It sits in a pile on the bottom shelf of my nightstand. Why wouldn’t it be there? Where else should one keep a diaper that would fit a grown human’s hand. It’s smashed between a GOALS journal and a copy of YOU ARE A BADASS. I’m sure it would be better saved in a box of memories. Or gosh, I suppose it could even go in the weekly trash. After all, they still make them and I doubt they’ll ever stop.
But this one. It’s my memory.
The tiny diaper marked P-S over the orange and yellow lines with the teal label and the yellow writing. The tiny diaper that still smells like fresh baby things. The tiny diaper that, for a time, was all I knew. And I couldn’t see passed it. To a day that wouldn’t feel so full of waking moments. Of my nerves standing on edge. Of my hair smelling like crusted-regurgitated milk. Of my heart feeling crushed because I wasn’t the mama I saw myself being.
I was frazzled. I was obsessing over every ounce. I was exhausted. Pumping and nursing for nearly 18 hours of the day. I was deflated. Defeated. And devoid of my normal spark.
It’s not how I thought motherhood was supposed to be.
But they all told me. This is normal given your circumstances. Premature babies. IUGR. Reflux. Screamers. These are your babies. They have to grow up and out of this stage. Their bellies aren’t right. They just need time. And a special diet from you. And they just need to be held. Every. Single. Minute. They are healthy. They just weren’t ready.
I felt like a failure. I felt like I didn’t possess a maternal bone in my body. When someone asked, “What do you normally do to calm him down?” I remember being reduced to tears. What do I do? I don’t know. Nothing. Works. What is wrong with me?
No one labeled it post-partum depression. Or the blues. Everyone I talked to agreed that it was just a hard time and place and that no one would feel like themselves when their baby screamed. And cried. And fussed. And jittered. And jolted. I even asked about meds for mama. And was told nothing like that would help the cries disappear. So I trudged on. So not myself.
The tiny diapers. For awhile I couldn’t look at them. I almost had PTSD. I could barely hear a baby cry in public without feeling like it was me. Like they could sense I was there. Because number 1… he cried. For 10 months. And number 2… he cried. For longer. And number 3… he did, too. They all wrenched their necks, arched their backs, and made dinosaur sounds. None of them were content to lay on a playmat or sit in their carseat when we arrived at a venue. Everything made them spit. And mama and daddy didn’t have the budget for special expensive formula which might have been the answer. I was on “the diet.” I was sad. I was alone. I wanted my before back. And I felt awful and guilty about that.
I loved my babies. I never ever wanted to leave them. I longed for them to be happy. And feel comforted. But I didn’t like motherhood.
I saw other babies in public or held my friends’ sweet bundles and wondered what on earth I was doing so wrong? Why were my babies so discontented? Why was I given such a supply of milk when my babies seemed so averse to it? Why was I such a failure at something that was supposed to be so innate to me as a woman — motherhood.
Around the 10th month, with each one, they began to find their groove. I’ve heard it said many times but the fog lifted and it felt so much more manageable.
And now I look at the tiny diapers and I look at them and I know. It wasn’t me. I was exactly the mother those babies needed. I wasn’t the mother that everyone else was. I was me. I was the type of mom who would love my babies even when it was hard and scary and not what I expected. After all, isn’t that what we mothers all are?
The tiny diaper stage, it was the hardest we’ve had. Even harder, at points, than some of the other life stuff I’ve been dealt. But it was 100% worth it and while I would change it over and over if I could, I know that I just have to look at it now and say, “shit. that was hard” and get along with living. Because we were all made for one another I think. And the tiny diaper sits like a trophy to me, reminding me that even as the diapers hung on each of them. As their skin was wrinkled and saggy. As they were sad and had a rough start. It’s all a part of their story. Even if it wasn’t our favorite chapter.
Sometimes we just have to do the hard. There is no way around it. It’s not anything we could have prevented or changed. It’s just something that we have to strive to survive. And then we can hold the tiny diaper in the air and say, “Heck ya. That was hard. And no one gets to tell me it wasn’t.” Because no one else lives your moments.
If you’re there… if you aren’t in love with motherhood but you love your baby more than you ever knew you could, please know this: It gets better. I know. That’s no prize for the present day, right? You still have to get through the clouds to see the fog when it lifts. But you can. And you will. And the tiny diaper will be on your nightstand some day to remind you that it was hard but oh was it so worth it.