There’s nothing quite like having a baby to make you lose all track and all concept of time. I took my watch off in the delivery room, as per the nurse’s orders, and haven’t put it back on since. In fact it’s still tucked in my purse, right alongside other things I haven’t touched since the big arrival, like my favorite lipstick and one of the many rolls of Tums that got me through a whole lot of heartburn.
Partly the watch has stayed put because I fear it will scratch the baby in all the picking up, putting down, changing, rocking, bouncing, and cuddling my watch-wearing arm is once again engaged in. And partly it’s because time, as measured by my watch, just doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the current state our life.
By the clock and the calendar, our baby boy is two weeks old today. Two weeks? How can it be that I have soy milk in my refrigerator that has been with us longer than this sweet little creature? Maybe it’s the 13 nights of sleep deprivation, but I already have trouble remembering a time he wasn’t part of our family. His movements, those jerky arms and legs, the way he rests his left arm against his head… it all just seems so familiar. Granted, he and I did spend 40 weeks together in rather close confines, so technically this I guess this is week 42 of our lives together. But even that doesn’t seem like long enough. No, there is definitely something about having a child that reaches beyond the weeks, months and years. Something that makes you say with absolute certainty, “I have always known you.”
This is our third child and my husband and I are much more relaxed in our role as parents. The “baby” side of the equation, while still a physical and emotional ordeal, is infinitely easier than in the past. I no longer need my watch to count every minute baby’s been nursing or to mark the exact time of the last poopy diaper. What I do need is a third arm to work a puzzle with a 4-year-old and a 4th arm to help a 2-year-old dress her doll while nursing said baby from the comfort of the playroom floor. And as long as I’m dreaming, how about a 5th arm to make dinner, a 6th to get that unidentifiable sticky gunk off the kitchen floor, a 7th to tackle various forms of DNA in the laundry basket and an 8th to type should a coherent thought actually enter my sleep deprived brain? Apparently I want to be the Octomom.
The weight of it all began to set in shortly after the euphoria of delivery (and that lovely epidural) wore off. I sat stoic in my hospital bed, listening to the doctor explain that for the next several weeks I should really just devote myself to caring for the baby and leave everything else to “everyone else.” I double checked the painkiller prescription she scribbled out to see if by chance it included housekeeping and babysitting services. Seeing none, I tearfully turned my attention to the discharge instructions she handed me before saying goodbye. Surely they contained some words of wisdom to help navigate what would lie ahead?
“Resume your daily activities at home when you feel ready. Let comfort guide you.” Really?? Comfort??? If that’s going to be my “guide,” we’re in big trouble. We’ll just skip that one.
“Avoid heavy lifting (anything weighing more than your baby) until you feel up to it.” Once again, this could prove problematic, and not just due to the combined weight of roughly 56 pounds of children who have patiently (and not so patiently) waited several months for a bona fide Mommy cuddle. The burden of physically lifting the three of them is still far lighter than the weight of lifting of their little spirits, of carrying their hurt and shouldering their hearts. My arms, already weak from several months of gym neglect, nearly fell off at the thought.
“Nap whenever possible. Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I’m not even going to go there.
“Keep baby away from second-hand smoke.” Well finally, there’s one I can do. Second-hand smoke, consider this fair warning: I am your arch enemy. Baby, since I seem to be incapable of doing much else, I will devote myself to shielding you from second-hand smoke. Now if only I could do the same for off-handed comments that leave a sting, split-second reactions that go wrong, and smoking hot tempers.
Feeling more terrified than ever, my husband wheeled me out of the hospital and into the bright sunshine of the outside world. Hands shaking, heart quaking, and head throbbing, we tucked the papers away and loaded this precious miracle into our car. And then, we did the only thing we could: we went home.
Back to our same house, but a whole new home.
The place where we’ll have to make our own rules to get by.
The place where time now means nothing.
We’ll just have to take it one day…one long, short, mixed-up, confusing, messy, exhausting, but wonderful day at a time.
Mona Shand is a radio and TV news reporter. She and her family welcomed baby Elijah on June 13, 2011. You can read more on her blog.