by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
“Mom!” yelled my six year old. “Mom, I need you.”
“Whah!” howled the baby.
There was a knock at the front door and the phone started to ring. I was being pulled apart.
I opened the door to see my neighbor, Nancy, holding a new Avon catalog. “I have to get the phone, come in and I’ll be right back.” I said, as I raced to answer the ringing.
“Hi, is this Mrs. Robert Kelley?” the voice asked. Something inside me exploded; I had disappeared over the last couple of years of being a wife and mother. I answered, “This is Mary Kelley. What can I do for you?”
“Oh,” said the voice. The woman on the line was unprepared for the wife to have a name, an identity, a place in the world of marriage. “Oh, I was calling to see if you could bring the snacks for the little league practice tomorrow?”
‘Sure,” I answered.
The baby was still crying with hunger when I heard “Mom, I need you.” Nancy was still waiting in the living room. As I hurried down the hall I called out, ‘Be with you in a minute, Nancy. Jeff, Mommy’s busy right now. Can it wait?”
As I lifted the baby, Jeff yelled out, “No, I need you now.”
“Listen, I know you’re busy. I’ll come back some other time.” Nancy called out. “I’ll leave the catalog. Bye.” I heard the front door close.
“Just a minute, Jeff. I have to change Billy’s diaper.” As I put on the fresh diaper, my full and tender breasts began to leak milk down my front. I unfastened the nursing bra and put the dripping nipple into the crying mouth. It grabbed and I immediately felt the relief of pressure on one side. Carrying the baby with me, I went to see what was so important to Jeff.
“Mom, I made a picture of you, me, Billy and Dad. See,” he held up the childish drawing for approval.
I nodded. “Yes, that’s very good. I’m going to feed Billy. Do you want me to read you a story?” Jeff smiled, then grabbed a book and followed me to the sofa. While Billy nursed, I read the same book that I had read a hundred times. Jeff knew all the words and would say them as I pointed out the words.
Was this going to be my life? Where was the woman who had worked to put her husband through school? Not here. She was gone, leaving this milk dripping, frumpy thing in her place. I had thought motherhood was going to be great. Pictures of happy women with smiling faces flitted through my mind, only to be replaced by dirty diapers and crying babies who chose not to sleep at night. It didn’t matter whether I had gotten more than two hours sleep, Little League practice still came, dinner for the husband, washing, grocery shopping and the never ending breast-filling, hungry baby.
I missed me.
Later, in the mail was a schedule for classes at the local junior college. I was intrigued. I looked and, in a flash of independence, I decided; I was going back to school!
That night I talked it over with Bob. The subject wasn’t up for discussion about whether I would or not, I was going. We made plans and at the beginning of the semester I enrolled for one class per week. It meant that I wore a big heavy coat to class as I was still dripping milk down my front at feeding time. Obviously my breasts didn’t know I was sitting at a desk in a class of adults.
After a few weeks, I had made friends and we shared a cup of coffee in the cafeteria after class. There I was, me again, not a wife, not a mother but a real person with a name and something to say!
The next semester I took two classes per week, stopped nursing and threw out the old coat. I admit I became addicted to being a person. It was easier to deal with motherhood from then on.
Check out more of Maria’s travel and history articles here in KRL.