Butterpillars and The Baby Thing

May 21, 2013 by

He chased a moth across the front lawn and then ran inside, all high excitement and tumbling exclamations.

“Mommy! I almost caught that butterpillar!”

And I died a thousand deaths, because how on earth can I ever beat that? There just isn’t anything else that steam rolls me like the silly, mixed-up phrases of my babies. Each time another one bursts from their baby fine lips, I scramble to immortalize the moment, the phrase, the bright eyes and floppy hair. I post it on facebook, scribble it in a notebook, I play the scene over and over in my head, committing it to memory.

I used to do the same thing when I nursed them as infants. As they suckled, I clasped the smoothness of their feet in my palm and pushed my thumb between each toe, ran it along the sole. I focused with concentration of a NASA analyst and told myself I’d never forget this  baby, this  foot.

But the truth is, it’s all just kind of blurry now. I know I did these things, nursed my babies endlessly, lived in the precious moments of their helplessness, tried desperately to memorize the sensations of each minute of their lives. But, when the minutes piled up like they have, the distinct nature of each one sank into the big gap of time I now call “The Baby Thing”.

As in, we’ve done The Baby Thing.

And, we’re not all that interested in doing it again.

We’re so close to being done with The Baby Thing. My fourth son turns two next month, so he’s teetering on the edge of babydom and full-blown toddlerhood. After a really long fall/winter/early spring of one virus/cold/croup/asthma/fever episode after another slamming our family, my baby found that his already beat mama had no energy to fight him and his triumph has culminated in his relocation to our bed at some point every.single.night. It’s not a pretty situation and his feet in my face all night are pushing me ever closer to the edge of my sanity.

I put my foot down last night and informed my husband that he  would be dealing with “that child” because “that child” knows he has me completely conquered and I wasn’t in the mood. To his credit, not a word of disagreement came from my husband’s mouth. Instead, when that little guy called out at 11 PM, he dealt with it. Repeat at 1 AM. And then I woke up at 6:45, in my bed with only my all-of-a-sudden extremely hot husband by my side. My hero.

The world seems a little more loving today.

It’s all true. The holding, the memorizing, the cherishing, the desperate attempts to freeze time, to never, ever take these moments for granted. And also, the exhaustion, the DONE, the end of the rope. Somehow these two states of being are coexisting. I wish I could say it was a peaceful coexistence, but in the interest of honesty, it’s more like a constant state of self-induced whiplash. I push so hard into one emotion, I never see the other one coming. And then it hits me full force and I’m left waiting for my eyeballs to refocus in my head and struggling to find my balance.

They both take me breath away.

When the “butterpillar” moments materialize in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day, the beauty of the sweetness and purity of their innocence rocks me, but it’s the little ache that comes with knowing these minutes are fleeing as fast as these boys are growing that sucks my breath from my body.

And that blessed rope end that I find myself at far too frequently, there’s a little satisfaction to be found there too. Even as the guilt for my lack of patience and nurturing response fills my mind, there’s this bit of sanity I feel returning. This deep knowledge that says, you feel insane because you can see it, what it’s like to be a person. A person whose life is happily full of children, but also full of things like waking up in her own bed with only her husband sharing that space, dinner out with a friend, writing. For the last, well never mind how long, I’ve been filling so many needs, rarely allowing room to feel anything but the next maternal response. But from this edge of The Baby Thing, I can see that little light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, starting to glimmer just a bit.

A new season is coming. One in which the DONE feeling leads to some new crevices of joy and purpose. One where sleep leads to energy. One where my growing boys watch their mama become a woman who , every now and then, tells them their special  butterpillar stories and then writes her own while they play in the next room.

One where The Baby Thing was the best thing that ever happened to me, and one where I’m just fine moving on.


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  • Reply Rebekah October 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Sarah, you are a fantastic writer and you describe it all so beautifully, even the ugly parts!

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