Momma Chat

_1050587The first 6-8 weeks postpartum are a kind of black box into which it’s difficult to see from the outside. If you haven’t been inside it, you can’t quite imagine what it’s like. People will try to explain it, telling you something along the lines of: it’s the most challenging and amazing time. You’re aware there’s bound to be little sleep. But beyond that, there’s no real description to cover it. And then, finally, when you’re in it, people ask you how it’s going, and you find your own frazzled brain can’t put together anything more precise than “amazing” and “hard.”

I’ve been constructing this post in my head in various forms for the past several days, trying to pinpoint exactly what this experience is like.

It’s an emotional roller coaster, flinging you between absolute awe at this miracle of new life and crying jags where you claw at your eyeballs and would sell your car for the chance to have a quiet cup of coffee and a decent nap. And then there are the moments when you can’t even claw your eyeballs because both hands are busy handling this babe who is projecting half-digested boob juice over your shoulder while both breasts are weeping down to the floor and you have to change the diaper and clean the mess but all the burp cloths are already soiled, and oh look there’s more spit up and you only have two hands. {DEEP BREATH.} Then there’s pure wonder in the simple moments when he opens his eyes and contemplates the morning light coming in through the bedroom window. There’s complete helplessness when he is crying from a discomfort that you can only stand by and witness as he tries to work his way through it. There are the best laughs you’ve had in ages as you reminisce over his awkward antics and myriad facial expressions. And there’s the sweet smell of his soft skin as you nuzzle his neck and bring you both comfort.

People tell you to sleep when your baby sleeps, but that doesn’t always work when the only way you can get him to sleep is to carry him and stay in perpetual motion while singing. People say they were overcome with indescribable love, which makes it all sound like sunshine and rainbows, like the first blush of a new romance. But for me the love is a more complex feeling than that. It’s like how hope and fear are two sides of the same coin. It’s like all the universe’s elements shoved in a box, and I feel like I’ve only just peeked inside.

I've finally recovered enough to start babywearing

I’ve finally recovered enough to start babywearing

And while you’re working out the whys and hows of every situation you encounter, the internet becomes both your worst friend and best enemy: full of information, little of it actually useful, and too much of it downright terrifying, like when everything you read tells you that the very things that bring your child comfort increase the risk of SIDS, and you kind of just want to shoot the person who wrote that, vis a vis SIDS, you never know when your baby’s breath will be their last—even if it was the venerable Dr. Sears who said it. Where is the manual that tells you you’re doing okay? Where is the instruction book that tells you how to trust your instincts and believe that you’re not exposing your child to untold harms just by doing the best you can? That’s the book I want to read.

Meanwhile, you discover you’re capable of sitting in total silence for long stretches of time, while your baby nurses. Like meditation, but better than any yoga class taught you.

And then there are moments like this: when you’ve battled through a long night, and at 6 a.m., you’ve carried your baby and walked in circles around your dining room table for almost an hour, humming the same three lines of a lullaby until he fell asleep, and then you sidle your way into bed, anxious not to move him too much for fear of waking him and having to start all over again, and there he is, asleep on top of you, tummy to tummy, your breaths colliding in rhythm with each other, and it’s the best feeling in the world. And you don’t even care that it’s 6 a.m., you’ll wake up your groggy husband just because you want him to catch that sweetness too.

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It’s like everyone said: it’s amazing and hard. The best things in life always are.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: the way he arches his back and purses his lips when he’s full.

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6 thoughts on “Momma Chat

  1. "People say they were overcome with indescribable love, which makes it all sound like sunshine and rainbows, like the first blush of a new romance."

    I definitely didn't experience that. He was a stranger. Yes, I had carried him for 39 weeks, but he was a new little creature that I had to get to know.

    Oh, and regarding SIDS- I just read something that said the actual incidence of SIDS is way lower than reported. SIDS gets thrown in as the cause of death for all sorts of things (most are suffocation). But true SIDS cases are really rare.

    • Yeah I think the love part is something that comes in stages for me too. I know there's a whole big mass of it, but I've only just touched the outer edges. I think that's just my way of processing the enormity.

      Logically, I know SIDS is really rare…but with the frequency with which everybody talks about it and all the stupid warning labels on everything, it's hard sometimes not to think about it.

  2. You Are Doing An Amazing Job. HanG In There, Mama. :-) (Also, I Don’t Know Why My Phone IS Capitalizing Things Funny.)

  3. Oh yes. I do remember that consternation. Well, your whole life has changed…of course you notice. It's huge. And it's complicated. All I can tell you is that you will get more used to it – you will develop some mom muscles that will allow you to do more than you think you can (or can imagine you did when you are my age) and that baby will gradually become more of a person and will start giving back a little – you will get reactions that are fun to interpret and reactions that seem meaningful. In the beginning it is ALL give. After a while there is a little give and take. Wait for it. It will be worth it.

    Cry if you need to. Don't worry about how it looks. Mothering is messy in the beginning. Actually, it stays pretty messy but you learn not to care so much. Just look for the moments when you see the wonder and enjoy them as much as you can. Rest whenever you can. Try not to worry. Trust yourself. This is your child and you are the best thing he has. You and Toby are his whole world. Time will come when he branches out and even this mess will seem preferable. It gets less hectic but it is always so important. I haven't found the end of it yet. But you can do this. You have a big heart and you are wise and good. I have no doubt that my little grandbaby is in very good hands with you two.

  4. All you need to know … that no book will ever tell you … is that you are the best mama ever, because CY loves you. That's it. There's no other magic than just knowing that. HUGS!!!

  5. I want to give you a big big hug – thank you for always being so honest about this whole process and about how you've felt every step of the way. I'm here if you ever need to talk