Today is Kai’s half-birthday, which, of course, forced me into the realization that the last time I actually wrote was Kai’s due date. If it weren’t for the perfect flood of baby photos I have harassed my Instagram followers with, it would not be an unlikely theory (based on my lack of blogging) to assume I never made it out of the hospital alive. Needless to say, the last six months have been an absolute blur in which the thought of writing occurred so many times, only to fade away instantaneously in the wake of baby’s endless needs, a coast to coast to move, and Jake’s first underway period.
Fast-forward six months and we are back in Southern California. Jake is the A-SUPPO on a DDG home-ported at Naval Base San Diego, although we have decided to live in Carlsbad to be closer to family. It’s not San Clemente, but Carlsbad has its own charm that I’ve already come to love (living less than a mile from the beach again isn’t bad either). Most significantly, our little bundle has turned into our not-so-little handful.
Kai is alert, curious, and impossibly active (if there is a waking moment those arms and legs ever stop moving, I’ve yet to see it). He has become very vocal (although he mostly sounds like a tiny pterodactyl, there have been a few “Momma!” calls in moments of frustration). His favorite food is mango, and his laugh sounds like an over-enthusiastic hiccup. He is trying to crawl, but mostly looks like he is sky-diving on the floor (Kai, here’s a hint: Your limbs have to touch the ground if you want to crawl; pumping them in the air does not help). Far from being a night owl, Kai would prefer to go to bed at 6 pm (good-bye social life!) and wake up at 6 am (hello, coffee!). I can’t really complain because 12 hours of sleep from a baby is pretty amazing. I will admit that every morning when I hear him cry out to me at sunrise I stumble frustrated through the hallway to his room only to melt each and every time I see his huge good-morning smile waiting for me.
The first thing people ask me now is, “Do you just LOVE being a momma?” And it always takes me about ten confusing minutes to answer. “YES! Except when it’s NO. Except it’s almost always YES (besides the times that it is most definitely no), but even then, it’s YES.” Clearly I have trouble answering this question. Do I love Kai? With everything I have, yes! Do I sometimes (okay, OFTEN) find myself wishing I could go to the beach alone, spend hours reading a book and sipping a latte in a bookstore, go out with my husband for longer than a few hours and not be worrying that Kai needs me, drink a margarita without having to pump and dump, sleep in until 10, go on vacation before Jake deploys? Um, yes. The culture we live in says that at 24 I should be out with my girlfriends in Vegas while my husband is deployed, not spending my nights reading Peter Pan to my child and making any imaginable face just to get a laugh from him, but I’ve never been one to rely on what our culture says to know what really makes a person feel alive. Do I love motherhood all of the time? No, there are so many days where it feels impossibly difficult. Would I trade my life back? Not for the all trips to Paris, margaritas, and solo beach days in the world.
Once, when talking about this with some friends, Jake said that in parenthood he had witnessed me hit my “highest highs, and lowest lows.” He’s right. It’s a constant, daily battle against selfishness and hormones and sleep deprivation-induced frustration; but it is simultaneously so achingly beautiful that half the time I feel like I will drown in the pleasure and love that Kai’s excited laugh or vulnerable slack-mouthed sleeping face brings. I want to be—choose to be—the person that the crucible of motherhood creates. I’ll take its hardships and its sacrifices because its joys beat out any earthly thing there is, hands down. In the long run, the things that make it feel impossible some days are not forever (Please feel at liberty to remind me of that on days when I look hopelessly tired). But truly, I won’t always be breast-feeding, there won’t always be diapers and car seats and bedtimes when there should be dinners. There will again be trips alone with my husband, there will be nights out with the girls, and times spent alone reading books on the beach. While the difficulties of this stage are not forever, the rewards of it— the vital heart-wrenching wonder of it, the life-changing goodness and piercing joy of it— thankfully, ARE.