My entire body hurts tonight. Aches deep down to the bones. I am tired. I am sore. Even my skin hurts. I have just reminded my five-year-old daughter again to please not jump on mommy. Please don’t climb on mommy. And it is in this plea that I am reminded that I was not prepared for the physicality of motherhood.
I knew about the physicality of pregnancy; the changes I would encounter – stretched skin and swollen fingers & feet. Achy joints and breathless walks and inside baby kicks. I was prepared for the physical act of giving birth. The stages of labor. The contractions. The breathing. The pushing. The crowning. The exhaustion and soreness to follow. I was not prepared for the physical act of motherhood afterward.
I was not prepared for the endless amount of touching and kicking and hitting and hugging.
I was not prepared for the use of my body as a human jungle gym; a bed; a food source; a punching bag; a pacifier; a comfort tool.
Deep down, I am an introvert. A lover of quiet and personal space. I am not a hugger. I don’t like to shake or hold hands. I am not a cuddler. Crowded spaces and public displays of affection make me uncomfortable.
This is who I am, and I’m not likely to ever change.
But those sweet little girls who call me Mama do not know or care about these traits of mine.
I am who they come to with their joys and sorrows. I am who they come to for hugs and kisses and playtime and full-body tantrums. I am the one who sleeps sitting up when the baby wants to nurse all night. I am the warm body my five-year-old snuggles into in the middle of the night when she feels alone. I am the arms and hips carrying them when they’re tired or clingy or shy. I am the cheeks they kiss and the torso and legs they hug a million times a day.
I want to teach them boundaries with their bodies; with the bodies of others. I want them to know that ‘NO’ means NO. I want them to know the meaning of ‘no more’ and ‘don’t touch’ and that it’s ok to give and receive these messages. Sometimes, we’ve all just had enough. Sometimes, I just want to scream at everyone to just stop touching me.
At the same time, I want to be their safe place. I want to be the shoulder they cry on and the arms that swing them and the hands they hold. I want to be the face they kiss and the legs they cling to and the feet they step on. I want to be the lap they crawl into and the warm body they curl into when they feel alone in the world. I want to be the one they always come back to for their joys and sorrows and in-betweens.
It’s such a contradiction – to be completely touched out, yet craving their hugs and kisses and cuddles. So, when I’ve had enough – when I really am all touched out – I take even just ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes to slide back into myself and be alone and quiet and withdrawn. And then I meet those little bodies again with open arms, ready to take on this physical act of motherhood with every kick and hug and tantrum and kiss.