With crickets singing outside beneath a black summer sky dimly-lit by Mars, the Moon, and the Milky Way, I tiredly stumble from Rowen’s crib to the couch to give him my own version of midnight milk. Plopping down on the cushions in pajama pants and an oversized T-shirt, I rest my bare feet against the edge of the coffee table and reach for the remote. I flip on the TV, flip up my shirt, and make way for the milk he so voraciously craves.
And while I feed him, I feed on late-night TV. It’s common knowledge that shady characters like to come out at night, for it’s in the camouflage of blackness that they feel most comfortable doing what they wouldn’t dare in daylight. This principle also applies to TV. Like Invasion of the Channel Snatchers, networks I thought I knew and trusted suddenly get replaced with a slew of shameless sales pitches once the clock’s small hand moves east of midnight. Paid programming hosts sport hollow grins as they vie for my viewership behind the glowing screen. They feature testimonial after testimonial, delivered by tanned, toned Titans, touting tales of total transformation while their eyes silently whisper “join us.” And since my defenses are down as Rowen literally sucks away at what little energy I have left, I let myself get sucked in, too, just as quickly as that poor little girl in Poltergeist.
Indulging in these infomercials from within my not-so-lively living room in the dead of night, I become increasingly aware of the fact that most of them are promoting products that could cure a lot of my problems postpartum. From a three-week diet and exercise regimen that lists “getting rid of the baby fat” as a major motivator to purchase it, to a “magic” concealer that could knock out the dark circles under my eyes that make me look as though I’ve been knocked out (but definitely not like a knockout), to a supplement that could perk up my plummeting energy level, to a hair growth program that could replace my receding hairline and revive my vanishing ponytail, it’s almost as if all of the paid programmers got together and conspired to target mothers of infants, since they knew we’d be sitting up with our wee ones in the wee hours, exhausted and weakened, and therefore all the more vulnerable to fall prey to their plotting.
And I am a prime candidate, having sunk down onto my side with my head propped up by one elbow in the quintessential “sexy” position to finish feeding Rowen, but of course I feel anything but sexy. I feel more like a large mother cat feeding her young. My pasty, exposed stomach pours down onto the couch like pizza dough and I feel tempted to suck it in as I steal sips (okay, gulps) of a can of Mt. Dew I know I shouldn’t be drinking, but drink anyway just to keep my eyes open.
I’m seriously considering purchasing the diet and exercise program, and perhaps the fancy makeup, too, when suddenly I realize it would be a big waste of money, because I wouldn’t have time for any of it anyway. The people behind the three-week program did a great job of making it look like a piece of cake (albeit a very thin, low-fat piece), alternating scenes of fit, smiling young women dumping pre-measured portions of berries and grilled chicken onto dinner plates out of fun, color-coded cups with those of them standing in front of living room TVs in cute workout clothes, mimicking the moves being demonstrated with perfect, sweatless execution. The makeup people brought their A-game, too, showing high-heeled makeup artists cupping compacts in their palms like open oysters while expertly dusting powder onto pretty girls’ faces with soft, bunny tail brushes before splitting the screen with breathtaking before-and-after shots.
But thank the Lord for helping me face the reality of what they weren’t showing, even in the midst of my nocturnal nodding. They weren’t showing my face aflush with frustration as I attempted to apply a seven-layer salad of foundation, bronzer, blush, and more to it while rushing out every two minutes to change a poopy diaper, feed a hungry baby, discipline a notorious couch bouncer, or investigate the source of a crash coming from the kitchen. And they weren’t showing what a miracle it would be for me to rinse, cut, cook, and portion-out plan-approved meals three times a day for three weeks straight because in reality, I consider it an accomplishment just to get something tossed onto my two-year-old’s plate without running over into naptime (and sometimes even bedtime). And last but not least, they weren’t showing me working out with two baby monitors next to me, sweating profusely, not just from all the motion but from all of the e-motion—the stress I’d feel from wondering whether my children were going to play rise-and-shine roulette with me, blowing up my baby monitor with bawling before I could even get through the warm-up.
Rowen sighs contentedly at my side, full and asleep now. The hint of a smile plays upon his lips as I lay him on my lap facing me. I notice how long his eyelashes are when he’s sleeping, and how they almost look like they’re smiling, too, with the way they delicately fringe his resting eyelids. I think of my husband of ten years snoring on his stomach in our bedroom, ready to scratch my face with his stubbly kiss upon my return, and of our two-year-old curled up in her crib down the hall, and how we’re all sustained by the strength of a God who loves us infinitely. The glaring screen in front of me fades to blurs and background noise, and as I slowly stand and switch it off, snuggling my baby tightly against my shoulder, I know deep in my heart that I’m content, too.