Motherhood has taught me more lessons than anticipated and I went into it fully expecting it to be a learning experience! Interestingly a period of being schooled tends to fall directly on the heels of insufferable smugness on my part. Pride cometh before the fall 🙂
When Julia was brand new I am embarrassed to say that I actually marvelled at how easy motherhood was, sure I was a little tired from night time feedings but I couldn’t believe how much free time I had–life was so much easier than when I worked full time and well easier even than when I worked part-time! Suddenly I had time to binge watch TV shows on Netflix AND do housework. I am not just talking general cleaning, laundry and meal preparation–I suddenly had time to deep clean the secret pockets of mess in our home–the pantry and linen closet were reorganized, junk drawers (yes plural) were de-junked it was fantastic. I have never been more self-satisfied and was certain people were “just being nice” when they referred to being a SAHM as a ‘tough job’. Here is the thing, Julia was asleep and frankly when she was awake the only things she really needed from me were directly tied to basic needs–eating, bathing, diaper changes. Of course I spent lots of time snuggling her, talking to her and inhaling that delicious newborn scent but although Julia was clearly soaking in the attention, she wasn’t clamoring for it.
Around the 3 month point everything changed–she became much more aware of, well everything–her surroundings in general and us in particular. It was a joy to watch her become more interactive and each milestone she hit actually made me teary. There is flat out nothing that has brought me more happiness in my life than to see my daughter look up and clearly register my face and respond with a huge smile. Play time became more fun as she was learning to roll (and I became such a stage mom on my hands and knees next to her encouraging/flattering/cajoling/excessively praising as she executed her baby push ups) and as she learned to reach for and grasp toys and bat at mobiles. But as she was napping less and not just needing me more but wanting me more detailing closets and drawers was no longer an option. But frankly a lot of basic and necessary household chores seemed like pipe dreams. There just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. The house became messier. My showers became less frequent and I fear that I may have greeted our mail carrier on more than one occasion looking a little like Nick Nolte’s mug shot! When my husband would come home from work he was eager to spend time with Miss Julia and I was eager to shower, throw in a load of laundry or run an errand sans baby. But that didn’t always work out as early evening was our generally good natured baby’s fussy time and when fussy she wanted her mommy. This formerly smug momma had a couple rough months! Happily 6 months in, we’ve developed some routines and things are a lot less up for grabs. But I now know better to self-congratulate and become too comfortable with present circumstances! After all, Julia will become mobile soon and that will bring a whole other dimension of high maintenance!
The number one question I’ve been asked about Julia has been “does she sleep through the night?”. When I would answer was “no” I would invariably be given a sympathetic look and then informed of some other baby who would sleep 10 hour stretches at 5 weeks, etc, etc. But instead of feeling inadequate, I’d actually feel a little sorry for the moms with the champion sleepers (again humility shortage!!!). The thing is, although there were certainly times in which I was tired and didn’t feel like getting up for Julia those circumstances were truly the exceptions. My norm was enjoying that time with her–I would hear her cries on the baby monitor, I’d give it some time to see if she would self-soothe herself back to sleep, if not I would quietly enter her nursery. As soon as she registered my presence she would stop crying as if a switch flipped and pump her little arms in excitement over my arrival. I’d lift her out of her crib, change her diaper and then we would sit on her glider in the dark nursery the only light being from her nightlight (the same one used in my childhood nursery). I would nurse Julia (generally it would be a short feeding, maybe a few minutes). The whole house silent and peaceful and I would soak in my daughter without distraction. I would feel her get heavier in my arms and listen to her breathing get deeper and I would feel such profound, infinite love. Those night time interludes with her were so special I knew that when they came to an end that I would miss them more than I would enjoy the additional rest. Most nights in the past 3 months or so I would usually get up once a night on a rare occasion more often but once was typical. This past Monday I posted a picture of Julia’s nightlight on Instagram and wrote out my feelings about getting up for her in the night and how much I enjoyed it–it was very similar to what I’ve just shared here and I fear it may have been a little smug. Um, that VERY night Julia got me up so many times I lost count and I can assure you I was NOT basking in the sweetness! Finally in the wee hours of dawn’s arrival in desperation I brought her into our room to co-sleep (something I vowed to never do). That night was awful and it was humbling. And I probably needed it. The thing is this little precious being in my charge needs me to be resilient, needs me to be able to roll with punches. Life is not like a Hallmark movie or to use a more current example, like one’s instagram photos. So these lessons in humility are necessary and I am thankful for them.