Ever since we brought our new daughter home, her older brothers have been the first to tell me when she is crying, whimpering or smelling a little suspicious. "Somebody needs you," they say. I have no idea how this little saying started, but at first it sort of annoyed me. I could be enjoying a quick shower... "Mommy, somebody needs you. The baby is crying." Or, sitting down for a second, quite aware that the baby was beginning to stir from a nap.... "Mama, somebody needs you!" OK! I get it already! And not to mention that the newborn's needs pale in comparison to the needs of two little boys. Somebody always needs a snack, a band-aid, a different sock, ice cubes in their water, a NEW Paw Patrol, a stream of snot wiped, a hug, a story, a kiss. Some days never seem to end, and the monotony of being "needed" can really take its toll. Then, it all started to hit me, they need ME. Not anybody else. Not a single other person in the whole world. They need their Mommy.
The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life. That "Mommy" is my duty, privilege and honor. I am ready to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night. Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her 4 a.m. feeding when a 3-year-old has a nightmare. Mommy means I am surviving on coffee and toddler leftovers. Mommy means my husband and I haven't had a real conversation in weeks. Mommy means I put their needs before my own, without a thought. Mommy means that my body is full of aches and my heart is full of love.
I am sure there will come a day when no one needs me. My babies will all be long gone and consumed with their own lives. I may sit alone in some assisted living facility watching my body fade away. No one will need me then. I may even be a burden. Sure, they will come visit, but my arms will no longer be their home. My kisses no longer their cure. There will be no more tiny boots to wipe the slush from or seat belts to be buckled. I will have read my last bedtime story, seven times in a row. I will no longer enforce time-outs. There will be no more bags to pack and unpack or snack cups to fill. I am sure my heart will yearn to hear those tiny voices calling out to me, "Mommy, somebody needs you!"
So for now, I find beauty in the peaceful 4 a.m. feedings in our cozy little nursery. We are perched above the naked oak trees in our own lavender nest. We watch the silent snow fall and a bunny scampering across its perfect white canvas. It's just me and my little baby, the neighborhood is dark and still. We alone are up to watch the pale moon rise and the shadows dance along the nursery wall. She and I are the only ones to hear the barn owl hooting in the distance. We snuggle together under a blanket and I rock her back to sleep. It's 4am and I am exhausted and frustrated, but it's OK, she needs me. Just me. And maybe, I need her too. Because she makes me Mommy. Someday she will sleep through the night. Someday I will sit in my wheelchair, my arms empty, dreaming of those quiet nights in the nursery. When she needed me and we were the only two people in the world.
Can I enjoy being needed? Sometimes, sure, but often it is tiring. Exhausting. But, it isn't meant to be enjoyed every moment. It is a duty. God made me their Mom. It is a position I yearned for long before I would ever understand it. Over a three-day weekend, my husband couldn't believe how many times our boys kept saying, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy!" "Are they always like this?" he asked, not able to hide his terror and sympathy. "Yep. All day, everyday. That's my job." And I have to admit that it is the toughest job I have ever had. In a previous life, I was a restaurant manager for a high volume and very popular chain in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. A Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. with the expo window overflowing with dishes, a two-hour wait and the electricity inexplicably going out has got nothing on a Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. at the Morton house. And let me tell ya, South Florida diners are some of the toughest to please. But they are a cake walk compared to sleep-deprived toddlers with low blood sugar.
Once upon a time, I had time. For myself. Now, my toenails need some love. My bra fits a little differently. My curling iron might not even work anymore, I don't know. I can't take a shower without an audience. I've started using eye cream. I don't get carded anymore. My proof of motherhood. Proof that somebody needs me. That right now, somebody always needs me. Like last night...
At 3 a.m. I hear the little footsteps entering my room. I lay still, barely breathing. Maybe he will retreat to his room. Yeah right.
"Mommy." A little louder.
"Yes," I barely whisper.
He pauses, his giant eyes flashing in the dim light.
"I love you."
And just like that, he is gone. Scampered back to his room. But, his words still hang in the cool night air. If I could reach out and snatch them, I would grab his words and hug them to my chest. His soft voice whispering the best sentence in the world. I love you. A smile curls across my lips and I slowly exhale, almost afraid to blow the memory away. I drift back to sleep and let his words settle into my heart.
One day that little boy will be a big man. There will no longer be any sweet words whispered to me in the wee hours. Just the whir of the sound machine and the snoring husband. I will sleep peacefully through the night, never a worry of a sick child or a crying baby. It will be but a memory. These years of being needed are exhausting, yet fleeting. I have to stop dreaming of "one day" when things will be easier. Because the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today. Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit-up. Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck. Today is perfect. "One day" I will get pedicures and showers alone. "One day" I will get myself back. But, today I give myself away, and I am tired and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go. Somebody needs me.