Tima pooped this morning, like she often does, while I was also pooping, a thing I find weird and endearing. I should have known something was up when she didn’t strain and get all red-faced like she usually does. There was just a pause in her babbling as she briefly bared down. It wasn’t until I got her onto the changing table that I noticed smeary poo on my forearm and nightgown, on her onesie and diaper cover. Once her dirty diaper was off, she squirmed and rolled over and pushed up to all fours and did her best to get fecal matter all over the place, but somehow, like the sometimes superhero mama I am, I managed to thwart the spread of the poop. Once she was cleaned up, we went back into the bathroom to wash out the soiled stuff, where I noticed a line of shit in her bouncy seat. Ugh. Twenty minutes of scrubbing later, we were ready to move on with our day, and I though to myself, “It can only get better from here, right?”
Apparently not. This day was not destined to rise above the morning’s crappiness.
Work sucked; I couldn’t concentrate and wasted most of my day on facebook, reading articles tangentially related to my work, and talking to everyone about anything they wanted to talk about. “Relationship building,” I call it, when I feel bad about not plowing through my to do list. Off and on all day, I thought of my best friend, who is going through something he won’t tell me about that’s keeping him away from us. I’m missing him, sad Tima isn’t getting time with her beloved Uncle, pissed at myself that I haven’t been able to better tend and nurture our friendship. We had plans to talk tonight, but he texted later to cancel. Underneath it all is the baseless, irrational fear that he’s done with me, our friendship, that I will lose him. It’s ridiculous, I know that on some level, but no matter how I argue with that fear, I end up so panicky I don’t know what to do with myself.
Then there was back-to-school night at Tima’s daycare after work, which I forgot about, so I was hungry and cranky. Before the teachers started talking to us, I was visiting with another single mom, and I was kind of an ass to her. She said that her daughter’s father told her he did not want to be a part of their lives over the weekend; I said, more or less, that I didn’t have to deal with that stuff because Tima was donor-conceived. I mean, holy shit, what evil spirit possessed me to make me say that insensitive shit instead of, “I’m so sorry”?
Tima was so tired by the time we got home, she couldn’t even eat dinner, take a bath, or even really cry. She half-heartedly gave a go at crying, but it was this subdued, hiccupy thing that was incredibly pitiful as I rushed around making a bottle, getting her cleaned up a little and into pajamas. It took way too long, maybe fifteen minutes, the whole time, Tima crying her exhausted little cry. When we got into bed, the second her lips closed around my nipple, her eyes rolled back into her head and her eyes fluttered shut. Her relief at not having to be awake one second longer should have been a comfort to me, too, but only recriminations flooded me: Why didn’t I bring dinner for her to the open house? Why didn’t I make formula and prep her bottle before I went to pick her up? Why didn’t I have her pajamas ready? Why didn’t I fucking remember we had open house? Will I forever be this disorganized as a parent?
But the question I should have asked myself — Will I ever stop measuring my parenting against unattainable standards — didn’t occur to me. empathy for myself didn’t come, as perhaps, it should have. If any one of my mom friends had told me about inadvertently torturing their tired child by not planning well, I would have reminded them that they are doing their best, that their baby survived well, is still happy and loves their mama. Nope, none of that tender forgiveness for me.
After Tima was fed and sleeping in her crib, I laid in the dark a couple feet from her, listening to her breathe. I stayed longer than I needed to, long after she was deep asleep. Because I can’t rip myself away from her on those days when we only spend about twenty minutes of quality time together in the whole day. About an hour later, hunger drove me to go make dinner, which, it should be no surprise at this point, turned out to be pretty unappetizing. And the kitchen sink is overflowing with dirty dishes.
But there were some bright spots to the day, and I suppose I’d do well to end with them. Fall has arrived with its crisp, sun-drenched morning air, its windy afternoons, and cold evenings. It’s my favorite time of year, and walking Tima out to the car for daycare, it was exciting to introduce her to fall. I also spent a few minutes talking to my best girlfriend about my shitty day and had the opportunity to tell her I appreciate how well she’s loved me and Tima since she was born.
But most of all, I want to remember Tima’s beautiful face in the low light of the morning, her eyelids drooping shut as I walked with her in my arms out to the kitchen to get her morning bottle, her soft sigh as she relaxed into sleep, how her eyes didn’t open, not even when I rested her butt on the edge of the sink, turned on the hot water, and filled a plastic tub to warm the formula.
She almost never does that anymore: sleep wherever and whenever. It reminded me of when she was brand new and slept whenever you needed to. It wasn’t that I longed for those early days — for the love of God, I’d prefer not to repeat those early days for maybe ever — but, if I am paying attention, there can be a time-slowing perfection to witnessing her sleep. In these moments, when I am not standing in judgement of my perceived failings, love trickles through my body when she’s at peace. It’s a rare and complete kind of satisfaction. I miss feeling that throughout my day. I want this memory of my girl, asleep in my arms early this morning, to be a defining goodness; may it transform the sadness and disappointment that pervaded my day.