A few days ago I posted a selfie on Instagram.
I was wearing makeup, for the first time in weeks, and was about to head out to my first audition since giving birth. The photo was from the shoulders up, and my expression was fairly pacific.
What I didn't caption was that the makeup had been slapped on, I was wearing a crusty nursing sweater, I had been breastfeeding for going on an hour, and that I was close to losing my mind.
The next day, I posted another selfie, this time of me and S jr. In it, we're both smiling, but what was really going on was a small shit-storm of not-fun. I had gone to my first audition and it had gone really well (I hadn't fallen over) and Corey, S jr and Wee W had all come along, for logistical reasons. They had waited in the car, which, when I exited from my audition, decided not to start.
Corey flagged down a kind stranger who gave us a jump-start and during that time I coaxed S jr out of a meltdown by taking selfies with him. Amazingly, Wee W remained asleep in her car seat the entire time. A small miracle.
When I posted the photo of me and S jr, I realized that it looked like everything was just hunky-dory, when in fact, we were all fairly tense. We were in a bit of a hurry to pick C jr up from school an hour away, and it just felt like some sad, sad frosting on an already stressful cake.
And I'd been feeling my own frustrations with Instagram and the many blogger mommies out there (godspeed, all of you) who post beautifully curated photos of themselves, their children, with everyone looking clean and perfect.
What is parenthood really like?
It's a GIANT MESS.
It's your home turned into a toy bin, even when you keep things minimal.
It's stumbling around carrying your breast pump while it whirrs away, two sci-fi contraptions suctioned to your chest, pulling your nipples into unreal shapes as you attempt to pick up said toys.
It's forgetting you put something in the microwave and reheating it five times.
It's eating graham crackers and chocolate chips as a balanced lunch.
It's daydreaming about that time you bathed yourself, many moons ago.
It's wearing one baby who's screaming while trying to console your other baby who's wrapped around your leg, also screaming.
It's throwing your son's toothbrush in frustration because he doesn't appreciate that you're trying to instill good oral care onto teeth THAT WILL FALL OUT ANYWAY only to realize you've just thrown your own toothbrush and it's on the bathroom floor, bristles side down but you pick it up anyway and brush your teeth with it later.
It's changing your newborn's diaper for the third time in a row because she poops every time you put on a new one.
It's doing that at 3am, in the near darkness, praying her squalls don't wake your son.
It's forgetting basic vocabulary, like...
It's stressing about money, the future, mortality in a completely new and technicolor way.
It's feeling like you're failing everyone and everything because you're not surrounded by the "glow of motherhood."
It's feeling like that because sometimes you're not really sure you're enjoying motherhood at ALL.
It's your life deconstructed into a series of unpredictable, upsetting moments – forget about patterns, regularity, predictability. As soon as something happens that makes you think Oh! That was so amazing! Both babies went to sleep at 8pm and I got to be a lone adult for two hours before collapsing into bed! you are abruptly brought back to the reality that that was a one-time deal. That will never happen again. That might have even been a dream that never really happened. You are a fool for thinking that might happen again.
It's doing everything one-handed, including typing this post.
It's also watching two small humans change, sometimes incrementally, into people you recognize.
It's marveling at the humor and intelligence of your son and eagerly awaiting that emergence with your daughter.
It's seeing your partner parent in a way you could never do and being immeasurably grateful.
It's feeling your partner's back warm against yours in the darkest time of night while you're side-lying one baby and he's smacking his hand on the sheets hunting for a pacifier around the other baby.
It's feeling the unbelievable softness of both your babies' necks where they meet their backs.
It's relying heavily, as if it were oxygen, on the advice, reassurance and wisdom of your friends who have been in this particular trench and know that one day, you will have clean socks again.
It's realizing were it not for the nearly overwhelming amount of love you feel for everyone in your little family, none of this would be as anxiety-producing as it is.
So yeah. That's what it's really like.
And that's on a good day.