As I held my new niece for the very first time, I marveled at her perfect little face and how fragile and tiny she was. I was impressed by her full head of hair and the tiny lips already poised to smile in her sleep.
Then, I was relieved that she wasn’t mine.
Maybe it’s because the entire drive to Orlando, my children kept throwing their respective Spiderman and Hello Kitty balls on the floor of the car and whining that I needed to pick them back up.
Maybe it’s because my daughter wouldn’t stop yelling and waking her little brother up once he finally fell asleep.
Maybe it’s because my son threw a temper tantrum in the hospital room and started kicking me, then his Nana and then anyone in his general vicinity.
Or, maybe it was watching my daughter cower in front of her own family, melting into nothing because she was uncomfortable about the presence of a baby. She chose to peer out the window as if there was nothing more fascinating than the rooftop of the building next door.
Maybe it’s the dozen times this past weekend that I had to peel soggy undies over my son’s little legs. (along with a couple chunky poops) To say he’s regressed is an understatement. We’re starting from scratch.
Maybe it’s the previous day when we made the mistake AGAIN of going to the beach. We chose a closer one, but that didn’t stop my daughter from complaining about the duration of the trip.
Once we set up our mobile beach home, it wasn’t the sound of waves crashing on the shore or seagulls that filled the air.
It was, “There’s wind in my eye!” “There’s sunscreen in my eye!” “There’s sand on my hands!” “I want my shoes on!” “I want to go in the water!” “I want to go on the sand!” “I want more oranges!” (“We’re out of oranges, honey.” “I want more oranges!!!!”) “Put me deeper in the water!” “Take me closer to the shore!” “My belly hurts!”
All I could think is THANK GOD I have a week off coming up for my birthday. My plan was to have several days of “me time” with stress free trips to the beach, naps and reading for more than ten minutes without passing out from exhaustion. Then, we were going to do our first weekend without the kids since they were born. Stay at a hotel with a pool, drink too much, sleep too much and remember how much we actually enjoy each other’s company.
We drop off the kidlets at my in-laws after the beach so we can grab a couple of adult beverages and drink off the feeling that having kids at all was a giant mistake.
The first thing my mother-in-law says is that they’re heading to Vegas to celebrate their anniversary… the weekend of my birthday when we were going to get away. I die a little inside.
While having drinks, I tell my husband that life will get easier once Huck gets potty trained and that all I need is several days in a row where I can really work with him.
Big mistake. Now, it looks like instead of a staycation, I will be cleaning up piss and shit for a week. Can I just work instead?
So, yeah… that new baby smell does NOTHING for me. I’ll just use baby powder.
The cute itsy bitsy clothes? I’ll buy Alma a doll.
The thrilling feeling of bringing another human being into the world? Been there, done that, twice.
Maybe I would feel differently if one of my kids had been a dud. Maybe we hit the jackpot of batshit crazy and annoying. Maybe we’re not strict enough. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so difficult if I didn’t have to wrap up a shitty weekend and head back to a wretched job.
I love my children, but they are the little sticks of dynamite that have blasted my biological clock.
All that’s left are gears and cogs, tears and daydreams.
Congratulations to my big brother and his wife… and good luck with that.
When I was growing up I had no desire whatsoever to have children.
I was one of those awkward people who didn’t even know how to smile appropriately at a baby.
I had big dreams of being a career-driven, serial monogamist in New York or Chicago.
I was oblivious to the existence of a biological clock until my Freshman year in college. What started it ticking? Those damn Baby Story shows on TLC. You could almost smell those sweet, powdery newborns.
Over the course of the next several years it was an upward trajectory toward parenthood.
You start picturing what your babies might look like.
Then you start picking names for your imaginary babies, usually horrible ones.
Then your friends actually start squeezing kids out and you suffer from baby envy.
TICKING LIKE TINNITUS.
You get married and then it becomes an obsession.
Every negative pregnancy test is a visual representation of your eggs shriveling up and turning black.
Every month that passes is a guarantee your child will have some horrible deformity or disability because you waited too long.
Your nightmares resemble the warning on the side of the Accutane box.
Then you get pregnant.
A whole different kind of clock starts ticking.
You spend the first three months anxiously awaiting the ‘safe time’ to break the news to your family, friends and work.
The next three months are waiting to find out the gender.
The next three are spent buying a billion things you will never actually end up using and clothes your child will stain and destroy upon the first wearing. They’re also spent being miserable and uncomfortable. You start to count every second.
I’m not gonna lie. I ADORED being pregnant. That changed when I realized my baby was pressing up on my hiatal hernia, causing me to have perpetual acid reflux and difficulty swallowing.
Then you count contractions.
Baby is born! Woohoo! Your 6-pound-whatever-ounce reason to live has arrived.
Then you begin marking off your baby’s developmental progress, another way of tracking time.
You worry about whether they’re at the appropriate age to eat rice cereal, whether they’re already teething or just sick, whether they’re behind when it comes to taking those first steps, those first words, those first anythings.
We happened to have two children in quick succession and then realized there was no way in hell we were ever going to have another. We hit the jackpot of crazy kids. Even my own mother recently confessed that both of my toddlers are “exceptionally difficult.” Not the kind of exceptional I was hoping for.
Then, something strange happens. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no tracking of time passing. There’s no marking anything off on a planner or calendar.
Now, you’re just supposed to live.
What? How do I do that?
The only internal clock I can find is the one that keeps telling me to bottle up whatever moments I have with my babies.
It’s counting down until they’re too big to sit on my lap, until they don’t call me “mommy” but “mom”, until they start dating and say they hate me.
Eventually, they will leave and I will be left where every parent ends up: crushed by the realization that my babies really aren’t babies anymore, but grownups about to embark on their own journey toward parenthood.
Now, my obsession with time is that I don’t have enough.
Every second slips away while I am stuck in traffic, folding laundry or working.
Don’t mean to talk badly of my profession, but there’s no denying that I would rather be exploring the great outdoors with my kids than writing about a guy accused of raping his pit bull.
Lately Alma has been trying to prove she’s “big enough” to do everything by herself. She’s big enough to get up to the potty by herself, wash her own hands and dress herself. If she tells me she doesn’t need me one more time, I’m going to burst into tears.
This is the beginning of the end.
My powdery fresh newborns are toddlers.
I will never cry tears of joy holding a tiny baby that is my own.
Shit, is this the sound of my real biological clock ticking?