This is going to sound whiny to some people out there. It may even be a bit self-indulgent but so are Lululemon leggings and I know a whole lot of y’all rocking those out there, soooo . . .
Y’all, I’m tired. Like really, really, to the bone and brain stem tired. I know. I know. Motherhood really takes it out of you and yada yada yada, but this is a new level of tired. This is definitely a different kind of tired. I’m going to try and do it justice and if just one other mom raises a half-cocked fist pump out there in agreement, maybe I won’t feel so alone.
The culmination of my exhaustion hit after a month-long string of illness in our little family of four. It was like being in a boxing ring with an insurmountable beast of germs and long rainy days. Stomach bug (Jab). Weird sore throat and achy all over (Punch). Presley barfs on me in public (Uppercut). Knox gets sent home with other-worldly diarrhea diapers (Jab.) I get the stomach bug again (Knocked out).
Now, I’m a tough broad. I’ve been whipping stage four breast cancer for the last two years, working full time, raising two littles, and cooking dinner at least once a month for my family (we all have our strengths and weaknesses), but my will has officially been broken in a way I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I broke down trying to explain it to a friend through tears and snot and broken words and thoughts. The crazy thing is is that what I heard myself say, I couldn’t even believe.
“My body hasn’t been my own in over five years.”
I found out I was pregnant with my brilliantly affectionate daughter in December of 2013. I loved being pregnant, but let’s call a spade a spade. You’re kind of at the mercy and beck-and-call of this tiny however-many-ounce fetus inside of you. Then she comes out and your body forgets how to behave (let’s skip reminiscing on that first trip to bathroom after birth), but you’ve got to gather all your womanly boob strength to breastfeed your offspring. Again, I absolutely loved breastfeeding, and we did. For almost sixteen months. But that cute little lie that the weight just slides right off your birthing hips while you sustain your child with that liquid gold is just that, a lie. I was ravenous for food while breastfeeding, and while trying to juggle our new, sleep-deprived life and a hunger that couldn’t be tamed, I was always just a little outside the bounds of feeling good. We found out I was pregnant with our adorably intellectual son in December of 2015. If you know how to do math, I was still breastfeeding first tiny human when second tiny human came along, so I slid into pregnancy again without any time to rebound physically — or emotionally, for that matter.
Fast forward to four months into Knox’s little life and I found out I had stage four breast cancer. The struggles of breastfeeding would have been a welcome replacement for what came next. Port placement. Chemotherapy. Lumpectomy. More chemotherapy. Lots of chemotherapy. Still doing chemotherapy. Forever doing chemotherapy. I know this isn’t typical, but I also know that lots of other women struggle with health issues outside of their control and it just kind of becomes the fabric of your life. You keep going. You live life as normally as possible. You are so, so, so thankful for your life and it’s many beautiful wonders but then days, or weeks, or months like what I’ve been through lately happen and you’re left looking around like, “Seriously? What else?”
Because here’s the coup de grâce of the situation — there’s no break ahead. The real kicker? I probably wouldn’t take a break if offered.
There are always going to be sick kids and work and grocery shopping and soccer practice and piles of laundry large enough to bury a full-sized human. I’m in the real thick of this motherhood thing, and most days the sheer exhaustion of getting us through each day is enough to break somebody down. Pile on to that the fear that you’re never doing it quite right and the pressure of the fleetingness of their precious babyhood, and you’ve got an emotional tranquilizer dart on your hands.
I say all this not to complain. I’m very conscious not to take these years for granted — especially since my own future with my diagnosis is so fragile. But that gratitude comes with a price, and that price is rest. Would I have it any other way? Not for second. Am I so tired I could cry? Affirmative.
These two things are not mutually exclusive. You can be blissfully happy in your motherhood and still mourn the loss of a good night’s (or week’s or five years’) rest. That’s something that I’ve had to learn myself lately, that acknowledging the longing for a kid-free weekend does not mean you’re advocating for a kid-free life. We’re so hard-wired to hang in there and we love our littles so fiercely we’re willing to rename our deliriously over-tired, mind-melting exhaustion as a charming part of parenthood. Nah. I say no more. I say when somebody asks how we’re doing, we just look at them with bloodshot eyes and say, “I’m a different kind of tired. The kind of tired that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but you better believe while we are standing here talking I’m daydreaming about a pina colada and an all-inclusive resort somewhere warm where they wash the sheets for you.”
I love my children. I would do anything and everything for them. I do do anything and everything for them. Including giving up my own sleep and body for their comfort these last five years. That day when I broke down crying in the car, it felt good to feel sorry for myself for a few minutes. It felt so good to let the entire weight of what we’ve been through these last five years suffocate me a little bit. To give into those feelings of frustration and helplessness that comes with a full schedule and the weight of two little hearts on my shoulders. But shortly after that release, I caught myself missing them. Wondering what they were doing. So I went to the Target Dollar Spot and loaded up on some fun gardening junk and imagined the smiles on their precious faces when I let them roll around and dig in the dirt. That’s the best part of motherhood — no matter how tired we get or the depth of the low we let ourselves visit, we always have this bottomless joy calling us away from sleep and into the sunshine of life.