When we purchased our little white house, one of my favorite aspects of living at 609 Columbia was the fact that our home sits comfortably on Holland’s Tulip Lane. Which, for one week out of the year in early May, is charming and cute. The first year, when I was pregnant and in full-bloom with Jackson, we had proud, dramatic red tulips in abundance along our curb. Standing tall, making a statement, and even matching our red front door. One block away from our house is a busy corner with crooked, wooden arrows nailed to a post, directing traffic down our street. I’m not going to lie that it must be the attention of living on Tulip Lane that I adore because it gives me a reason to spruce of my window boxes, tidy up the flower beds around the lamppost, keep the lawn mowed (all in the spirit of heritage appreciation, of course).
This year, my neighbors across the street have a bountiful row of lavender tulips, opened like perfect little cups. My next door neighbor has bright yellow ones adorning her curb, which comes right up to the edge of our driveway. The town is busy and colorful as tourists wear cameras as necklaces, driving and walking around in amazement at the millions of tulips that shot up perfectly to say ‘hello’. However, along my curb is a row of dirt with a few tulip leaves peeping out. Not a single flower.
It occurred to me that this is rather appropriate for this year because, lately, I haven't really felt like I've been in full bloom myself. The past few weeks have included sickness for every member of our family and, because Oliver is teething, I spend a good deal of my time rubbing his nose, bouncing him, waking up at night, and fretting over what medication may *actually* help him. When Jackson was this age, teething was horrible for him as well, and this is exact phase when I began to unravel. As a first time mom years ago, I was so deeply confused and unhappy, trying to console a nearly-inconsolable baby, and I lived in fear that life would never return to a sense of normal again. My identity struggle took a hold of my life, and even in late, teary nights, I would sometimes pull up my resume on the computer just to have a reminder that I had used to be someone on paper, have something to offer. I wasn't only this lost, lonely mom; I had a degree, experience, and goals. It took me several years, a good church, truthful friends, and an incredible Savior for me to turn that lost person into the more confident, content, stay-at-home mother I have become. But still, there will always be traces of that insecure person, desperate to find her place, striving to please and reconcile. And I think having a teething baby is the biggest trigger for me to be reintroduced to this person.
Maybe this is dramatic. But a teething, fussy baby is one of the greatest threats to my do-it-all type of lifestyle. I love to be busy, using my time at home as opportunity for creative work. But bouncing a drooling baby removes any mom from other tasks, responsibilities or opportunities. Everything halts until that tooth has cut, and then life will resume a bit of normalcy until the next one decides to show up (sometimes days--even hours--later). Maybe your kids are easy teethers, but both of my boys are transformed into different children. And it's in this very season that I so badly want to look for an exit card. It's my least favorite part of motherhood thus far, and I'm immovably up to my knees. Right now, there's no way out. I've been planted here, even if the only blooming I will do is a little green leaf peering across the street at the other tulips.
This past week, Josh, Jack and I have passed a flu bug to each other, taking turns throwing up and feeling achy. I think I can count on my hand the times in my life when I've really thrown up, and last night at 4 a.m. was one of the worst, the kind that strains your whole body and makes you feel like your eyes are going to pop right out. I had to cancel on my good friend Jen's baby shower, despite the fact that last night, I'd carved out some alone time to sew her little son some bibs.
I even had the chance to make her a card (these are the experiences that teething takes away from me). A baby shower would have been perfect right now because, undoubtedly, I would glean inspiration from the decorations, the menu, the presentation of all the shower details. (Jen is a photographer and has tons of beautiful, creative sisters). I could oooo and ahhh over baby blankets and frames, pacifiers and rattles, reminding me that even though I'm not where I love to be in motherhood, I still marvel at the wonderment of the experience itself. I wanted to support Jen, but also I think baby showers support and refocus all moms, giving us reminders of how sacred and special having a child is in the first place.
Instead, I've spent this final Saturday of Tulip Time in my pajamas, lying in bed, sipping Sprite and wrapping my sore, achy muscles in big comfy quilts. Josh, having just had this same bug two days ago, has been ultra-sensitive and go-getter-ish. The dishwasher is running, blankets are folded, the boys are dressed and out the door for the final parade. And even though I'm missing the excitement, I so rarely take the opportunity to slow down and really be helped. To not care about presentation or obligation of any kind. My window boxes are empty this year, my tulips are buried down there somewhere, and my shades are drawn. Sometimes it takes getting sick to realize the futility of certain commitments and also the importance of real, honest rest. To take a break not only from the things that keep our family on the go, but even from the tasks that make me crazy at home like cleaning the high chair three times a day or emptying the lint filter.
Aside from the violent illness at 4 a.m., perhaps this sickness was a Mother's Day gift in disguise. And, even though I'm not in my favorite space of mothering, I know that this too shall pass, and sooner than later, my tulips will be standing strong once again.