Maybe it’s a mom of babies thing or a young mom thing, but this end-of-year feeling has me yearning for the tough days again and wanting to transport back to February 2020 when life was so much easier and seemingly less complicated. And yet as I sit here, reflecting on who I was back in February and what we were doing, was it much different then?
On maternity leave with baby number two, a colic-ally little thing with red hair and a loud scream, I sat at home all day long, trying to “nap when the baby naps” as if that’s a real thing, and juggling a 15 month old clinger who wants to climb and run and gets injured every two seconds. I was perpetually exhausted from said newborn and really run down physically. Not from a tough labor or a slower bounce back—no, I felt fine in that way. The constant touching of baby life and toddler life and husband life was wearing on me. I remember being so touched out one day that laying in bed alone when my husband worked late in numbing silence was self-care.
In the absence of school and work for half the year and despite being stuck at home, life seems to have blurred past us. Those early days of quarantine were filled with art projects, cooking fun new recipes, and going outside to do fun games and play with rocks. Slowly, week by week and month by month, the vigor of keeping these two babies busy grew thin.
April dragged on eons because my husband had COVID. Day one was a mad rush to get all my things and Layla’s, because she was still sleeping in our bedroom, stuff as safely out of the room. Husband had to quarantine for 14 days so I was left even more solo parenting while trying to keep up with sending food and water to the upstairs bedroom. Naps were random and sporadic for us all and sleep was even scarcer since I was on the couch in our family room being bothered by the rising sun, four cats, and lack of noise machine, black out curtains, favorite pillow, blanket, and all those first world needs.
Yet looking from those exhausting times to now, so much growth has occurred. Sure, you see a side by side of the kids and it’s obvious that they’ve experienced major changes. Lincoln’s face has matured and thinned, and Layla easily slid from little newborn to solid toddler. She hit all those standard milestones with ease and in just a year, she’s a little toddler with a personality to compliment her hair—fiery, headstrong, loud, snuggly, and sweet (sometimes). Lincoln’s moved on from loving to see trucks to acting out fire emergencies and dump sites. His vocabulary has probably tripled in the last year and he knows how to count from 1-20 and find the letters in his name with ease.
So much had happened while nothing was happening around us. We didn’t get to visit a zoo or go to the aquarium. Layla went to a public park once this summer and my mom and I were mortified by the lack of mask wearing or really any standard safety precautions in place. We never dared to go back so that was that. Her one swing ride was short lived meanwhile Lincoln’s first year of his life we ventured to the park dozens of times without a single thought of the slobber that no doubt was on every piece of equipment.
Heartbreak after heartbreak occurred, the hardest blow being the loss of my dog, Beau. He was my first baby and my best bud. A massive hole was left where he took up—everyday situations seemed to upset me from making bacon (his favorite meal) to not having to hold the front door when we went outside because he wasn’t there. With babies it’s hard to grieve because, again, life goes on. Days fly because you’re keeping track of meals and naps and who got changed when and what’s that smell. You don’t get to stop to think, you just go go go and don’t think about it. Is it easier? In the moment, sure. But when you break, you break bad.
Somehow, here we are a week out from kicking 2020 to the curb and I feel somewhat accomplished. Yeah, I have mentioned that nothing really happened, but just survival alone feels like a bullet checked off a list. Tough nights are distant memories. Long days with no activities scheduled and trying to stretch one more video until nap time or lunch time or a miniscule break to just go to the bathroom alone fades. A scratchy throat you’re worried could turn into something more serious dissipates to just feeling anxious.
Countless Instacarts picked up from the front walkway and GrubHub orders that were delivered hot and smelling delicious. Series started but never finished because you just couldn’t get into it. Movies bought and played in the background for days, never really watching because there’s so many other things going on and yet nothing really important either. I swear, I’ve seen this random episode of Blippi where he goes to the Phoenix Zoo at least one hundred times and just last week I saw a part I hadn’t before where he’s feeding the turtle…mind blown.
Do you ever just sit realize that you did it and you’re stronger? A year is a long time to suffer, but here we are, a shred of hope in the vaccine and the community efforts around mask-wearing and staying safe. A year of being tired and endlessly bored hinging on the gut feeling that 2021 promises more. We conquered the year, no worse for the wear. A toddler, a newborn, no work, a pandemic, house arrest, and loss. All of that is behind us.
We didn’t sign up for it or agree to it. We didn’t want it in any way, shape, or form. Regardless of our struggles, we came out on top of a year. A shitty year that nobody would ask for again, but it’s nearly over. We can make it the final stretch and then things can rebuild.
Part of me likes to think I’m a better person for it. I wore my mask when out in public for selfish reasons, to protect those I love, but also to protect those around me that I may not even know. We all gave our everything this year. We worked our asses off, either from home or driving into an isolated office or business as usual under stricter guidelines. Some of us did hybrid classes or all online. Some of us have kids or adults or babies or elderly. Some of us struggled mentally or physically or just to get out of bed.
And we’re all here at the end of it. Surviving.
So, yes, to answer my own question, are things different from last year? One thousand percent. We aren’t going back to normal when the clock hits midnight. There’s nothing magical going on. But there’s hope. And there’s a want for things to change. And that’s enough for me right now. If nothing else, the year is complete—another notch on the belt.