A Walk-Off Win, a No Hitter, and the Heaviness of Motherhood, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Story of This Season

DgWPkIOUEAArEEHThere was a time in my life when I didn’t want to learn to cook because it was a little too June Cleaver for my taste.

That’s right, I wouldn’t learn how to feed myself real food because I didn’t want to feel like a fictional character on a tv show that aired nearly three decades before I was born.

This is all to say I see the humor in my current situation, where I’m distraught over my inability to cook dinner for my family because the dueling demands of a toddler and a baby make time spent creating the types of dinners I grew to love making impossible. I see now that June Cleaver was a fucking wonder woman.

The baby was born at the beginning of the year, timing I thought would be perfect for baseball. The super intense early newborn period eases up around 6 weeks, just in time for Spring Training. He would be almost 3 months old when the season started, and we’d have survived the fourth trimester and everything would be cake.

I should have known better.

(I thought I would sail through pregnancy once I reached the other side of the first trimester. Hahahahahahahaha. No. That did not happen.)

This year has been hard. I tell myself it’s not really hard, after all, we have enough money, we have food and comfort, and a beautiful roof over our heads. We are safe and healthy. Life isn’t actually hard, but damn, does it feel hard.

I’m home with the kids. A decision born partly out of a weird work situation when #1 was born and a visceral dislike of the lighting at the one daycare we looked at, and partly out of a fear of dealing with kids and work and the stress of it all.

We bought a house in Tacoma last summer, but my husband is still working in Bellevue and enduring an awful commute. I’m taking care of the kids on my own for upwards of 12 hours every day. There are worst gigs and more difficult ways to spend your day. I’m acutely aware of the privilege I have to be able to do this.

Lately it has felt so very hard. I’m not complaining and I appreciate that it’s hard. I know the hard is worth it. I just have so little time for myself, I often feel like I’m on the verge of a breakdown.

I long to read and write. I’ve had no shortage of writing ideas, but I watch the window for writing about each topic pass as I struggle to find 10 minutes in the day to even shower. I know this season of life will pass and motherhood will become easier in some ways and more difficult in others. I know I will miss these days when the kids are so little. I can know all this and still struggle.

It feels hard right now. It feels heavy.

I see my baseball team having a fun season and I’m missing 90% of it. The beauty of a baseball season isn’t in the results; it’s in the story lines and plot shifts and characters that weave themselves into a narrative. It’s living through the ups and downs, the devastating losses and the jubilant wins.

I can look the next morning and see if the Mariners won. I can read a box score and see which players hit home runs or walked or turned a double play. But I’m missing the elements that make a season a story and I’ve had a hard time being okay with that.

One of my toddler’s favorite books is The Legend of King Felix (written by Angie Mentink’s husband). She asks at the start of every game if Felix the King is pitching, and she gives the book Felix gentle hugs (she can be an aggressive hugger, so we’ve working on toning it down with gentle hugs). She loves Dee Gordon and yells with delight whenever he comes to the plate. It’s supremely special to share baseball with her in little bits and pieces.

The baby is now 6 months old and sleep is…rough. During one particularly bad stretch he really embraced the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. As I spent a couple hours trying to nurse him to sleep, I took advantage of technology and watched James Paxton strike out 16 batters on my tiny phone screen, reminding myself to be grateful to see it at all, all the while longing to be in front of the tv downstairs so I could hear sound and clap and cheer.

A few days later my husband and I had tickets to a Sounder’s game. I was excited to ditch–err, leave–the toddler with Grandma and take the baby to his first sporting event. I was excited to get out and do something that wasn’t kid centric and spend time with my husband.

Babies and plans, oil and water. The baby had a meltdown and we had to leave at half time. I struggled mightily to calm him down, feeling like my parenting ineptitude was on display for the entire stadium to see. I barely contained my own meltdown as we walked back to the car and drove back to Grandma’s house to retrieve our other child long before the final whistle. 90 minutes was all I asked for, and that seemed like an impossible feat.

That night, the kids finally and blessedly asleep, I went downstairs to watch what I thought would be the final inning of the Mariners game. With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, the Angels scored two runs to tie the game at 6. I found myself in the strange position of rooting against the Mariners’ half-hearted comeback in the bottom of the inning.

I needed to watch baseball I could pay attention to, baseball I could sink into. Even if it meant losing to the Angels, I needed bonus baseball.

The game went 11 innings, and in those extra innings I found the baseball experience I’d craved all season. I lived and died on every pitch as the Angels would score a run in each of the extra innings. The Mariners matched them in the 10th, and in the bottom of the 11th came through with a bonus run to walk off the game. Up until that moment, every time I saw Ryon Healy, I’d wonder who he was. But that double he hit to drive in Kyle Seager for the second run of the inning to win the game? I won’t forget that moment, or that player.

A few days later, James Paxton threw a no-hitter. The team was in Toronto and those blessed east coast game times meant I was able to follow the game. The kids alternately played and napped, whined and fussed, as I caught an at bat here and there and concocted some semblance of a dinner. As the innings progressed, we noticed the lack of Blue Jays on base.

Before the 9th inning, the baby woke up from his nap. I nursed him while the Mariners raced through the top of the 9th. As Paxton walked out to face his last three batters, my husband and I gathered the toddler and the baby and settled on the couch to watch. In a season where baseball was so often pushed aside, we put baseball in front of dinner and our schedule and forgot about limiting screen time. We felt our hearts stop as Kyle Seager fielded that groundball and slung it to first base for the final out.

Watching Paxton celebrate I felt my eyes well up at happiness for him, yes, but also at sharing this moment in our home with my husband and our children. That moment wouldn’t have been more special if I had seen every pitch Pax had thrown that season. The memory of his no-hitter will, for me, forever be a special family memory.

I felt something loosen in my head after that game. I don’t know which pitches our pitchers are doing great with and which ones they need to work on. I don’t know the tendencies of our hitters, or if any players are doing great defensively or not so great. I have no real feel for the season, other than seeing more Ws than I would have dreamed possible before the baby was born (yet another thing I predicted wrong).

I don’t know these things, and I’ve learned that I don’t need to.

Motherhood is feeling like you are constantly failing. It’s constantly second guessing every decision and worrying about all the ways you’re messing your kids up. It’s days that stretch on interminably and seasons that fly by so quickly you realize you barely caught your breath. It’s filled with moments of joy so pure they almost hurt. It’s watching your heart walking around in the world. It can feel heavy, but it can also feel like sweetness and light.

Motherhood is a little bit like baseball in those ways.

The Mariners may not keep winning like this. Lord knows we’ve had our share of heartbreak. When the team is down in the cellar it’s hard to feel like it’ll ever be better. When the kids are monopolizing every second of my day it hard to feel like I’ll be a sovereign person again. These things can feel really hard.

You learn to adjust your expectations. A shower every other day, an inning here and there. You appreciate that moments of freedom more. Extra innings after the kids are sound asleep. Your husband whisking the kids off for a few hours with Dad.

But the best moments are those that fully recognize your new life. When the baby laughs, when the toddler colors you a card for Mother’s Day. When an extra innings game ends in a delightful walk off. When you notice a no-hitter in progress and gather the family around to watch.

This season will feature many storylines weaving in and out of the season and I’ll probably only have a cursory awareness of them. I’m okay with that now. This season will be the story of the first year of my baby’s life. He’ll crawl and babble and slowly reveal his personality as the schedule stretches through the summer and into fall. My toddler will throw tantrums and develop language in astonishing spurts. She’ll amaze me with the depth and creativity in her imaginative play and she’ll continue becoming this little person who is inquisitive and astonishingly sweet, and who loves seeing Dee Gordon on tv.

The story of this season is listening to games on the radio as I paint my daughter’s room in our house, and sweat and swear through taming our wild back yard. It’s my husband coming home from work to kids delirious with joy at seeing him. It’s the family dinners that happen during games, featuring the baby’s first foods and the toddler’s food critic tendencies.

This season will be full of days that feel like they’ll never end, but between the bookends is the laughter of a happy family and the joy of a baseball team that wins improbably and defies expectations. This season will steamroll through my life and when it’s over I’ll wonder at it actually happening. I’ll treasure the pictures and memories, all the while feeling like I didn’t take enough pictures and didn’t savor the little moments enough.

The hard will fade away.

In the shadow of a pile of dishes that languish beside the sink and laundry that wastes away unwashed, unfolded, un-put away, I laugh at it all, and maybe cry a little. I sit with the baby while he tries to figure out how to coordinate his limbs and move himself around. I sink onto the couch with my toddler and we read those awful Clifford books a few more times. I yearn to read and write and watch an entire baseball game uninterrupted. I long for a long shower and an hour, a day, and in my wildest fantasies, a week all by myself without children crawling on me and needing something.

With the bad comes the good and with the hard comes the light.

This season has often felt heavy. It will continue to feel heavy.

But the joy is there. God, is the joy there.

No matter what happens when it ends, I love this season. These moments of joy on the baseball field that have rescued me from the heaviness mean more to me than they would if they happened in a season where I could watch them all.

These moments of joy make me feel light.

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