Those baby books that you read when you were pregnant? When you were sitting in the glider chair in the muted sunlight of the peaceful baby nursery you'd created? There you were, with all the beautiful washed blankets and tiny clothes and undershirts and clean soaps and shampoos arranged all around you, and that feeling of happiness and anticipation glowing softly right in your core. The books told you that you were about to embark on a wondrous, magical journey.
It didn't tell you that you might push for three hours, ignorant to the fact that your baby had the cord wrapped around his neck, and that you would push so hard just to get him into this world that you would actually give yourself a puffy, bruised eye. It didn't tell you that your ankles and feet would be so swollen you'd be wearing your running shoes for those last few weeks, laced as loosely as possible, and that you'd be wearing your husband's winter coat because it was the only one that would do up.
And, oh my god, it didn't tell you about that first night you brought that new baby home.
When my son was born, I didn't get to hold him right away. Thanks to being slightly strangled with each push, he got to go straight to the NICU. When I'd come in to feed him, I would be face to face with this beautiful stranger, who I was terrified of. The first few times I held him, and fed him, he was attached to enough wires and monitors that if I bent one wire the wrong way, things would start beeping. As I fumbled to find the right way to get my breast to his mouth, he would be SHRIEKING with rage and desperate need for food. Then the dear, kind nurse would matter-of-factly grab my breast and shove it in the kid's mouth.
It was daunting, to say the very least.
Finally on the 5th day, we brought him home. We thought his breathing sounded wheezy. We freaked. Then my inlaws came over and assured us he was just fine, and sounded like a new baby should. Nana was calm. She was in love with the new baby. She professionally, effortlessly swaddled him tight and cozy in seconds. She patted him and rubbed him and got all the bad air out of him. I barely even wanted to hold him.
I wanted to see other people hold him, so I could look at him and bask in his beauty, but oh--how scary he was. Then, that first night, with my bedside lamp on, our new baby was sleeping in the bassinet RIGHT BESIDE ME. He was making all those little baby noises that a new mother quickly becomes accustomed to if she gets to have her child in the hospital room with her.
I did not get to learn these noises, so I lay there, listening, making sure his breathing sounded okay, making sure he was going to be OKAY. And then I heard The Man start snoring beside me. He was able to fall asleep and I was lying there freaking out. I suddenly realised;
MY GOD, IT'S ALL ON MY SHOULDERS. It's up to ME to make sure this precious little soul is safe, is fed, poops when he should poop, pees enough times to produce the daily requirement of wet diapers, gains enough weight per week, is healthy, is not jaundiced--it's all up to ME. I'm THE MOTHER now. I'm not just karen any longer. I'm not just some girl. I'm a mother, and my stomach is an empty shell, and I am very, very tired and sore, but I have to get to work RIGHT NOW. THIS MOMENT.
So if you're a new mom, and you're shitting yourself, take heart: I know how you feel.
And maybe, enough time has passed, and you've decided it's time to have another baby! But, your first child is still young, and so needy. And your NEW baby demands so much of your time. And your husband? Well, he had to go back to work. Everyone on your street is at work. You are all alone.
But, you are not. And things won't always be so difficult (hopefully!). When I started writing this blog at the end of 2009, I had WAY more angst. Things were far more stressful, and tumultuous and AUTISM sat at the head of the table.
Now we still have meltdowns and anxiety and other challenges to deal with, but my kids are older and they are sweet, and so lovable and we have wonderful times every day, not just once in a while. Oh, I still have "screaming idiot mom" days. But a few years ago? Hoo...them's were some hard times.
I wrote a book when my son was 3 and my daughter was mere months old. It was the year my son was diagnosed with "Autism Spectrum Disorder." It was a very, very hard year. I'd like to share a few excerpts to show that even though sometimes things seem very, very, insurmountably difficult, the old adage is true:
This too shall pass.
* * *
Thursday August 8th? Or 9th? 2007
I'm tired. The past few days have been horrendous. Let's face it, the past almost two weeks have mostly been terrible. This is because Jack's nana has not been able to come around at all while some relatives from England are visiting. Jack spends at least one day a week with his nana, which let me tell you--and I'm not religious--is a blessing.
Of course that's not the whole problem. The other misery factor is that it's been absolutely freaking hot for the past two weeks--extreme heat alerts most every day, and so for the most part we have been trapped in the air-conditioned house. Let's also add in Ella's continuing teething fun, which has made her naps very erratic.
Yesterday was a truly horrible day. Jack pushed my buttons and I reacted because I was just so damn tired. I don't even know what we fought about--everything and nothing. My heart, too many times, was just pounding with pure rage. I had to say aloud; "I will NOT hit him. I will NOT hit him. I will not hit him. I would like to hit him, but by god, I will NOT hit him." Tantrums, meltdowns, trying to hurt his sister...endless.
Whenever I've had some spare time lately I've been futilely working to put Jack in a nursery school, which I will explain. In the meantime, he listens to the same cd over and over again and bounces ENDLESSLY against the couch. * Bounce*Squeak!* Bounce*Squeak!* until I just want to cry.
Yesterday was bad, bad, bad. The low point, or one of them rather, was me sobbing beside the washing machine as Jack peeked through the basement stairs and laughed at me. So then I screeched "GET OUT!"
As I see it, I had three choices yesterday: I could have smacked the crap out of him, which horrifies me, I could have swallowed an entire bottle of tylenol, or I could have a whisky. So I had the whisky-- a nice strong shot mixed with cola. As I drank it, I could feel the calm washing over me. Without the rage though, all I felt was sadness. Every day I fail as a mother. Every day.
I've been thinking lately of a girlfriend who is pregnant with her first child. We lost touch for a while when I had Jack, one, because she and her husband live almost an hour and a half away now, and two because we'd temporarily lost that common ground.
I totally understood: she was still thin, pretty, going out to bars for cocktails with her man, valuable in the working world, and I was racing around cleaning poop and puke off everything, and following the rigid breastfeeding clock. And if that sounds bitter, I didn't mean it to be.
So yeah, now she's pregnant, and I dare say she's just as "green" as I was then. I had never diapered anyone before, and the closest I came to knowing babies was probably something like; "here, hold the baby while [your aunt and I] have a cigarette."
I wasn't even the girl who wanted to hold the babies when they happened to arrive for a visit, which, if I look back now, seems pretty A-typical.
So, she'll have the baby in less than 4 months and already she's wondering when next she and her husband will go on a vacation sans children, and she's concerned about not eating too much so she can lose the baby weight as fast as possible. I just smile--and not with contempt, but I smile anyway because she's clinging to the last shreds of a life that will be gone.
My mom said it best and let's see if I can get this right: the first baby is a huge culture shock because it changes your whole life, and the second baby is much easier because that life is gone. Isn't that cheery?
Something magical has happened tonight: I was standing outside saying goodbye to my parents, my sister and my niece. I picked up my boy and he actually put his little arms around my neck and rested his cheek against mine. He never does that sort of thing with me--almost never hugs or kisses me voluntarily.
That little cheek against my cheek! Oh, just thinking about it makes me feel so full. It makes everything, everything okay: all the lonely days, my wreck of a body--it's all okay. If I can just conjure that feeling in my mind every day, I might just make it out of this life okay.