Notes on motherhood
First, I have to apologize to all of the mommy bloggers. I used to think the mommy bloggers were...bored. And boring. And self-involved. And writing about something that isn't interesting or important or worth talking about. But I get it now. No one listens to us! There's no one to talk to! Except other moms. (And you are supposed to talk to your baby to help them develop their vocabulary, but babies are REALLY bad conversationalists.) This motherhood thing comes in and it swallows you up. And it feels like the most important thing that has ever happened to you. So mommy bloggers, I'm sorry. I judged you harshly.
And now, I shall write a blog post about motherhood. I am a big fat hypocrite.
Things that are better than I thought they would be
Sleep deprivation: there are only a handful of days out of these first three months that I literally thought I might cry or expire if I didn't get a nap. And this is coming from someone for whom 8 hours a night was a bare minimum sleep requirement. I love my sleep. But I think your body just gets used to it. It's strange because there is a lot of time spent near, about, and around bed. Just not a lot of time sleeping. “Nighttime” is technically 9 pm to 8 am or so, but it's just a series of naps strung together. In the very early days, I just had to amend my expections: “Some people sleep at night, and some people don't. Some people sleep at other times. Perfectly normal.” Oh, and the “napping when your baby naps” is bullshit because babies don't reliably nap. They could wake up in 10 min or 3 hours or refuse to go down at all and the not-knowing is too anxiety-laden to provide for any type of proper sleep on your behalf.
Self-care: Moms always talk about not being able to take a shower or really do anything for themselves. Sure, it's not as simple as it used to be, but you can make it happen. The trick for me is making it a priority. Now that Porter is 3 months old, I”m probably grimier than I was when she was first born because in the very early days I was religious about making sure I got a shower and washed my hair every day. I changed out of my pajamas and put on some mascara and blush. It provided some semblance of normalcy that really saved me.
Things that are worse than I thought they'd be
The general time suck: Every single day, it's suddenly 5 pm and I have no idea where the time went and nothing to show for it except a baby that is still alive. But it simultaneously feels like the longest day ever, and miles to go before I sleep. The time warp that happens when you particpate in the infant cycle of eat, sleep, cry, diaper, repeat is like nothing I have ever known.
The breast pump: it is the worst. It literally sucks the life out of you. And it is awkward and uncomfortable and humiliating and EXPENSIVE. But it's the price to pay if you want a little bit of freedom from your baby during those months that you are its only source of nourishment.
Finding mommy friends: Maybe some women are lucky and have babies at the exact same time as their good friends, or know lots of people with kids. But I don't, and that makes the mom thing pretty lonely. I've joined all kinds of groups and classes, but it's hard to get to know other women when you really only have one (admittedly large) thing in common and that thing in common is screaming or peeing or eating while you are trying to get to know each other. I went on three walks with one new friend before I realized that I didn't even know where she was from, but had intimate knowledge of her baby's nap habits.
The full scale co-opting of my personhood. The other evening Porter was super fussy and I was getting a little panicky and my husband kind of shoved me out of the bathroom and forced me to let him take over bath time. I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. I kept gravitating back to her bedroom and preparing things for him to help with the bedtime routine: turning on the white noise, setting out her pajamas, putting the heating pad down in her crib to warm her sleeping space. He said "Get out of the house! Go do something you enjoy!" I sat in my car and called my mom and cried.
Things I like more than I thought I would
Simplicity: Life is simple. My only job is to make sure the baby lives to see another day. That comes along with an imperative to live in the moment: you have to be fully engaged with your baby and really pay attention to it every moment. Thinking about the next moment or the next hour or the next day is pointless, because you really don't know what it will bring.
Focusing on someone besides myself: I used to think I was too selfish to have kids. But it's frankly a relief not to be so self-involved anymore. What will I wear today? Whatever's clean and on the top of the pile. Have I tried that new restaurant? No, I have a baby. I don't get out much. And I don't feel bad about that. I'm just doing the best I can for my life and my family and that's going to have to be okay.
Baby snuggles: Okay, I get it, you co-sleepers. From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I was operating on a strict “no baby in the bed” edict. I know too many people who ended up with a TODDLER in their bed and there was no way I was doing that to myself or to my marriage. But it turns out that baby snuggles are ridiculous and there is nothing like them. To have that little hot water bottle tucked into the crook of your arm is the best feeling in the world. I have amended my policy to include the allowance for the baby in the bed right after first early morning wakeup and it's my favorite time of day.
What I miss
“Running into the store” or anywhere to get anything or do anything. I'm a city dweller and a city driver. I will not hesitate to block a hydrant, throw on the flashers, and run in for my dry cleaning. But having a baby in tow necessitates legal parking, car seat installing, and stroller wrangling. Suddenly a 2 minute errand requires the time and planning of a day trip.
Not rushing home. Even if I know that my baby is just fine and in someone else's capable hands, I am always rushing home. I sit in a movie and wonder why the hell the director needed those last twenty minutes. If I tell myself I'm going out and will be home by 6:30, I start getting antsy at 5:45. Is she hungry? Does she miss me? Do I miss her?
Reading. I watch a lot of television these days. Because you can watch tv and breastfeed or rock or bounce a fussy baby. You can watch tv and bat toys around in front of their face. But you can't read while you do those things. I bought lots of books for my maternity leave and guess how many I've read? Exactly zero.
This is NOT the part in the post where I say something like "but it's all worth it in the end! Life has changed for the better and I can't imagine my life without her!" Sometimes I totally wish that I would wake up and she would be gone, just for a day. One day. I hate when people stop me on the street and say things like "Oh, enjoy every moment of it!" because frankly there are few shining, sparkling, enjoyable moments. (But the other day when we were playing "look in the mirror" and she kept smiling at herself and then burying her face in my neck because she was shy was one of them). And yes, those moments shine very brightly, but the rest of it is a slog through the unknown with a million different pieces of conflicting advice and a pile of self-doubt the size of the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
After three months I feel qualified to say this: it is an adventure.