With his hand laying gently on her bare shoulder, she turns her head and takes a look at the clock sitting next to her on the nightstand. 3:12am it reads. He is asleep, she is not, and hasn’t been for the better half of the night. She thinks about the fight they had at dinner and starts to cry again, the third time that evening, none of which he even noticed. She is careful not to wake him, worried things would only get worse if she did, and she isn’t sure she could handle much more. She can’t remember the last time she was able to sleep the entire night, and she certainly doesn’t know if she has been able to do it without crying. The thoughts of a person in the early mornings of 3am are like being in a desert. No matter what you do, you are surrounded by sand. Stand still, you have sand, run away, still sand, and the tears falling from her face did nothing but hit the ground and disappear.
“I am better than this” she keeps telling herself, the shame rolling in faster and faster like storm clouds. She wonders what is happening, she wonders if there is anything more she can do. She wonders if she is good enough. She starts crying.
The alarm finally goes off at 5:30am, but it really didn’t matter much to her, she is already up and trying to pick up the house, a little reminder of the fury he displays when she doesn’t do as he wants. She sneaks a quick peak to check on the baby. He used to be so helpful with her, but now he acts like she doesn’t even exist. Will she grow up feeling his love, or his absence, she worries to herself. She quietly closes the door and heads back to the kitchen. Her only salvation is the hot cup of coffee that warms her throat, but not quite her soul. As she finally catches her breath, she stares out the window and wonders if this is her new normal. Fight, make up, fight, and maybe an “ I’m sorry” or two along the way. She remembers how five years ago it was the happiest day of her life, and how that five years might as well be another lifetime ago, and how she might as well be a different person.
They sit down together at the table, a beautiful spread of fruit, oatmeal, and toast laid out in front of them. She was never the greatest of cooks in her younger days, but he has forced her to become one, and she feels she has done quite the job to satisfy him. “I’m not eating this” he says with a scowl on his forehead, “make me something different”. Her heart immediately falls into her stomach, and yet again, she feels like a failure for not seeing this coming. The baby starts to cry from the bedroom. She works hard to keep it together, and she does, until later in the day when he is gone, and she can finally break down again, her daily routine that never seems to change.
Her friends all brag about how wonderful their relationships are, and she is quick to respond that things are great at home too, but deep down the anxiety is there. She immediately posts a few pictures of her and him together, smiling and laughing at beautiful vacation spots that would make anyone envious, those moments that she wishes would last all day, but unfortunately only last a few minutes. Her friends tell her how wonderful he is and how lucky she must feel, but she often sits and feels the pressure of trying to be her best, hoping that he is happy, hoping they can be happy together.
She is sitting in the living room, her hair is up and her spirits down. She is worried about what to make for dinner and if another fight will ensue. She closes her eyes, thinks about what her one true friend suggested, and just starts screaming. She yells at the top of her lungs for what seems like a full minute. She stops. And then something wonderful happens, she starts laughing. She tries to scream as loud as she could again, but five seconds in she stops again and continues to laugh. How amused she is at the thought of screaming. She feels the tension leave her and she slips further into the couch. She tries to scream a third time, but somehow the breath turns into song, and she is singing Beyonce’ at the top of her lungs. Dancing ensues. Joy follows.
That evening, the tension is still there at dinner, but she feels different, responds different. He makes a remark about the chicken she prepared, “Oh, sorry honey” she replies in an apologetic but not defeated tone, “I will try something different next time”. He doesn’t fight her, just goes back to his eating, never once looking at the baby.
The day was long, but something inside her was different. She has a new hope, and thought all the pressure building up in her was becoming too toxic. She makes a playlist in her head of the songs she would be singing tomorrow, her own private concert, the baby the only one in attendance. She wouldn’t let her fears get the best of her, and she accepts that fact that everyone has the same worries she has. Later, not long after 11pm, he climbs into bed with her, gently pushing his head into her freshly washed hair, grabbing her hand. “Your hair smells pretty mommy” he says softly, the sound of a small boy that is just as scared of messing up in life as she is. “Thank you dear” she gently replies back. “I love you mommy” he says, as he slowly tapers off to sleep. “I love you too sweetheart”, she whispers back, kissing his forehead gently. The tears come back. She sees his struggle too, and she is worried. WIll he make friends? Will they make fun of him? Will he be okay? The pressure a mom feels is immeasurable. It is bad enough that the world judges them for being a woman, now she has the pressure of being judged on being a mother as well.
Tonight, she sleeps, the deepest sleep she can remember, and the dreams start. She is brave again, the worry slipping away, and the calmness settling in. She is sleeping beauty, falling deep into the wonderful trance that will give her peace, only to be woken up in the morning by the kiss of her little prince charming.