“What’s the name of that Silician volcano again?”
“It’s E-something. Elba? Elna? Etta? No, not Etta. That’s Etta James, and she always shows up in these things. Think.”
“Ohhh, I know! It’s Etna. I got it...No thanks to you. You’ve been a lousy help.”
I stare down at my newborn baby peacefully sleeping in his little rocker nestled at the bottom of my feet. It’s early morning. Or maybe it’s late morning. Heck, maybe it’s even the late afternoon.
Either way, I’m still in my pajamas perched on our kitchen table chair hunched over my classic breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, and banana with a crossword puzzle on the side.
It had been a while since I had indulged myself in doing a morning crossword puzzle. In college, I would religiously do the puzzles in the paper every day. Friends would come and go into my apartment and every now and then stop to linger over one of my unfinished puzzles, helping me out.
A “sweep” is what I would call it when I would accomplish them all - crossword, sudoku, and all the rest.
Then, I got pregnant. As someone who usually loves everything and is mostly happy, I really didn’t enjoy pregnancy. I spent most of my pregnancy never quite getting rid of that morning sickness which, for me, was all-day sickness and throwing up on occasion. It held on to the bitter end.
A lot of my passions I stopped doing. Running, reading, writing, and even the crossword puzzle had been slowly fading from my daily routine. Its demise imminent.
Instead my days were spent lying on my bed for hours not moving or not sleeping. Just staring consumed with negative thoughts. I can’t be a mother. I don’t even know how to hold a baby. The nurses will surely take my baby away from me as soon as they see that. They will say I am unfit. They have never seen anyone as bad a mom as I am.
And on top of my own negative thoughts was the unsolicited advice from the naysayers who love to tell pregnant moms “enjoy it while you can because once the baby comes you won’t have time anymore.”
“Haha. Thanks.” I would reply back in mock humor and gratitude at their duplicitous attempt to be helpful.
These interactions would usually lead me to go home and quite mellow dramatically throw a “ceremonial burning” of all my printed out crosswords and books as my husband watched in horror.
“Well, Sally Stranger said I won’t have time for this anymore. In the trash you go. Goodbye crosswords. Nice knowing you.”
Then, January 31, 2019 I gave birth to my son. I can’t quite describe the feeling I felt, but it was one of elation. Every single negative thought I had prior to his birth was swept away in a tidal wave of happiness. I knew the moment I held him that I was meant to be a mom.
In the days that followed my new motherhood status, I also had another revelation. I was a mom now and true to all those strangers words my life had changed forever. They were right. I was, in fact, more tired and in those early days I got less sleep.
But, in another way, they were wrong. I was still myself. Lauren. And all of my passions were still mine. I wanted my son to see me still nurturing and growing what I love to do. I wanted him to see that I didn’t just hand over everything that made me me in order to be his mom. I didn’t want to lose myself in the process.
I didn’t want to give up reading, running, and my beloved morning crossword puzzles.
So in the simplicity of maternity leave, where I didn’t have to worry about work emails, lesson plans, and grading papers, I broke out the crossword puzzle again. This time with a sidekick planted next to me.
Yes, my eyes were a little tired, my brain a little foggy, and my recall a little slower, but I finished it. And I finished it the next day too. Each day, reclaiming a little bit of me that I thought I had lost in pregnancy.
Two and half years later….
“Living room seating. Starts with ‘s’. Aha! Sofa.”
“Sofa,” a little voice repeats back.
“The next clue is fish eggs. Now, Henry, some advice. The answer is roe, and it is a very common answer in a crossword puzzle. Roe.”
“Roe. roe. roe…” Henry mimics followed by fits of giggles.
“Row, row, row your boat.” I sing back.
A lot has changed in 2 and a half years. My son has grown. He is walking and talking and developing his own little, silly personality.
We still do the crossword puzzle albeit not daily. It’s more reserved for the quiet, peaceful mornings of the weekend. He has become somewhat of a better partner in that time. Although his attention span is lacking. Dump Trucks and race cars are huge distractions and often are more fun than completing the last two-thirds of the puzzle.
It’s okay though. I release him from his crossword duties to go play, and I stay in my chair to finish it on my own. Afterall, it’s my thing. Not his. He’ll discover his own thing soon enough, and I’ll be sure to nurture and encourage that. In the meantime, I make sure to fit in some time for me.