I didn’t cry at Elena’s birth. The pure joy and sweat dripping from my forehead replaced any potential tears, but last Monday morning I sat at my kitchen table with big tears rolling down my face. It’s been 6 weeks since Elena’s birth and my body has mostly healed, my milk has come in and our days (and nights) have a new rhythm. But motherhood stretches your heart and makes your tender and fragile in ways you didn’t know possible.
• • •
My parents were just here for a week. It was such a good visit. They got to meet Elena and I got to watch them become grandparents. They rocked, changed and loved our little girl. They took turns holding her so I could shower. My dad sang songs to her with made-up lyrics. My mom made us dinner with enough leftovers to freeze and we even took a mini-family road trip to one of my favorite places in Guatemala, Lago Atitlan. My parents treated us to dinners in Antigua and helped around the house. It was so good to have them here, but we had the worst kind of goodbye.
Gerber had gone to work in the morning and was running late. Meanwhile our contractor asked to stop by for just “cinco minutos.” My parents suitcases were packed and sitting near the door. Somehow the “5 minutes” turned into a much longer conversion about counter tops and paint colors and left Gerber and I arguing about the difference of 15cm. We went back and forth in English, then asked the contractor a question in Spanish. My parents stood waiting, listening to the half of the conversation that they understood.
I was still trying to convert centimeters to inches in my head, Gerber was concerned about hitting traffic on the way to the airport and Elena was starting to get fussy. I gave my dad and mom a quick hug good-bye, some i love yous and thankyous were exchanged in between me ssshhh-ing the baby girl. I watched as the grey pickup pulled away.
Then just like that they were gone.
And just like that, the tears came.
Looking down at my own daughter, I have never wanted my mom more than in that minute. I wanted her to come back, to take care of me, to tell me I’m doing an ok job and to help me take care of this tiny little human who somehow made me a mother.
• • •
My mom is wonderful. She has an empathetic heart, a deep love for each of her 4 kids and actually means it when she says, “I’ll pray for you.” She can tweet, text and order the book you mentioned from amazon all at the same time. Since getting married and moving to Guatemala my need for my mom has changed. Or maybe just looks different. And part of that is probably a healthy aspect of growing up. However, there is something about becoming a mom that has made me want my mom in a new way. I now completely understand why its nice to live close to family when you have kids. We live about 20 minutes away from Gerber’s family and I am grateful. They love and adore Elena and help us greatly, but it’s not the same as having my mom here.
• • •
I sat at our kitchen table, my eyes still wet with tears. I picked up my cell phone. “Gerber, can I talk to my mom?”
Mom? We said goodbye too fast. I don’t want you to leave….We didn’t make banana muffins, or finish the headbands. Elena still isn’t napping.
She listened. Said, it wasn’t a good goodbye. She reminded me to be gracious to myself. And told me I’m doing a great job.
• • •
Rocking my daughter in my arms, I looked down at her sweet little face. My first born. Motherhood fills you up and then deflates you. This rhythm of breathing in a deep joy and satisfaction one moment and then a nagging self-doubt that I must be doing something wrong. As I sniffled though the tears, I felt incredibly thankful for my mom. And I imagined that she had probably rocked me in her arms like this and had maybe felt something similar.