A Return from the Depths of Early Motherhood

So, it’s been a minute, friends. Or ten. Or 319,680. But who’s counting, right?

I’ve had every intent of updating my blog since that last book review in late April; truthfully, I still have an unfinished entry in my drafts folder titled “Reading Roundup: April and May.” Woof. Turns out, having a kid is more time consuming than one could possibly anticipate.

Or maybe just more than one very disillusioned reader wanted to admit to herself . . .

Anyway. My little miracle baby was born at the start of June in Kansas, when the sunsets begin their migration toward the later hour of moonrises and take on the vibrant golds and scarlets that only come with the ends of days in the simmering summertime. He became the rising and setting of the sun to me the instant he was carved from my belly, no small token after months of growing inside my burgeoning stomach. He became the very reason for life itself; a reason I didn’t know I needed until I saw his gaping gummy mouth and intent steely eyes beckoning — Hey, You. Blobby thing. Feed me, please. And perhaps nestle me close, yes, like that. Oh, that’s nice. You’re cushy in all the right places! Oh, please, won’t you love me forever?

Challenge accepted, Little One. Forever.

And now, as I type this, my squinty-eyed boy has become a gurgling six-month-old squawking at me to put my toes closer to the jumperoo, please Mama, I need to grab them and — oh — yes, these belong in my mouth . . .

I’ve been thinking often, lately, about those early days of first-time motherhood; in part because I am missing those squishy little baby snuggles, and in part because I have so many friends nearing that milestone (or past it). Man, those first days — weeks, months — are tough. Here’s a few things I discovered about becoming a mother:

  1. You will never feel more inadequate. Ever. In your entire life. I mean, obviously I haven’t lived my entire life yet, but I feel pretty confident that you’re never going to feel more incapable or out of your league than those first several weeks with an infant who’s speaking — jk, screaming — a different language and won’t latch on to your damn boob and fortheloveofGodcan’thesleeplongerthanthirtyminutes? It gets better with time, but I’m not real certain the feeling ever dissipates completely.
  2. You will stop caring who sees your boobs. My first few days in the hospital, I really, really didn’t want my mother-in-law to be around while I was nursing. It felt like some sort of violation of a line that needed to be drawn in the sand. Fast forward a few weeks: I’ve become a pro at nursing in parking lots, church pews, and McDonald’s booths. I’m as discreet as possible, but let’s get real, guys — it’s damn near impossible to finagle the nursing bra while holding the increasingly-squirmy and often-screaming child and trying to lift the shirt while also keeping a blanket over your chest and aforementioned screaming infant. Yeah. It’s been 6 months and I still haven’t mastered the art.
  3. You will feel like you might actually die of exhaustion. Yep. Not an exaggeration.
  4. But you won’t. Just keep drinking that water and eating those granola bars. . . . two at a time . . . or three, that’s fine, too.
  5. You’ll pray to God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, the Abominable Snowman, and the Kool-Aid man for baby to start sleeping through the night yesterdayThis kinda goes back to #3, because let’s face it — really all you can think about in those first few weeks (or months) of baby-rearing is sleep. And how much of it you’re not getting.
  6. But by the time baby is only waking up once a night to feed, you’re going to feel a little sad. . . . because the realization is starting to hit you: he’s not going to need you someday. Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a few years until that’s a reality . . . but it starts with the nighttime feedings and it only goes downhill from there, friends.
  7. You’ll probably be a “bad” wife for a while. Home-cooked meals? Swept floors? Laundered clothes? Unless you’re Wife of the Year, those things probably aren’t going to get done regularly (or at all) for a while. Maybe a couple of months. It’s okay. You’re not a bad wife. You’re a badass who just expelled human life from your loins. Any time someone tries to make you feel guilty about not getting dessert made (or really, for anything in those first several months), simply hoist the fruit of your womb and tell ’em to suck it.
  8. You’ll reminisce on all those times you were a shithead to your own mother and experience deep and lasting remorse. Go ahead, call your mom. Apologize. Cry if you need to. She gets it.
  9. You’ll feel disgusting. Unless you’re one of those weirdos whose body returns to pre-pregnancy form two days later, you’re going to be squishy and quite possibly covered in stretch marks and incapable of turning down anything chocolate or cheeseburger-y. I’d like to say the feeling evaporates by six months postpartum, but it hasn’t for me. That being said, I do take some relief in watching my offspring smile dazzlingly as I whisper to him, You did this to me . . .
  10. You’ll never get these moments back. Already, I’ve forgotten the heft of my boy in his first few days of life as he curled up against my chest. I’ve forgotten the exact sensation of his tiny tuchus nestled in the crook of my arm with his tiny newborn head smooshed against my shoulder as he slept the sleep of the dead. The general memories remain, but I feel an aching remorse in my belly every time I can’t vividly recall a detail from those early weeks. I remember wanting each day to just pass so badly — Please, God, just let me make it through one more day — and now I am desperate to draw out each hour, feeling the impermanence of my station here in life now more than ever.

Like I said: It’s tough becoming a mother. Some women seem to be born with an innate knack for the task, somehow knowing from day one how to soothe and entertain and discipline and nourish. Many, like myself, aren’t born with that knack, and we find ourselves circling the motherhood drain and wishing we could knock a few back, but baby’s still eating every two hours and I’m still a human-milk dispensary, so . . .

Here’s a little secret, though: knack-full or knack-less, we all start our motherhood with equal footing in one capacity. We are born with the instinct to love.

And, you know, it might be a bit naive, but I’m certain that no child can thrive without boundless, unconditional love. So go ahead, mamas — rely on that instinct to love, and a quick Google search for the rest.