Sitting in the long line of cars, traffic jammed at each stop light as I made my way down Main Street. With the first snowflakes of the season taunting drivers through their windshields, everyone in town seemed to be in a frenzy. The threat of a major snow event in the South prepares the region for some well-meaning ,yet misplaced, panic. The agonizingly slow roll down the street made a 10 minute journey into a 30 minute trek. This became the perfectly irritating end to a stress-filled week.
While I had spent briefer stints alone at home caring for our toddler, this past several days was the longest glimpse I had into the admirable nightmare of single-parenting. I scrambled to complete all the typical tasks: feeding Evelyn even when I had to play an impossible guessing game of what she wanted to eat, making sure she made it to school with all her daily necessities, picking her up from school on time, working on her physical therapy each night, bathing her, putting her corrective brace shoes on before bed, brushing her teeth, washing her face, changing diapers, encouraging her to use her sippy cup even when she emphatically pushed it away. This felt so typical, so routine, and nothing out-of-the ordinary from the previous weekends we had our girls’ time.
This week, however, hurled at me challenges that nearly brought me to my knees, almost forced a sob or two (if I had ever stopped doing what had to be done long enough to realize I probably should be crying), and threatened to take down my self-esteem as a mother.
When I woke up with migraines two mornings in a row, a manifestation of my slumber being murdered by anxieties, I felt I could barely get a bowl of cereal together. I held myself together enough to toss a few Cheerios on Evelyn’s tray and let daycare take care of the rest.
When I hurried through my shower so I would have enough time in the morning to get Evelyn ready for school, the shower curtain rod tumbled from the wall. Clanging on the floor, I looked at it, kept the towel wrapped around my dripping frame, kicked it to the side and said “I’ll deal with you later.”
When Evelyn woke up the next night at 10:38, and then 3:00am, then 4:35am, I only checked on her two of the three times. The first time, she required minimal adjustment and a few pats on the bottom. The second time, as my dream diminished to a vague memory, I turned over and prayed she would stop crying. She did. And I slept. The third time I heard choking. Racing to her room, the distinct vile odor of vomit was unmistakable. As I sleepily muttered comforting words on our way to the bath, the guilt of my lack of action for her last cries filtered in. Why did I not check on her before? What kind of mother just wishes for her child to stop crying so she doesn’t have to get out of bed?
When the vomiting did not stop until she purged three times, I had to forfeit a mandatory work training, change out of my work clothes, wash three loads of laundry, give a second bath, and hold a pitifully droopy child until the doctor’s office opened an hour-and-a-half later.
When at the doctor’s office, I sat in the sterile, fluorescent-lit room alone with my nearly naked child as I attempted to keep her warm in the tiny blanket I kept in her diaper bag. Hanging on my arm, I was her only comfort while they poked her toe for blood and gagged her with the gigantic cotton swab for a strep test. I held her puke bucket as I watched her retch after the long wooden stick got the best of her. Fortunately for her, and for me, her little tummy was out of anything to expel.
When the doctor recommended getting her a new antibiotic (despite her already being on one for ear infections) and Gatorade for her to drink, I quickly made the rounds to the pharmacy and grocery store to secure these staples for her. Risking a public puking, I whisked her through the store in the cart, even when an employee slowed us down with the odd conversation starter, “you are lucky to get to look at that miracle everyday.” I wanted to describe to him how my miracle was a ticking time-bomb of vomit. Instead I smiled, nodded, and moved along. With the regurgitation continuing its hiatus, we even chanced a minute to stop at the ice cream aisle.
When I failed to pick up more whole milk for Evelyn at that previous trip to the store, I stopped on my way to pick her up from daycare the next day. With the snow-induced panic taking over the town, I immediately regretted my ineptitude from yesterday. Like an ant farm with aisles, lines, and trails of crumbs leading to the food necessities, the swarming store was intimidating. Brushing aside my anxiety, taking a deep breath, I refuted the pull to leave immediately and got the milk my daughter would likely need this weekend. As an added bonus, I picked up a box of macaroni and cheese.
When I waited in the obscenely long line to check out with my two food items, daycare sent messages saying they were closing early–an hour-and-a-half early. Switching the milk jug from hand-to-hand, its heavy coldness reminded me of just how long I have been waiting to escape the nuthouse. Now I had 3o minutes to get my child. Using my thoughts to will the lady in front me to to ring up her marshmallows, Doritos, and Dr. Pepper faster, the roads proved just as frustrating.
As I watched the snowflakes–moving down the street faster than my car–I realized how many times during the week I was on the brink of things falling apart. A shower curtain nearly knocked me on the head. I did not make it to my work training. Evelyn got strep throat and nearly choked on her own vomit. I barely got the milk she needed ahead of the pending snow storm. I only just made it to her daycare on time to pick her up and could not wish hard enough to make the impossible traffic disappear. I fought several headaches, the almost crippling anxiety, and lack of sleep. I did all these things because I am her mother. I am a good mother. I do not have to be perfect. I do not have to always make the right choices. But I do have to keep us all alive, comfort her when she needs it most, and fight crowds just for her milk and macaroni and cheese (because I know that’s one food she will eat when we might be housebound North Carolina-style). The shower curtain is back in its rightful place. Evelyn is on the mend. She has given me unlimited hugs, baby giggles, and kept me company when I needed companionship. This week, I was good enough. And that is what really matters.