Not a day goes by that I do not feel grateful for my children. In a way in which I will probably never be able to articulate well, I love them with ferocity. I love them wholly and deeply and cherish all the ways our lives intertwine, literally.
A tangle of scraped up knees snuggling in my bed.
A lock of golden hair curled into my nightgown while I rock them to sleep.
A Tupperware bowl from the kitchen converted into a frog habitat.
Sticky handprints on the dashboard and a Chapstick kiss on the rearview mirror.
In a thousand little ways, I am honored to be part of their everyday world.
But, in just a few, I am not. Like anytime I need a restroom.
“Are you eating candy in there, Mommy?”
“No. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I can hear the candy wrappers”
“They are not candy wrappers”
“Why is the door shut?”
“Because I want some privacy.”
“Does privacy have frosting?”
Yes. I think it may be the frosting.
Welcome to motherhood.
Limitless love? Yes. Personal space? A rarity.
Just about the time your nursing coach helped you with your first “latch”, you suspended your claim on personal privacy. Hello stranger with your hand down my gown. . .
Your body no longer belongs to just you. Or in the case of public nursing, not even just you and your child. Privacy falls second to more urgent, louder needs to attend. Now consider the preschool, play dates and swimming lessons the older three require, and you can bet half the town has seen you trying to navigate a nursing bra in the front seat of your car. Or in a stairwell. Or on a bleacher. Or in Target, while you push a cart full of diapers and sort through the clearance rack, while on hold for a prescription.
I remember the first days with all of my babies, the physical pull I felt to have their warm little bodies as close to my own as I could. As glorious as it was to finally see and hold my child, delivery meant for the first time in nine months, we would be separated. And I fought it. Despite pediatric warnings, my newborns all slept in my bed on my chest, where I could watch their tiny chest rise and fall and smell the top of their peachy heads. Yes, from the beginning, I have been the smothering type . . . and as they say, every pleasure exacts its pain.
Because, now of course, they won’t leave me alone. Ever.
Sometimes I wonder if the there is a Pavlovian reaction to the phone ringing in our home. On a banner day when I can find a phone receiver, I can count within minutes all four of their blond little heads bobbing around my legs. Urgent needs to be met. Emotional coaching to be had. Sharp tools to be confiscated.
As soon as they can’t have my full attention they are in desperate need of nothing else.
And, of course, restrooms are the worst. I mean emotional unavailability is one thing, but to physically remove myself, to shut a door on them, well, that appears to be nothing short of insulting.
Though not a particularly modest woman, I do miss the luxury of peeing by myself.
Not amidst the circus of tooth-brushing four children.
Not with a sick toddler screaming in my lap.
Not while debating the logic of why a ten year old can’t have a cell phone.
And certainly not while hosting a pool party.
Now, I’ll admit, I have been known to find solace with a candy bar and hot cup of coffee in the bathroom. Sometimes, a plate of brownies in the tub. Don’t judge. We all make room for the sacred in our day however and wherever we can.
So when tampon wrappers are mistakenly equated to candy wrappers, I have to begrudgingly smile. And give them credit.
Privacy may no longer be mine, but at least I’m with people who understand me.
Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a stout believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy. She never takes the last slice of pie and makes a mean brandy slush. Visit Chronicles of a Cave Mom (Http://marnystebbins.blogspot.com/) to read more of Marny’s work.