Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yes We Can

While I was pregnant, people loved to regale me with tales of all that they could NOT do with a newborn. The list included everything from reading novels and paying bills to showering and eating dinner. I listened, horrified, and imagined my life devolving into a dreary blur of diaper changes, dirty dishes, and oily hair.

Six weeks into parenthood, I'm happy to admit that our fridge holds the leftovers of last night's black-eyed pea feast, I showered for twelve blissful minutes after going to the Y last night, and I'm midway through a New Yorker article about the rad graphic artist Alison Bechdel. My life has certainly changed. But I'm realizing that having a baby is a lot like being a teacher. Yes, there's a never-ending cycle of work. Yes, it's largely thankless. And yet somehow it all gets done. Standards are meant to be challenged.

Life has been pared down to simple pleasures and tasks. A load of laundry, drying on our new rack in the hot sun. A hike along the coast. Oven-fresh brownies in the kitchen with Katrina, my new mom friend, while our babies squeak and grunt from the living room. A trip to Target to scout nursing bras and yoga pants. The new Bust magazine. Plants watered, dishes washed, letters stamped.

Instead of giving up all the things I love to do, I'm just forced to be more creative about how. There are no more afternoons of chapter-flipping on the couch with an iced tea and a bowl of popcorn. But that doesn't mean I can't read while Mallory nurses (as long as I pay attention to when she needs a good burping, paragraph breaks be damned). In fact, there's something sublimely gratifying about listening to her suckling sighs while I digest another slim volume of Jamaica Kincaid.

I no longer get to dash off to Pilates whenever I want, but I can strap on the Baby Bjorn and cruise the streets anytime, as long as she's been fed and changed in the last hour. M and I no longer have the freedom to spontaneously jet off on a day-long adventure with new tunes on the MP3 and a bag of trail mix, unless of course we remember binkies, burp cloths, and of course our baby :) But that's exactly what we do every Saturday. And as long as we keep moving, she's usually happy. As for restaurants? Our strategy is simple: strap her on, walk around until she conks out, then dine with a sleeping baby warm on your chest.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to sound like some sanctimonious new mom who decries how easy it really is. It isn't. An ill-timed meal at the Boathouse on Saturday had me standing and swaying with a fussy baby while M spoon-fed me clam chowder and we glanced nervously at our fellow patrons. I felt so exhausted on Tuesday that I stayed inside, robed, until evening. I still haven't managed to begin doing daily push-ups, despite my steely resolve, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to sink deep into a new piece of writing. Even as I write this, Mallory is starting to squirm in her vibrating chair (a gift from the gods!) which means I never know how many more minutes (even seconds) I have until she starts wailing. It's already taken me 3 days to get this post written.

In fact, little would be possible without my incredible husband, who takes supportive to a whole new level. Not only does he do all the laundry and most of the cooking, not only does he happily partake in the 3 am diaper changes, but he applies almond oil to Mallory's dry scalp and monitors the redness of her butt. He picks out cute onesies for her to wear and makes up singing rhymes to distract her when she cries. As long as we continue to support each other, to let the other take a nap or steal off to a Zumba class, it seems there's little we can't do with a newborn.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Motherhood: One Month In

Motherhood is hard. Last night, for reasons I could not discern, Mallory only slept in forty-five minute chunks. Fitfully. By the time I would fall asleep, my face inches from hers, she would be stirring again, her legs frog-kicking my boobs. Then would come the feeding, burping, spitting up, cuddling, changing, re-swaddling, and rocking routine, which only resulted in more restlessness.

Now, of course, she is sound asleep in a sling on my chest after a morning walk. I should be trying to catch some much-needed Z's myself, or cutting her frighteningly sharp fingernails, but instead I'm doing something I rarely get to do these days. Writing reminds me of the person I still am, before I became a mom who sometimes doesn't brush my teeth before sundown.

Motherhood is sweet. When she stares at me after feeding with that look of blissed-out milk-wonder, when she falls asleep curled into my chest, snuggled cozily in her outer womb, when she grins in her sleep and relishes the warm water we bathe her in, it's easy to forget that she just soaked her new outfit in curdled milk.

We sometimes lay in bed and marvel at this little person, our Mallory, who has already changed so much in a month. She's twelve ounces heavier than she was at birth (still so amazingly tiny though). The swelling on her head (from hanging out in the birth canal for HOURS) has gone down. Her skin glows pink and her forehead has erupted in little bumps of baby acne. She smells like sour cream. She is so much lovelier than I could have imagined her, especially now, as she sleeps the sleep of a month-old baby who needs nothing more than her mommy.

Of course, as soon as I lay down with her, her eyes will likely pop right open...