“I told you one lie.” my husband says with a clever smile.
He’s convinced me that we would be spending our anniversary together in the city just an hour away.
But then he hands me this envelope.
A crisp, white envelope containing two tickets to Hamilton, in New York City. So, with this one lie, he’d officially won ‘Husband of the Year’! Exhilaration and anxiousness wash over me like a cool waterfall, as I realize that my sudden change of plans requires us to board a plane and fly. Far away. From my babies.
My two sleeping baby boys at home, snug in their beds. I kissed them each on the head before we left that morning. I choked back tears as I whispered, “I love you.” I’ve never left them, and doing so suddenly feels unimaginable. My body has been longing for sleep and a lengthy cuddle sesh with my husband. Yet, my arms are now longing for the squishy rolls of my one year old.
Motherhood rips your heart in two. It’s a battle you wage between the independent, fearless paths you long to travel, and the safety of staying home- never leaving the raspy giggles and the delicious smell of your own child.
Still, the anticipation of New York City wins this time. I squeal with joy, my husband is pleased with my reaction, and we head to the airport. When unloading our suitcases, there’s no luggage cart needed to somehow squish carseats onto, like a game of Tetris.
We stroll easily through security. No awkward bump of the double stroller through the monitor, or juggling of two babies while a grumpy woman with a tight bun empties my entire diaper bag.
No stopping to pick up the fallen pacifier five hundred times, and giving it the classic “mom lick” to clean it off (gross, but we all do it!)
We are literally an hour early. HA. What universe is this? With time to spare, we browse the book store. My heart flutters at the idea of peacefully reading a book on the flight. Any book, not just one made of cardboard!
We board our flight effortlessly. No folding the stroller at the gate and praying to high heaven that it doesn’t get thrashed in the commotion. No “sorry… sorry… sorry” as we stumble down the tight aisle, our babies kicking the “first-classers” shoulders. Nope. Just us, sitting there, chatting eagerly about our upcoming trip. And all is right in the world.
But then. I hear the squeal of a baby, a few rows behind. And just like that, my arms ache. My heart pounds heavily, and I think of them.
Were they confused when I wasn’t there to greet them in the early hours of the morning? Did they miss nestling up in my big white bed, singing and holding each other until daylight? Did they eat enough? Are they eagerly staring out the back door window, anxious to play in the grass? I feel a loss for those moments.
I drift off to sleep, but I dream of them. I see them running towards me, bellies poking out with pride, and diapers wobbling. I can smell them. I can feel their soft blonde locks in my hands.
At this point, I feel silly. Isn’t this every mom’s desire? Spending a weekend away, and knowing you might actually come home more rested than before? Why am I crying over my babies? Am I just being dramatic?
No. I was just experiencing, what I like to call, Motherhood Phantom Pains.
Phantom pains are those weird sensations, nearly irritating, that amputees often experience when a limb is removed, or lost. (My brother, having lost a portion of his leg, has described this to me many times.) A piece of them is gone, and their body misses that piece so bad, it aches.
Well, I was missing two little pieces of me.
Motherhood phantom pains.
They are so real! But why do we feel them? Why do our arms ache for the weight of our squishy babes?
It’s because we gave them our arms.
I gave my arms to bouncing endlessly at 2 AM, and to hugging tiny bodies just so tight. I gave them my hands. I gave my hands to scrubbing little heads in the bath and endlessly rolling play-doh into tiny balls.
I gave them my legs. My strong legs, for bringing them in from the car, fast asleep-hauling one child up the stairs after the other. My legs, that carried my pregnant body for nine months.
And that’s not all! I gave them my mouth, to kiss and blow raspberries, and take bites of nasty chewed up goldfish crackers that they insist on feeding me. I gave them my voice, for endless renditions of “The Wheel’s on the Bus”, my chest for a comfy resting spot while reading a book, and my nose for five hundred eskimo kisses before bed.
I gave them my mind, and my sleep. My heart, and my very breath. I gave them everything. My blood pumps in their little bodies, and they are part. of. me. So no wonder it hurts!
There are other types of motherhood phantom pains. Some mothers give their body for a short time and then experience the phantom pains of losing what once lived inside. Some mothers have phantom pains for angels up above, who they are waiting to meet one day. But we all have them. And they are very, very real.
So you know what I did? I embraced the pain. I relished that pain. I felt grateful for that PAIN. Because it meant I had someone I loved, deeply- more than myself. And I thought about those babies, and I FaceTimed them. I checked in on them. And I enjoyed Hamilton, but I called them during intermission and I talked in a high-pitched mommy voice for the whole theater to hear, and I said “Mommy loves you!” to those little pieces of me, and I didn’t feel guilty about how much I loved them. And when the time came, I returned home and I smelled them, and I kissed them, and the pain went away.
And you know what? I think I could do it again! Just, not for a long, long time.
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