of chasing a very fast baby and kissing her face as much as I can because this sweet time of life, though challenging, is impermanent.

And I won’t get another chance to do it all again. 

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