this post brought to you by One-handed Typing while nursing/ Racing to finish during a nap…
My son is two weeks old and already he’s changed so much. He emerged a bizarre swollen creature of seemingly skin and bones and smushed pin-head and is plumping up into the ideal newborn. In my sleep-deprived state, I’ve lost all sense of time, and yet time continues to pass in swift, unrelenting silence as the nights stretch into mornings and reach into days and back into nights again.
I’ve always wanted to be a mom –I’ve known that I wanted to have kids of my own since I was a kid myself. I didn’t know how or if it would happen as the instability of an artist’s life has always given me pause about starting a family. But in spite of the financial and career worries, dreams can come true. It seems only yesterday that I scared the crap out of my husband when I told him I was pregnant. 11 hours of labor and 7 lbs later, we are the custodians of a small lad who carries some combination of our collective genes.
And it’s HARD. And WONDERFUL. And HARD. And Wonderful. It is the hardest most wonderful thing I have ever done.
OMG is it intense to give birth, exacerbated by the fact that I made the (crazy) decision to forego any drugs. (Each and every woman’s birth plan is her own personal choice that should be respected, btw.)
I felt like I went through some cultish rite of passage, and emerged on the other side reborn. I did not experience the ‘oh it’s so beautiful…’ Childbirth was SO intensely painful, I thought at a few key moments that this must be what it’s like to be ok to die and meet your maker. “Oh Universe, I surrender… every fiber of my being belongs to you and I am in your hands.”
And then you finish pushing and out comes a baby that looks impossibly enormous – I mean, that thing can’t have come out of my body! But it did and no wonder it hurt like hell. And I did it! I delivered a baby — I can do anything!
And while your lady parts are recovering, you have a little jello person that you have to quickly learn to hold, feed, clothe, soothe etc.
Every night, no matter how much my mind and body craves sleep, I wake frequently to check and see if he’s alive and breathing. My mind snaps awake: Have I already failed? No, he’s breathing. He hasn’t succumbed to SIDS or any other horrible mishap as a result of my incompetence.
I ask my husband, will I ever NOT live with this low-grade anxiety of killing my child? And he responds… “Probably not. I think this is what a parent’s life is like, worrying about one thing or another, worrying about harming your kid.”
You grow a person for 9 months and labor over their birth, agonize over the most minute details of their existence, and feed and nurture them everyday, one day at a time. You want to do everything in your power to make sure…
And the recent horrific events of Newtown, CT hit me all the harder, all over again. To have your child taken from you is not “a parent’s worse nightmare” in any rhetorical sense. It is an actual daily, low-grade anxiety that you cope with. And if/ when it happens, the bottom falls out from under you… at least that’s what I would imagine, what I did imagine, as I thought of the families of all those little kids. Those little babies…
My free time is coming to an end as the little guy starts to wake…and I say my new mantra: I will never take my arms for granted again, I will never take my arms for granted again, I will never take my arms for granted again…
And then… Baby smiles (inadvertently due to gas or reflex of course, since he is only two weeks old and can barely see anything past a boob) and all my anxiety and exhaustion wanes like grey skies chased away by sunlight after a storm.
It’s funny. With each passing day, the memory of childbirth fades into the shrouded recesses of my mind, as if it is a painting that was once hyper-colored high-contrast now blurring into pastel obscurity. (Apparently it’s some biological function that tricks women into doing it again someday.) In the meantime I tuck my anxieties away and pick up the wee lad who greets me with an angry, reassuring cry of life.