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Parenting hurts: physically, emotionally, body and soul. I ache for my children, because of my children, on behalf of my children.

My back hurts from carrying my little five-month-old sack of potatoes around the house all day, and from carrying, almost as often, my long, gangly, heavy three-year-old, because even though I know she’s big enough to walk, I know she’s small enough to need a carry every now and then.

My head hurts from trying to figure out the right way to do things – the right way to nurse, the right way to sleep train, the right way to discipline.

And my ego hurts from realizing that I have no freaking clue about any of it.

My feet hurt from standing all day, from walking up and down stairs, folding laundry, doing dishes, changing diapers, rocking a fussy baby, walking to the store, walking back to get a dropped hat or glove, and back again to get a forgotten diaper.

My legs hurt from climbing, crouching, getting up, sitting down, and getting up again.

My breasts hurt from milk coming in, milk going out, nursing bras and pumping, from filling with milk when he sleeps longer than normal and the release when he finally nurses again.

My heart hurts when I watch my three-year-old do something so grown-up, so beautiful, so amazing that I can’t believe she’s mine, that she was, so recently, a sack of potatoes herself.

And my heart hurts even more from the fear that such pure joy and beauty is too fragile to last long in this world.

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My throat hurts from the screams that I couldn’t stop myself from releasing, when the anger and frustration became too much, when she pushed my buttons too hard.

My heart hurts from the fear that I saw on her face when I did.

My ears hurt from the screams she didn’t even try to stop herself from setting loose in the house, echoing off the walls, scaring, I’m sure, the neighbors and random passerby on the street outside.

My stomach hurts from being clenched tight against the fear: of a fall off the bed, a fall down the stairs, that he’ll stop breathing in his sleep, that she’ll run out into the street.

My vanity hurts from the bags under my eyes, the crumbs in my rug, the trash in my car, the spit-up on my shirt.

My face hurts from the scratches of little baby fingers grasping helplessly about, with long fingernails that I should have clipped days ago but never found the time to.

My knees hurt from kneeling on the floor with my children, playing dress-up and pirates and peek-a-boo.

My soul hurts when I watch my daughter try to make friends and I see someone ignore her or laugh behind her back, when I think that she will face pain and hurt, rejection and abandonment, no matter what I do, if I even thought that preventing it were possible or a good idea.

My heart hurts when I realize that I’m just projecting my own past onto my daughter, that her struggles are a mirror and a magnifying glass, bringing every hurt I’ve had back into focus, forcing me, finally, to face my demons.

My pride hurts from comparing myself to others and coming up short: wondering why my children don’t sleep when others do so easily; why my daughter has tantrums that make entire parking lots turn to look, when others seem so well-behaved; why this whole exercise of parenting feels so hard to me when it looks so easy for others.

My neck hurts from knock-down hugs and piggy-back rides with long, skinny arms clamped tight around my throat.

My palms hurt from the rage I keep barely contained through the pain of my fingernails biting my skin.

My fingers hurt from wanting to help my children – to help my son reach a toy or learn to roll over or to help my daughter open a jar or tie a knot – but stopping myself to let them learn on their own.

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My whole body hurts from the lack of sleep, like a thousand hammers beating slowly, slowly, slowly, against every inch of my self until I feel that if I can’t fall down in bed and sleep for hours I will surely lose my mind.

My eyes hurt from the tears I haven’t cried, because I didn’t want my daughter to see or because we were out in public and I was ashamed. Or because I couldn’t let myself start for fear I wouldn’t stop.

And underneath it all is another hurt, one that floats freely throughout me, hard to pin down to any particular place: the hurt from the knowledge that it will all be over soon, that my babies won’t be babies much longer, that they’re crawling and running, falling and skipping away from me, inch by inch, day by day. That I’ll lose them before I’ve had the chance to love them enough.

I ache for my children, because of my children, on behalf of my children. Physically, emotionally, body and soul: parenting hurts.

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