Not for the first time, I find myself with a bladder infection. Arriving at the inconvenient time of midnight, I spend the next six hours in the bathroom instead of in bed. Only Cooper’s cries outweigh the pain and constant feeling of urgency, rousing me from a toilet tinged with blood to her side.
I feed her, my muscles clenched and legs crossed. Her tiny face, nuzzling into me, fingers and hands groping to stroke my cheek and grasp my collarbone. Sometimes she wakes not to eat, but to have the smell and feel of my skin next to hers. Her restless sleep only stilled by my presence, the reminder that mommy is near.
Close to dawn I lie down on the smooth tile of the shower, surrounded by clouds of steam until the hot water runs out. Cooper is stirring again. I feel cold and slightly feverish and still must stay close to the bathroom. Our house is full of children and family staying for the holidays, so I call my parents and drive over in the dark with no shoes or glasses or even a change of clothes for Cooper. I stuff a diaper into my pants, just in case. This is the rock bottom where I find myself.
Then it is my mother and my father who care for me: playing with Cooper, bringing me more water and more water, and making me breakfast. I have taken ten of everything for UTIs and something must have worked because by 9am I can leave the bathroom and take a nap, HGTV playing a lullaby in the background.
The cost of motherhood is your life. It is the energy and time and milk you don’t feel you have left to give in the middle of the night with a raging bladder infection. It is the answering of a cry when you want to cry yourself. It is the waking early for your grown daughter when she is desperate for another set of hands to hold the baby.
The cost of motherhood does not stop, it rarely rests. You cannot measure it or anticipate it, just as you cannot quantify the beauty and the intense love that also comes.
There is a return investment of joy and laughter and relationship, but sometimes the cost seems heavier, the burden of it anchoring down the joys. Many times you may feel drowned under the weight, only buoyed by help from friends or prayer or the thought that one day, these little hands and feet will be grown and you will miss them as mightily as you wish for a break now.
The cost is great, but always and ultimately, worth everything it asks.