I met an old friend in a crowded cafe, the other day.
“How are you doing? “ She asked.
I love this friend. Both my mother and my father adored her. I don’t have to wonder if she is just asking to be polite. I can feel her care.
And I want to be seen by her. I want to use my words to make myself make sense. I want to have command of my emotional state so I can talk about it, instead of from in it, but I don’t know what to say.
I’ve been sitting with other people’s words for a while now- all of which make so much sense to me…
It feels like part of me died
It feels like the world broke in two — a before and after.
It feels like the earth shouldn’t still be spinning on it’s axis.
I like those words. They feel true. I have felt all of those things.
But without really thinking, I surprised myself by saying:
“I feel like someone gave me a baby to take care of.”
She looked at me with love and confusion.
“I’m still here. I didn’t die. The world is clearly going on. But now I have a job to do every day, all day long — whether I want to or not. I take care of my grief baby.”
I love kids. I have three. Babies? Not my favorite.
I know. You hate me a little now, don’t you?
I’m done apologizing for things about me that are just true, but I get it if you are disappointed.
The thing is, for me, babies are mostly just hard. They need you so much. To feed them, and change them and soothe them, and carry them, and sing to them, and feed them and change them…
And yes, I had the magical moments of seeing my babies smile for the first time, roll over for the first time, wave bye-bye. I remember it. I have it on video.
But I also really remember the bleary middle of the night feedings (TWO!), taking a terror shower (because obviously if I am not watching said baby for three minutes it is likely going to choke on the non-existent lego it can’t yet even bring to its mouth) and my all-time favorite — the crap-tastropies. You know the one…where you absolutely need to be somewhere in ten minutes, but your kid just crapped themselves so thoroughly that you have to use the jaws-of-life to cut them out of their onesie and immediately plop them into a bath…
Mothering an infant is relentless. I always felt jealous of those people who seemed to melt with joy when they held a baby in their arms. Mostly I was hoping someone else would hold mine so I could go take a nap.
If it makes you feel better, just know that I ADORE kids. I could do ages two to — well, my daughter is currently twelve and I still love hanging with her, so I’ll keep you posted when my obsession curdles (I’m hearing a lot about thirteen being less than ideal..). Kids are a little less parasitic, more self-sufficient, and say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you’ more.
And so in the cafe, sitting next to my friend of more than two decades, over the din of people drinking lattes and clicking away at chapter six of their memoir, I became acquainted with the feeling of grief that sits heavy like a baby on my hip these days.
And listen, this tiny bundle of needs cries a lot.
At unpredictable, and inconvenient times. Too much.
And grief baby needs so much attention. So much care.
She wants you to come in and look right at her. Make eye contact, coo if you need to. Sometimes she needs to be the most important thing in the room.
And she doesn’t sleep.
And she is a frustratingly picky eater. Oh, but don’t worry. She’s still putting on weight despite herself.
And she can’t walk yet. So I carry her. ALL. DAMN. DAY.
And also I love her.
Even though part of me just wants to walk to work without her, or eat dinner with a friend without having to find a high chair, I get why she’s here, and I feel wildly protective of her. She is mine.
It’s hard, but it won’t always be this way. Babies grow up. They need you less. They walk on their own. They express their needs. They sleep through the night — EVENTUALLY, right? They do, right?
And I can remember the magic of picking my baby up when it’s sobbing, and cradling it to me, and saying, “shhhh…you’re ok. I’ve got you. Mommy’s got you.”
And eventually feeling the yield.
The moment when the tiny creature in my arms releases all her tension, all her fear, all her distress and yields her weight to me so I can truly hold her. Care for her. Soothe her.
And something I’ve realized as I type these words in the early morning darkness…At almost the same time that grief baby attached herself to my hip — I started getting up early to write.
The writer focuses all her attention on the grief baby. Maybe the writer knows I have other things I’m going to need to get done today — like the whole rest of my life.
I’ve been grieving in some way since I was eight years old. Grief is familiar.
The writing part is odder to me in some ways. More novel, less known.
It’s a middle ground. We are all getting to know each other. It isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty.
I’m grateful for the grief.
And I’m grateful for the writing.