Finally, five minutes to write something. Anything! It’s been a while, I know, but I have a good reason this time, and it’s called motherhood. One month ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, weighing in at 7.1 lbs. Her name is Luna (if you want to know why, refer to the Thailand Chronicles 2008: Full Moon Party, Kho Phan Nhang) and she has single-handedly turned my life upside down in countless ways, all wonderful – and all utterly and entirely exhausting.
Where does the time go?
Since Luna was born, her dad and I have had to navigate the unfamiliar and intimidating waters that wait to welcome every new parent as they learn how to keep another little being alive. There has been so many “eureka!” moments during this time that I feel as if I could already write a self help book along the lines of “how to survive the first month of parenthood” (“surviving” is really the key word here) – if only I’d had ten minutes to sit down at my computer and actually write (this post was an accumulation of 2 minute intervals over the course of three weeks, I kid you not). Such is the paradox of my current situation; finally off “work”, without a minute to spare. I can, quite honestly, count on one hand the number of times I’ve blow dried my hair in the last month, I can’t tell you what day of the week it is, and I’ve officially sworn off checking my voice mails (text me and I may write you back, but don’t make me dial in to retrieve a recorded message – it’s not going to happen.)
Time as a concept has in fact taken on a whole new meaning to me (or lack thereof). For the past month, the hours have blended together to form a kind of continuous cyclone that revolves around feeding times, diaper changes, burping, fussing and bath time. I eat when she sleeps and I shower as my husband is slowly waking up to get ready for work . And I sleep for around 4 hours a night in between feedings when Luna decides she’s still in the mood for a snooze. In short, I have no sense of time. I don’t wake up and go to work, I stay at work, for 24 hours a day. It’s the strangest thing really, but I’ve realized that when on Mat Leave, the only thing you leave behind is your sanity, the rest simply gets bumped up ten fold. This is, of course, a temporary condition, one that I have no doubt I’ll soon move past gracefully and one which I’m sure I’ll remember fondly (the little dear is after all now 8 lbs of sheer cuteness when her head isn’t spinning around like something from the exorcist). So, do I plan on never returning to work? Will I stop blogging, running, socializing etc? Heck no! I can’t wait until I figure out a routine that allows me to write between feeds – but until that happens, I’m afraid that posts, jogs and social calls will be few and far between. Trust me, the countdown is on.
For now, here’s a little insight into life with baby, one month in.
Lesson #1: Don’t aim for perfection – it will destroy your sanity
While the whole baby experience begins the moment you discover you’re pregnant, we received our first lesson in parenting the day, or rather the night, our little bundle arrived safe and sound at home from the hospital. You see, in preparation for departure, the nurses at the hospital are tasked with giving you parenting tips to get you through the first few days. The importance of things like “skin on skin” contact during feedings and the necessity for safe sleeping habits during infancy are drilled in your head – and you, being first time parents, are determined to take every suggestion very seriously, hoping not to screw up your kid too badly right off the bat. The problem is, you have no idea what will screw them up and what won’t – what’s an acceptable breach of protocol and what rules should never, ever be broken.
The lesson we soon learned was that nobody can be the perfect parent. After arriving home from the hospital, we entered into a 3 hour feed, frantically trying to undress the baby while she ate to promote skin on skin, and then redressing her to ensure she’d be warm enough to sleep (given the fact that having blankets in the crib is a major no no these days). This literally meant putting on and taking off her onesie and sleeper every 2 hours – clearly the most unsustainable routine, ever. So, after what was the night from hell, trying to master breastfeeding and not be total failures as parents, we took a deep breath and acknowledged that in the future, we would be imperfect parents with the best of intentions. This meant that we’d do skin on skin when possible, but once the baby was dressed for bedtime, she’d stay that way. It also meant that if Luna was freezing cold in the middle of the night (which rarely happened once we mastered an appropriate temperature in the house), I was going to cover her with a (gasp) blanket! While we bought a sleep sack that we intended to use in the place of blankets, sometimes it just wasn’t enough (other times she peed all over it just before bedtime), so I broke the rules and tucked a blanket nice and tight around her teeny tiny little waist. Go ahead, call me a horrible parent, I dare you. I figure I have to get used to it right? After all, in the end, you’ll always be doing something wrong. But I’ve come to terms with being the best imperfect parent I can be by trying my darndest to keep my little girl safe, snug and healthy, regardless of weather I’m working against the studies that prove otherwise.
Everyone knows what’s best for baby (except you)
One of the most entertaining – and at times most frustrating – parts of being a new parent is the onslaught of advice and unsolicited guidance you will receive from anyone and everyone around you. It starts during pregnancy, when people question your dedication after catching you sip on half a glass of red wine, or ask you constantly whether or not you should be eating that delicious feta hors d’oeuvre you’re about to shove down your throat. But the truth is, you don’t know judgement day until you’ve given birth and suffered… ahem… I mean, graciously accepted… the advice of those who have had babies, those who have researched having babies, and those who have no idea what they’re talking about but are determined to have an opinion (and share it) anyways.
And then there’s you – a new mom who believes she knows absolutely nothing. Don’t get me wrong – advice is appreciated but criticism, judgement and interference can get old pretty fast and lead to overwhelming moments of frustration and guilt that make you question every move you make. In the end, you learn to take advice with a grain of salt, nod politely, Google the so-called “fact” and then act accordingly. The guilt is by far the worst. You feel guilty for being a bad mom, guilty for not taking people’s advice… basically you feel guilty all the time. Especially when it comes to suffering the “baby blues”.
Incoming: Hormones, guilt and the baby blues
So, you thought hormones were bad during your pregnancy? Bah! Sure you may have had a few meltdowns, breakdowns and moments of sheer panic, but when you were pregnant, life was still full of hypotheticals. After giving birth – shit gets real dawg! Yup, I said dawg. In the first few weeks, you are flooded with so many feelings – most of which circle around love and admiration for the new little bundle, but some of which include terror (what have I done?), panic (am I doing this right?), and guilt (for feeling, at times, like you want to run away and jump the first plane out of town). Add hormones to the mix and you’ve got waterworks waiting to happen. And in truth, sometimes a good cry is all you need to regroup and get down to baby business. Other times, it can be a life saver to have a partner with whom you can honestly express the way you feel (I can’t say how helpful it has been to have a husband who understands when I tell him that, at times, I miss who I was pre-baby.).
After trying to put virtual pen to paper for four weeks, I realize that free time is not something that comes easily when you’re staying at home with an infant searching for your tasty bosom at every waking moment. And I do mean every waking moment – when they don’t sleep, they eat! It’s incredible! I’m no longer me the runner, the writer, and good friend to all! For now at least, I’m nothing more than a milk machine, a human udder, and the source of life for a little baby who has no idea who I am but loves me for my ability to lactate. Okay, I’m exaggerating. She knows who I am. At least she knows my smell, which makes me feel a little better. The point however, remains. My identity has taken a U-turn, despite my intentions to maintain… well, me. Thankfully, we’ve just introduced bottle feeding, and that alone has allowed the milk machine to sleep an additional two hours per night, not to mention open a whole new world of date nights for mommy and daddy to enjoy some much needed time alone. I will also be able to get out for a jog or two in the upcoming weeks, the first thing in a while that mummy will do for mummy, and not baby (sorry Luna).
The long road ahead
As the list of things I am waiting to write about continues to grow, I’m realizing that I’ve jump on board a ferris wheel that won’t stop spinning for the next 18 years or so. I can’t wait to start writing about my experiences thus far, from big things like labour and delivery, to small encounters with diaper rash, blocked tear ducts, baby acne and gassy tummies (particularly un-fun). Of course for every challenging topic, there are a thousand wonderful ones waiting to be written – all of which can be summed up in one big gummy (and for now, gassy) smile. The smile that reminds you that this little being is the creation of you and the person you love most in the world; makes 3am feedings less painful; and reassures you that things will get easier, and that every minute you devote to your little one is so very worth it (even if you feel like banging your head against the wall on more than one occasion.)
Stay tuned for many a blog to come, outlining the life of a mom on mat leave with a short attention span and a desire to keep up the travels, get back in shape and dance her way through the trials and tribulations of having a baby! Let the baby blogs… begin!