Early motherhood is…
Adaptation: Domestically, spiritually, professionally, molecularly. “Everything will change,” they said, months ago, and we responded as we should, with closed lip smiles and pleasant, clueless nods. But hours later, after Anthony and I walked/waddled home, and sipped our teas, and watched our show, I stared through our bedroom skylight, admitting, quietly, internally, that I mostly liked everything the way it was now; I hoped not everything would change. What I didn’t understand was that many things would stay the same, but I would change, we would change, in wonderful, mystifying ways, and this would make all the difference.
Body: His belly grows as mine deflates and it’s all quite gradual and rewarding and strange.
Colors: Pastel and muted, neutral and gray, black and white, and primary red, yellow, blue.
Doing: “I’m a doer now,” I proclaim to my mother, while the coffee brews, and the dishwasher hums, and my phone dings, and I scribble a note. “I’m not proud of it, I’m not glorifying it at all, it’s just a fact.” And it’s a bittersweet fact, I realize. It was lovely to be so less focused. So less industrious.
Endurance: Going to bed at 2:45, to be awoken at 3:22, and greet his little face like you missed him.
Family: Our small one of three, and the parties of five from which we came, and the big, extended one that sends piles of clothes and toys and books, and the friendly one, the one we chose, Cam’s “aunts” and “uncles” we so adore.
Goals: For the first few months, I say it under my breath, a promise from Abbey Lopez to Abbey Cleland: “Tomorrow you will write.” But “tomorrow” doesn’t mean the day directly following today. Tomorrow is abstract, and — for now — that’s okay.
Husband: Four month old Cameron is fascinated by the sparkle of my ring. “Daddy picked that out,” I say, “It’s pretty, isn’t it?” I give the baby a teething ring so he won’t gnaw on the diamond, and it occurs to me that my Anthony is someone’s dad, and my eyes fill with tears. I’m so often happy about Cameron, but at this moment, I’m so happy for him.
Indecision and Indifference: Wanting visitors and then not wanting visitors. Wanting lunch plans and then not wanting lunch plans. Daydreaming of a date night out then cancelling, happily.
Judith: Missing your pal, but your hands were full – quite literally, as always now – when she called you back, and it’s been three days, but you’re very, very tired, and you want to be alert enough to listen. You want to have your coffee in-hand. You want to hear her laugh.
Kisses: A fit, a sea, a storm, a shower, a parade, a party, a marathon of kisses. Cam’s parents kiss him A LOT.
Love: One that’s so personal to the three of us, so sacred, so small, so big, so extraordinary, no one must feel it, too, but they do — I know they do! I’ve witnessed it. It’s the most unique, universal thing, this love.
Marvelling: Anthony and I live a parallel life now, shoulder-to-shoulder, marvelling at our wonder boy.
Numbers: Dates and times, ounces and inches. Phone numbers, sizes, and prices. Count the diapers, count the onesies, count the months, count the blessings.
Owing: Everyone you know a phone call, a visit, an email, a thank you note.
Perspective: You sense you should probably apologize to your parents. For what? Nothing in particular. Just “everything.” Just a big catch-all sorry-if-I-ever-didn’t-get-it apology. Meanwhile, you will definitely regret calling your book “your baby.” It’s a BOOK, dum-dum. You would not die for it. Somedays (to break up the days you find yourself pretty fricken clever), you don’t even like it. Not at all.
Quick: “I might have time for a quick call. Or a quick cup of coffee? Maybe a quick stop at Target? We are in dire need of a quick grocery run. Whatever it is, it can be done, but it must be done quick, quick, quick! Oh wait. He’s awake. Maybe I’ll just snuggle him for a bit. Byeeeeee!”
Repetition: Asking, “When did he eat last?” on repeat.
Sounds: Snaps, zippers, Velcro, water splashing, singing toys, carseats click-click-clicking, and eventually, finally, precious giggles.
Temperatures: Hot scalding water to sterilize, and lukewarm water to bathe, and cold water in the extra tall tumbler to stay hydrated while pumping. Thermometers to monitor him, and thermostats to monitor his house, and it is his house now. This is so clear.
Unity: Admiring your parents and friends-con-kiddos on an entirely new level. You vow you’ll never judge a one. (And you know, eventually, when pushed, you will. But not nearly as harshly as you ever could before.)
Voices: Escalating voice modulations, and soft, quiet hums, and cheery song-singing, and soothing whispers, and late night, breathy, “I love you! I love you!”
Worrying: About the rational and irrational in equal doses.
X Factor: As in the unknown, as in I don’t know — how could I know? — but I’m the adult now, so I must know.
Young (and Old): While you hold this tiny, very new human, you may feel old and wise, but caring for him requires you to be so active and spry, you must be young, too, and while he’s new, you’re new. New mom, new dad, new family. All very shiny and new! But this baby in your arms is your baby, charging you with teaching him just about everything, so surely you know something, which makes sense. You’re old, you should be knowledgeable. And it’s not like your energy to care for said baby bubbles from some bottomless spring. You’re exhausted. And your back is sore. It doesn’t hurt now, but a foggy conversation replays in your head during which you vented to someone — who was it? — that your back was aching. Forgetfulness + backaches = old. Ah yes, that’s it.
Zebra: At the Zoo, and on PBS Sprout’s Zou, and in each of our alphabet books (four titles to date), the “Z” is for Zebra, and we like how his stripes go ziggy and zaggy and that’s how we ride in the stroller sometimes, too, all ziggy and zaggy, like the zebra’s stripes, and this is all quite important now. This ziggy and zaggy zaniness of our life, how we swerve into the fun and away from the fear, and zooooom on, so long as we’re together.