For Emily: Notes From the Trenches
December 21, 2013 § 2 Comments
One of my oldest and dearest friends, Emily, is pregnant right now. She and I have shared many milestones, and it was magical to be pregnant at the same time. Emily is due next week. Due next week! Here is a picture of us at my baby shower in October… back when we were not so tired of being pregnant. Back when we could lift ourselves out of bed without propping up on elbows, back when we could tie our shoes, back when we still felt sort of compact and cute. In the last three weeks of my pregnancy I prayed every night that labor would come. I really did: those last few weeks are hard. Emily, I feel you right now.
But! There are some things about being pregnant that are really nice. I should rephrase: there are some things that happen to you when you are not pregnant anymore that you don’t expect, and that make carrying your little one around intact an enviable state of being.
So Emily: As you know, I love my Max, more than words. But here are a few things I’ve discovered that are different now. Other than the wounds from giving birth, the effluent spit up, the sleeplessness and the wailing–which sounds like the scariest alarm you’ve ever heard and sends a shot of cortisol straight through your mothering spine every time it starts up. You may find that when your darling girl is born:
1) You use every limb. For example, you’ll pump milk with one hand, feed yourself as quickly as possible with the other, rock your baby’s bassinet with one foot and stand on your free leg. This arrangement works in many iterations, so find out which leg you balance on best now and practice.
2) Everything gets done in 1/2s, 1/3rds or 1/4s. For example, you’ll finally get the baby down after a fussy morning of eating and rush quickly to make your bed. You’ll pull up the flat sheet, and hear her making peeps in the bassinet or crib. You’ll go back–maybe she’ll be silent, but you’ll check to be sure she’s breathing. This will remind you that the humidifiers are low after the evening. So you’ll refill the one in the nursery. Then you’ll realize, while your hands are wet, that there are so many dishes and that you’ve got to do them because dirty dishes are depressing. You’ll fill a big bowl with soapy water and get started, only to hear a tiny wail. (Remember, you can’t ignore this terrifying alarm.) She might be still, in which case, you’ll check her breathing again. Then you remember that she’ll need a bib on all day because of the effluent spit up. Which reminds you that you have just washed them all and that they’re in a load of laundry sitting in the drier. (Yesterday’s work, 1/3 done.) You’ll fill the laundry basket, and take it to your bedroom to fold, only to realize that the bed isn’t made. So you’ll pull up the comforter, fluff one of your pillows, and wonder, “Did I just hear her make a sound?” You’ll go back to the bassinet again to check her breathing and see the undone dishes. This will bother you because dirty dishes are depressing, so you’ll debate: which is more important while she’s sleeping… laundry, bed or dishes? Or perhaps you should water the Christmas tree so that it doesn’t become a deadly fire hazard. Or maybe you should call someone to see if they’ll take the poor dog for a walk. What you prioritize may vary from day-to-day, but be okay with the fact that whichever one you opt to tackle may not get done in its entirety until 5pm. When the babe is awake, add diaper changes, feedings and burping to this mix.
3) At some point or another, you’ll do all of the above naked, or semi-naked, because putting on clothes also falls into the 1/2 done or 1/3 done or 1/4 done category. Close your blinds, especially in the morning and after 4pm. Remember: when it’s dark, you can’t see out, but they can see in.
4) Your baby will, even when she is sleeping, demand your full attention. This isn’t always the case, but it tends to be true when you’ve just managed to calm her down from a fussy period. You’ll have diligently swaddled her, shooshed her and rocked her to sleep, and you might think to yourself: “I know that if I put her in the bassinet or crib, she’ll wake up and wail, but maybe I could just read this newspaper or book while I hold her…” And the second you sit on the couch and open your periodical of choice, she’ll open one eye, give you a dirty look and wail again. She sees you when you’re sleeping. She knows when you’re awake. She knows when you’ve been 100% attentive or not, so be 100% attentive for goodness sake.
5) You will start bragging about the night you slept for 4 hours straight. Ahh, I remember being pregnant: I could sleep for 9 hours then go down for a 3 hour nap. And still, somehow, I felt tired. Now, I’m thrilled by the zing I have if I can go down from 12-4am. (PS: it’s only happened once.)
Next I write a list on all the things I’m thrilled to be able to do again now that I’m no longer pregnant, because, of course, there are so many. But for now, relish!