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My Hands Aren’t Full, My Heart Is

Being a stay at home mom when the boys were babies was probably the most exciting and exhausting time in my life. I had 3 scrumptious baby boys under the age of 4 1/2. I was delighted. I was sleep deprived. I was in love times 3. My sons were so adorable that I wanted to devour them. The way they smelled, cooed, giggled and examined their fingers filled my heart with such intense joy and love. I just couldn’t handle the intensity of the adoration I had for my little cuties. I felt as if my heart was always on the verge of bursting. I reveled in the fact that I grew these perfect little gems in my belly, feeling every move they made for 9 months, then got to be a stay at home mom and continue to watch every thing they did every single day. If they were not with me, I felt like I was missing appendages.

A few days ago, I spoke with a new mother who just had her first child 9 months ago. I  found myself asking her so many questions about what he was like. I was curious about how he ate, slept and what his personality was like. Then, of course, we shared birth stories. As I listened, my cheeks began to hurt from smiling.  I suddenly felt a longing in my gut. A sadness from missing my babies, but also a relief that I finished that stage. I realized how long I had not thought of giving birth to my sons. Naturally, after we hung up, I dug up their baby albums. I smiled through wet eyes at all the pictures. I miss that stage.

My husband worked full-time so that I could be at home with the boys. We agreed that this would be the case. Early on, I had a ton of energy. Over time, I found myself more and more physically and emotionally exhausted caring for all 3 on my own. The challenges that came with having 2 sons with autism was utterly spent. I had my share of tears, depression and anxiety because there were so many unknowns about their futures. As much as I wanted to enjoy every second of each day, much of their early childhoods were spent counting the seconds until my husband arrived home from work. When he did, I quickly escaped to CVS, a local drug store chain. There, I would pace up and down the isles just to have alone time. After about 25 minutes, I would start to wonder what my boys were doing and if my husband remembered to give a bottle, (he did) or change diapers, (yep, that too) , or if he started baths (yes all three in a tub with tons of bubbles). I’d miss the delicious smell of their heads, how they’d reach for me to be held, and their great big smiles that were meant for only me, their Mommy. I would wake from this daydream in the magazine isle and drive back to our loved – filled chaotic home.

For as wonderful as it was to be home with them all the time, it was quite labor intensive and yes, I admit, I would periodically get bored. My husband would ask me how my day was and I give the usual “fine,” or “exhausting.” I never had energy to go into the details because it was always so much more than fine or exhausting. I had no energy to explain. I was at zero percent.

Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Time’s bestseller, The Love Warrior, perfectly captures how I would have described my day in her highly acclaimed book:

“How was my day? It was a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. I was both lonely and never alone. I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed. I was saturated with touch–desperate to get the baby off of me and the second I put her down I yearned to smell her sweet skin again. This day required more than I’m physically and emotionally capable of, while requiring nothing from my brain. I had thoughts today, ideas, real things to say and no one to hear them. I felt manic all day, alternating between love and fury. At least once an hour I looked at their faces and thought I might not survive the tenderness of my love for them….I started to panic at the reminder that this will be over soon, that it’s fleeting–that this hardest time of my life is supposed to be the best time of my life. That this brutal time is also the most beautiful time. Am I enjoying it enough? Am I missing the best time of my life? Am I too tired to properly love? …..But I’m not complaining, so please don’t try to fix it. I wouldn’t have my day or my life any other way. I’m just saying–it’s a hell of a hard things to explain–an entire day with lots of babies. It’s far too much and not even close enough.”

Looking back, I am grateful I was with them all the time. They were my little buddies I’d take with me where ever I went. I loved bringing them to parks and having playdates with their pals. Some days we’d stay in our pajamas all day; we’d play or make forts , then snuggle while watching Thomas the Tank engine until someone fell asleep. I loved visiting with friends and family or take trips to The Home Depot so they could sit on all the tractors. My oldest went through a love for tractors faze. His favorite bedtime story during that time was reading The Home Depot Tractor brochure. He knew all the different types of tractors before he could read.

When it was time to shop for food, they couldn’t wait to sit in the grocery cart that was disguised as a car. They would pile in and squeal with delight. I remember walking proudly down the isles pushing my playful little offspring up and down each isle.

Shoppers would often stop and smile. “Oh, they are just beautiful boys! Stunning!”

Well, yes of course , I’d think. “Thank you, M’am!”

Sometimes shoppers would grimace at how loud they were.

But most often I would hear, “Wow! 3 boys! You certainly have your hands full! Good Luck!”

I’d chuckle politely and think to myself,  “No…. my hands aren’t full … my heart is.”

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