August Benjamin joined our family on the day after Christmas. The holidays were a blur. The last month has been a blur. What did I even do five minutes ago?
The Honaker house is a disaster these days. There is always a pile of laundry on the couch. The dishwasher always needs to be unloaded. Toys are on the floor in every room. There are so many diapers.
Three kids under the age of four is a lot. I knew it would be. Each kid needs everything. They are all too little to do a lot on their own. As soon as one is happy, there are usually two who suddenly are not.
Unprompted, without fail, every day Jack tells me that he loves his baby brother and little sister. Ellie adores the two boys. She follows Jack around through every room of the house and as soon as Gus cries, she is making her way over to him to try and help.
There isn’t a lot of time for anything other than moving forward to the next thing in front of me. The next feeding, nap, diaper change, kid to pick up from school, nose to wipe and on and on until bedtime.
I miss time that I used to have to think. My brain is full of lists of groceries to get at the store, errands to run and things to do. All of these mental lists are futile because I haven’t had enough sleep in months and I typically can’t even remember whether or not I have shampooed my hair while I am standing in the shower.
I laugh when people tell me that I need to remember to take time to take care of myself. That is something that I remember to do, but never actually gets done. Not that I think Gus and I should be at home sipping mimosas and watching Below Deck marathons on Bravo, but I do remember that when there was only Jack to take care of, I got to sleep when the baby was sleeping. Even just sitting down for lunch is impossible with three.
One night last week, I tried to soak in the bath. All of the kids were clean and fed. Ben was reading to them before bed. Everything was perfect. The hot water was in the tub. I had a magazine ready. As soon as I got in the water, Jack came running in with an armful of cars, toy lizards and dinosaurs.
“Your need toys for your bath, Momma?” he asked. (“Your” is not a typo.)
“Umm, no, thank you, baby. I really appreciate it, but I think I am okay this time,” I told him.
“I can get in with you?” again with the questions.
“No, Jack. Its time for you to go to bed soon. You’ve already had your bath,” I said but it was useless. He was already naked and climbing in with all of the toys.
I quit working in an official capacity in the spring of last year. It was Ellie’s fault. It was just too much to balance her unpredictable appointments and hospital visits while keeping commitments to my coworkers and donors. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. I wouldn’t have built the mountain of student loan debt that I have if I was planning to stay home. I thought I could have it all, whatever that means.
In the beginning, I tried to work while she was in the hospital. I spent hours on phone calls and every morning after my shower and run to the cafeteria for breakfast, I would spread out my work on a hospital tray table in her room and work until the afternoon while she napped. When we got her home and she started going to school, I even got to start going back in to the office.
But, in February 2019 she got sick again and ended up on a ventilator for three weeks. Ben took her in to the doctor that first day because I was working. He stayed with her the first night when things got so bad that the doctors were preparing her (and us) for ECMO, a sort of last resort life support which provides heart and lung bypass outside of the baby’s body.
That next day was when I realized that I couldn’t do it all. Seeing her again in the same spot we had been in before, the same room on the same machines and sedated again, I knew I couldn’t leave her this time. She deserved to have someone who she knew with her at all times.
It only made sense for it to be me. Ben had been working to build his law practice and I worked for a nonprofit. I picked up some copy editing and writing work that I could do from anywhere at anytime and put away my Chief Revenue Officer hat that I loved so much. The freelance work keeps me feeling connected to the outside world and is something creative that I enjoy.
It sounds crazy, but even in this sleepless, dirty hair and pajama-wardrobed stupor, I am thankful that my life is out of control. Three kids (with one who is very high maintenance. Just kidding, they are all high maintenance), an elderly dog, a beta fish that has far outlived his life expectancy – every morning that Bug the fish is still alive is a good morning – and a husband who is building a business does not leave a lot of room for me or my sanity.
I don’t think that I will ever be in the running for a Mom of the Year Award – I yell and feed my kids too much sugar for that – but I do think that maybe being a mom in this chaos is my calling. Starting down this road of parenthood, I expected that I could control any situation and keep the wheels on the rails.
What I have learned over the last four years is that this life and these kids have created more fear and stress than I ever thought I could handle. The wheels are never on the rails. And my kids see it. They see me throw my hands up, lose my patience and fail.
But each day I wake up again and I handled it. On days –or at 3 a.m.—when I think I can’t do it anymore I remind myself that we all survived it yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. Soon I start to feel more competent and can pull myself out of the fetal position. My kids see that too.
I would be lying if I said that days with this newborn, toddler and threenager were all snuggles and smiles, but I think that these three are my greatest challenge and their full life means far more to me than any sales goal I ever met.
A while back, Ben and the kids stayed home while I ran some errands. He later told me a story about something funny Jack did when he thought no one was looking. Ben said, “It made me think, he does hundreds of these things all day long and if we aren’t watching, we just miss out on these moments.”
The potty accidents, chalk paint on the couch, tugging on my pantlegs for attention, hours of doctor’s appointments and tests, the “one more story, mommy” requests and tube feeding frustrations – all of these moments, good and bad, just disappear as soon as they happen. I am grateful these moments exist and I hope that I remember them forever.
I am thankful for my kids. I love watching them. Jack is becoming more independent. He is quite the negotiator, we are working on his manners and he wants to do everything all by himself, but he always stops to teach his little sister.
Ellie is a force. Her small stature and delayed abilities mean nothing. She is filled with determination and is so sure of herself that she protests any “no” that comes her way. Rules are merely suggestions because she already has it all figured out.
Gus is patient and goes with the flow. I am excited to see how he shows us more of his personality as he grows. He is the perfect addition to complete the trio of trouble.