“Honey, please don’t leave me,” I begged my husband, Matthew, as he gathered his briefcase and lunch tote. “I’m note ready to be alone…with them.” I nodded toward our two new sons, Mark and Luke; one in my arms, the other one waiting to be in my arms.
“I have to get back to work. I’ve been home with you and the boys for two full weeks, now they need me at the office,” Matthew said, grabbing his jacket.
“We need you too!”
Two weeks without sleep were wearing me down, and the days blended with one another; an endless cycle of diapers, spit-up, and feedings. I wasn’t ready to handle both babies by myself.
“Now Claire,” Matthew said as he bent over to kiss me goodbye, “We’ve been over this already. I’ll see you tonight.”
The babies started crying simultaneously, each one demanding his share of the milk. By now, I wasn’t even sure which one was which.
“But, but….I haven’t even had a shower today…..or yesterday,” I said, trying to run my fingers through a tangle of greasy hair.
“Why don’t I give Mom a call, and she’ll come right over to help out, and at least make sure you get a shower.”
“No!” I’d rather stink.
It was his mother who first questioned my ability to handle the twins, and who offered up stale advice when it wasn’t welcome. She was a Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker wanna-be rolled into a tidy, little mother-in-law package. “You’d better slow down, Claire, you’re not really eating for three,” she’d say, or, “Now that you’re staying home, maybe you can learn how to cook a good meal.”
“Suit yourself,” Matthew said as he left for work. “See you all tonight. Love you!”
Yeah right, I thought.
The moment he closed the door, the babies cried louder. I spent the morning rotating between them: feed, burp, cuddle, switch. As soon as I’d pick Mark up, Luke would cry, then Mark would cry when I held Luke. Before long, I joined them.
As the three of us sat in the living room feeling helpless and tired, the doorbell rang. I snatched a used burp rag off the coffee table and wiped the tears from my eyes, and spit-up off of my tee shirt.
“Coming!” I called out as I situated the babies in their seats.
My spirit lifted as I went to the door. Maybe Matthew felt bad and decided to send flowers, or maybe it was UPS with more baby gifts. I looked through the peephole and cringed. Standing there with her perfect 1950’s Betty Crocker hair, was Esther, my mother-in-law.
“Shh, pretend we’re not home,” I whispered to the boys. Luke wailed. “Whose side are you on?” I took a deep breath and opened the door. “Hi Esther! Come on in.” I forced a smile.
“I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by,” she said, smiling at her grandsons.
“Oh, no need to call first really.”
Esther looked me up and down with a frown. “I thought maybe you could use a little help, with Matthew back at work.”
I paused to weight my options. Keep up a good front and go it alone, or humble myself and accept Betty’s- I mean Esther’s- help.
I’ll never hear the end of it, I thought.
Shuffling pride out the door I conceded. “Yes, Esther, I sure could use a hand.”
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