I got stumped.
Sunday was (would have been?) my step mom’s birthday. She died in July. I wanted to write something but nothing felt right. Something about death and birth and the greater meaning. Instead I ditched the blog, didn’t call or text my dad, sisters, or aunts, and focused on my own little bubble*, which, though it sounds nice with a new baby, isn’t very good for me.
I need to get out and move and reach out to people. My downfall is isolation. I disappear from myself and that makes me no good to anyone.
I may need to start pumping, just so I can go to the gym. But I’m terrified of nipple confusion. She’s two weeks old today and I’ve heard that bottles should wait until at least three weeks. Is it worth it? Is it cheating? Will she suffer? Am I crazy?
I’ve spent the last little while reveling in my tiny daughter, kissing her, smelling her, drinking her in. I wondered why I was feeling so free with the kisses, then it hit me- I didn’t feel guilty!
Eli told me last night that it makes him sad when I kiss Welles. I got caught kissing her twice. No one wants their baby to hurt, especially not because of their actions. But it’s not like I could stop being affectionate with her. So I’ve been trying to give him even more extra love and attention than I had been. It’s so hard though because I know that no matter what, it won’t be enough because there is no enough. It’s a transition without limits.
I’d like to have more time that I don’t feel suffocated by guilt. How do I let go so that I can fully appreciate the sweet moments?
There are loads of lists and posts and essays and articles titled ” what no one tells you about becoming a parent”, but I have yet to see the biggest one that I most relate to:
I’ve seen isolation, with the advice to get out of the house for a walk or call a friend, but this loneliness I’m talking about is different. It’s the 3am feeding and diaper change while your partner and older child sleep soundly. It’s them going out to work in the yard and being stuck on the couch because it’s too sunny or hot for a 1 week old. (And her mother who has heat sensitivity issues.) It’s not wanting to complain because you know how fleeting and sweet this time of baby breath, sour milk, and discovery is. And then it passes. Because it is so special. You look down at your baby with her little noises, her tiny mouth, and her brother’s eyelashes and you think of your friends who are in it, right now, with you. You yawn in solidarity knowing that one or maybe even all of them are awake, too.
And then an hour later, it begins again.
Since giving birth:
The laundry has been caught up on.
We have yet to go to bed with dishes in the sink.
The sheets have been changed and the bed made daily.
Eli has eaten well* and brushed his teeth twice daily.
Boxes have gone to Goodwill.
Cemented fence bits and a rusty who-knows-what has been dug up and discarded.
I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting.
Thing I’ve done since giving birth:
Breastfed, changed diapers, tried to rest, cuddled both babies, and made lentils.
Cyrus has done everything on that first list and more. He has made our house a nice place to be and kept the wheels turning.
I write this not to brag (but, yes, I’m incredibly lucky), but to share my conflict about it all. When I see Cyrus running ragged while I sit nursing I feel guilty. I feel like I should be helping instead of sitting, laying down, or making messes. Is this just a me thing? Or a female thing? Or a societal thing?
I know that my body is working hard and that I’m exhausted, but I feel like I should be doing more. Or helping more. Something more. Is this just a new parent thing?
*Though I’d give him more veggies.
Before having Welles I made a lot of decisions and plans that I thought would help ease the transition for Eli. I signed up for two classes, made a regular schedule of library Mondays and museum Thursdays, and figured Cyrus would just keep it all rolling.
The first chance we had to try it out was last Friday. Welles had a doctor appointment that timingwise butted right up against Eli’s class. It seemed perfect. We would take two cars to the appointment and then Cyrus would take Eli to class while I went back home. Eli did not think this was perfect. He was devastated. Baby Welles had taken his car (my car). He decided he hated daddy’s car and that he didn’t want to go anywhere but home. His new motto is “all or none.” And so it’s been.
This weekend we went to a birthday party for a fellow 2 year old, back to the doctor, and patted ourselves on the backs for surviving. Today we all suited up and went to class. (Where we met snakes, which was super cool.) It was a lot, but so worth it. Eli was tired, but much more himself. And I felt more myself, especially at the end when Cyrus took Welles and I got to sing the last couple of songs with Eli on my lap. Familiar and grounding, new and old, it was what we all needed.
I’m so tired. I feel like I stayed up all night drinking and smoking. My throat is even a bit scratchy. But I can’t take a nap, as much as I want to, because it’s just so nice right here.
I nursed my babies to sleep at the same time and now they’re both on either arm breathing sleepy breath.
I see Eli struggling to adjust. His hasn’t manifested in anything too outwardly challenging, but as his mom I can see the toll. He’s tired a lot of the time. He’s a little stumbly. I think this time together helps that. He even requests that baby Welles come to bed with us. Today he reached out and put his hand on her shoulder across my chest. It was pretty magical.
But it’s not just for him. I need this, too. The familiar weight and heat of his little body next to mine grounds me in the midst of all this newness.
Transitions are hard.