He was 10 days old.
He woke with clinched fists and eyes squeezed shut after a too-short rest. His head turned from side to side, his mouth moving; he wanted to nurse. I settled him close and felt him relax next to me. But the peace of that moment did not last. After a few short minutes, he cried again and turned away.
It was happening again. Why couldn’t I do this?
I felt like a failure. This most natural thing – feeding my babies – was so very difficult. Even though I so desperately wanted to breastfeed, for some reason I could not supply enough milk. I had hoped this time my body would cooperate and that I would be able to feed him on my own. I could not escape the feeling that I was letting him down as I opened the can of formula.
I did not feel like Supermom.
He had just turned one year old.
I lifted him out of his high chair and brushed the mixed vegetables off of his clothes. (I think he wore more food than he ate in those days.) The peas and carrots and corn and beans rolled across the floor in a starburst pattern as he toddled off down the hall. He heard his older brother playing in the bathtub, so no doubt he wanted to investigate. I grabbed the broom; I would quickly sweep before I followed. I heard the sound – and the moment of breathless silence a moment later – and I knew.
“MOM! He fell against the tub!”
I was there in a flash – but not before my mind raced to guilt. ‘Why hadn’t I followed? I should have waited to sweep.’
I scooped him up and saw the blood and the broken teeth. I held and comforted and got a cold facecloth before rushing off to the emergency clinic. There I saw sympathetic smiles from the nurses, but was told that chipped teeth are not medical emergencies.
I did not feel like Supermom.
I am not-so organized all the time and I struggle to keep us on time. Sometimes I am a space cadet.
I am not the best housekeeper. Sometimes my feet stick to the floor where popsicles have fallen and melted – their liquid dried to a sheer gloss. Or I crunch fish crackers that swim over the edges of our colourful bowls. The laundry gets washed and folded and stacked, but sometimes the piles take over one (or more) of the seats in the living room before it gets put away.
I do not feel like Supermom.
He is four now.
For the past 3 days, he has been sick with a fever. His asthma flares with viruses and makes him cough and wheeze. He could not get comfortable the other night after I tucked him in. After hearing him struggle for a few minutes, I walked quietly into his darkened room.
“Will you stay with me?” he asked.
I rearranged his pillows into “pillow mountain” and I snuggled beside him. I passed him his water bottle and he took small sips to calm the cough. I smoothed his hair and I could smell his shampoo as I kissed the top of his head. And slowly, slowly, I felt him relax. The coughing subsided and his breaths lengthened. His eyes slowly closed.
I knew he would likely awaken again – thanks to more coughing or a returning fever – after another too-short rest. But for that moment at least, he was comfortable.
I am not Supermom – most days I don’t come close. Most days are rushing and compromise and balancing and falling off the mountain of my expectations. But I keep climbing. And sometimes on the way up, I catch a glimpse of something in me. I have the words or the shoulder or the healing touch they need, right when they need it. I could almost believe in my own magic.
The other night in the darkness of his room, I might have had that elusive super power. It didn’t last, of course. But for that moment, I felt like Supermom.
Do you have glimpses of Supermom?