by Vanessa Wingerath
This piece originally appeared on Whattoexpect.com on November 11, 201
It’s 7:05 a.m. I have just crawled out of bed to answer the cries of my 14-month-old. The only thing I have done for myself is put on pants. My husband hands him to me as I sit down in the rocking chair to nurse. I am groggy and really thirsty and wish I could brush my teeth, but at least I am sitting. As soon as I lean back in the chair, my older son, who is 3-and-a-half, leans all of his weight on my right hip in an attempt to join his brother and me between the arms of the rocking chair. And this is not one of those chair-and-halfs. There is barely room for one adult and a nursing toddler. It should be cute, but at this point I have been awake for less than five minutes, and I already have two wriggly, writhing, kicking, and shimmying children on top of me… UGH.
I love my children immensely, of course. I love to be close with them. Cuddling, canoodling, squeezing, raspberry-ing, caressing, and especially breastfeeding fill me with giddy love. However, my babies are young, and the bodily contact they require can be overwhelming. I found this especially difficult after my second child was born. I was looking forward to breastfeeding the second time around, and I did enjoy it. But it came with a literal added “bonus” (aka “challenge”) because my older son often wants to lay on my chest or on his brother while we are nursing. This is adorable, of course, but it is also makes me feel suffocated. In fact, sometimes it makes me want to scream!
Babies are so luscious, buttery, soft, and cozy, and the touching is by far one of the best parts of them being so young. But there’s a downside, too: You often don’t have autonomy over your own body, even when you need it. All this touching/pulling/prodding pushes my patience to the brink of nonexistence more than any other aspect of parenting.
I play on the floor with my children many hours in the day, and sometimes my back gets sore, so I try to stealthily lay down on a the carpet for a minute or two. This maneuver almost never goes unnoticed. My youngest thinks it’s time to nurse when he sees me lie down, and even if my older son was playing completely independently, he will not miss out on the “hot dogging” as we’ve come to call it. He lunges onto my belly or legs and, suddenly, I’m in the most vulnerable position for horse play — being stabbed with heels, chafed with chins, and assaulted with giggles.
When I don’t have enough personal space, I experience a visceral urge to throw the baby at my husband as soon as he steps foot into the driveway. Or, I want to build a fortress of pillows around me so I can just close my eyes for two minutes without being poked. Being in my bedroom alone with the door closed, is the best vacation. I need some time when my limbs are not supporting anyone else’s weight.
This constant assault on my personal space leads to an exhaustion that is unlike any other I experienced before having children. It makes me want to melt into myself after the dishes are done and the kids are in bed. There should be a term for this kind of done-ness that explains how moms feel at the end of day caring for little children. I would describe it as over-mushed, squeezed silly, and sucked dry. Raggled and bedraggled. Poked and prodded to the point of peevishness. Which sometimes leaves me too prickly to connect with my husband when he comes home. Poor guy.