Sometimes those moments just sneak up and hit you like a tractor trailer veered into my lane on the thruway. I had to maintain composure- but on the inside I was a shaken up. I managed to steer to a clear spot, saved for the moment… but my insides were still a hot mess.
I was sitting on the bleachers watching my Lucy play ball, Amelia had Sparky’s leash. A few kids that I was talking to when we came onto the field were leaving and a mom I didn’t recognize asked me “How many kids do I have anyway?”. I am sure she was wondering if all of the kids I was talking to were mine… and she knew it was a harmless question. The thing is there is no harmless answer for me. I think I stuttered, or asked ‘who me?’… then it felt like forever while my brain figured out the way to answer her the safest and most honest way. The other moms sat and looked worried for me… my daughter’s father was standing behind me.
“I have 3 daughters, but only 2 are here.” Crisis averted- honest answer that avoided darkening the sunny afternoon and embarrassing another mom. Amelia said I acted annoyed, though I didn’t mean to be. I really just didn’t expect it.
It is weird how that question is always a rough one… do I want to spend the time to explain Madeline being the oldest Musto Chick but is forever only 5 ½ or do I want to go into it with a person I don’t know and change the direction on my day? The bad part is I don’t ever not want to include her in the count… so every time it is a different answer. I guess it is part of this missing, part of this grieving process… though I often wonder when parts of this process become normal and not so Earth shattering. I am guessing never, or at least never while I am still roaming this planet Earth.
When we got home we talked about that moment, Amelia applauded my honesty and noted that I have 3 girls and 1 isn’t there. I told her that it hurt my heart very much, not in a way that she meant it to hurt. My heart hurt because Madeline died and I miss her. I mostly love the world, but sometimes I just hate it. I hate that it spins- it spins!
I talked to a momma who just found out she is expecting her second soon, some wondered if she would find out. I went back to those days… those moments of hope and excitement. I loved the preparing, the nesting. I loved holding a tiny human and seeing the funny faces, the perfect hands that always wrap around a finger like they are meant only to hold a parent’s finger… I loved watching my girls sleep on my Boppy… watching them take each breathe. I loved the faces we made when we would feed little ones… showing them they need to open up to devour their pears or sweet potatoes. I really go back when I see a mom in Target trying to look at labels and still entertain their littles… lending their child a silly face and handing them something they could play with. I still rock side to side in Mass, like when I used to have a baby…
Anyway, today we were talking about how different the second is from the first, as all progressive pregnancies and parenting experiences are I assume. I only went to 3… so I guess others would know better. I know for me that going from 0 to 1 was the hardest for me. I was just me, me and my work and social life and travel and just thinking of me. All of the sudden one day a hospital let me take home this baby that I carried for 10 months… inside where she was fine and cared for. I felt like an alien leaving that day, like I was not at.all.prepared.or.the.correct.fit. I went from the Erin I knew and loved to this different version of me, not ready to be recognized. Erin as a mom…
It took me a long time to connect to Madeline, I had a very traumatic labor and delivery. I understand it better now, that in my mess of delivery and hormones and loneliness and fear, I had postpartum depression to an extent. As I healed and grew… Madeline and I became adventurers together. She and I walked the wheels off a stroller… she saved me in my loneliest times. Then came Amelia, mom’s groups and Lucy… and I started to know this new Erin better- I even felt like she wasn’t an alien.
Back to the hardest transition being 0 to 1… I learned to give up some control after. I learned that we needed to work as a pod and when a new member joined we worked together to live and enjoy and nap and grow and cry together. I tried to let go when things didn’t go as planned, detours and changes of plans need to be a normal with littles. I also loved trying to figure out how to fix a change of plans with only things I had on hand… in my family we call it ‘Magyvering’. I would challenge myself to fix the situation- sometimes with a diaper wipe and homemade onsie… other times with placemat and jelly containers as blocks- I would be super proud if I could do it for free. I think I loved the challenge of having 2 and then 3… I loved best seeing them together. My little tripod, my clan.
I hate that my pod is so damn tiny now. 1/3 is never at baseball, 1/3 is never visible to the ones we have never met. Stupid. This world is amazing and beautiful and kind and hard and painful and terrible and stupid… I mean it keep spinning. The sun comes up, the day goes by then comes dinner and bath and bed… and the sun goes down and it is still truth- the world can turn without her. So must I…
I never know the next time I will be sitting on a bleacher or in an office or at an event and I will go back to all of this pain. For now I am here… today it is softer than yesterday. I loved going back to those early days today… for that moment of feeling her skin, hearing her murmurs, watching her breathe, feeding her food trying to avoid the spit back I might get and walking the miles and miles we walked together… our pod of ladies.