A while ago, I received an evening call from a friend. I couldn't talk. I was playing Yahtzee with my big kids. Big kids! Yahtzee! I have big kids who play Yahtzee! She was just as amazed, having only little ones herself, and thus no Yahtzee.
Like-mindedness does not equal like-lifedness. Back when we were solidly in baby/little kid territory, I found it most vexing when a like-minded person five kids ahead of me would say something like, "Wipe down the toilet while the kids brush their teeth!" or "Dad is great at doing [X] with the older kids!" or "Our family loved putting on a Reader's Theater of Torquato Tasso! When we finished that we read the Federalist Papers together--what fun!" Lucky, lucky you. Please don't tell me, "Even our five-year-old can help out a little!" In a house where the oldest kid is five, the amount of help a five-year-old is able to contribute is well known, and not a cause for great optimism.
I remember thinking in those early days about women I knew who had lots of kids (like, four), and being completely unable to comprehend FOUR pregnancies, giving birth FOUR times, living through FOUR postpartums, nursing for FOUR+ years of life. After our first baby was born, I told my husband, "I can't believe anyone ever has more than one kid." Sometimes I still can't. I can't believe I have. I have not forgotten that first baby. How I truly despaired of my life at her delivery. How ruined and hopeless I felt afterward, and for how long. How nursing her was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. How the hardest thing I have ever done took months measured in quarter hours, not a bold moment of heroic decision. How I couldn't smile then any more than I could fly. How the whole time I was thinking, I cannot, cannot do this ever again.
The existence of apparently happy mothers nearing the end of their parturitional careers at least provided evidence that there were some women who could do this without going to prison or having their kids apostasize and write Sedaris-esque memoirs of their outlandish childhoods. But no bland testimony of "You'll make it!" actually made me think I would. Every reminder of how blessed these blessings are and affirmation of what a good job I was doing from someone who couldn't possibly know what kind of job I was doing just reminded me what a bad person I was.
We all start somewhere. "This too shall pass" and "It's worth it" are things I already know. Being prodded with them doesn't help me through the lowest times, devoid as they are of such clemencies as nights passed in sleep or 45 minutes alone (to PRAY! to BATHE!). I know it will pass and it's worth it. If I didn't know that I would be under 24-hour surveillance in some institution. Anyone who wants to help a mom out can say a prayer, mail a package, come over and read to the kids for an hour, keep vigil hither or thither. Anyone who wants to make her sadder can force her to respond politely to the wisdom of the ages when she's mucking through this doleful hour or month or year.
So, friend, I'm sorry I couldn't talk. I look forward to your Yahtzee-playing days for you, because Yahtzee is fun. I have nothing but respect, sympathy, and prayer for the gutting it out you're doing now. It's warm again; let's plan a day soon.