Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Baby at One Month: Beyond Thunderdome

While I was pregnant, I often thought of the experience as a series of peaks and valleys, one long roller coaster ride, storms and calm seas, insert your cliche of choice here. I'm too tired to come up with a unique one. I couldn't conceive of a life with a baby, so I'm somewhat surprised to notice that the same dynamic continues in the month of baby's life.

thunderdomeWell, it continued after the first ten days or so. At some point I'll try to characterize those, but for now, I'll say that the first ten days were a sort of gold-plated cage, a Thunderdome of sorts, in which we were to engage with the forces of Baby. We had the tools (boob, swaddle, diapers, cuddles, etc) but we wielded them clumsily as we attempted to care for this new little being that aroused such depth of emotion in us. Those first days are coated in a milky haze I will probably never remember completely.

Now, I kinda know how the day will go. At least, I think I do, but holding on to expectations is probably a very bad thing to do. Many days follow a pattern, though with frequent night feedings they bleed one to the next. Technically, my day begins at about 5:00 a.m. or whenever Baby awakens thereabouts. I trudge to the second bedroom where husband is sleeping and hand her over. She gets to be fed her one bottle a day, from breastmilk I've pumped the previous morning. I go back to sleep and get an uninterrupted three hours or so.

The husband then leaves for work or school, and Baby continues her dreamlike existence of sleeping for a couple of hours followed by a period of wakefulness. I nurse her, gaze into her blue eyes (which are now producing real tears!), muss her hair, kiss her head, and talk nonsense to this ever-increasingly alert little being.

After she grunts and throat-clears herself into a nap, I get a couple of hours of "free time" here and there to tidy the kitchen, sterilize breast pump parts, check email, or steal a shower. We manage to get out once a day--a walk in the stroller or a quick trip to the store or, yes, to Jack 'n the Box for a milkshake. Sometimes family or friends drop by to help and/or to just love on Baby. It's a quiet existence for an overachiever like me, who used to accomplish a slew of tasks before 9:30 a.m. It's taking some getting used to, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And then there are days that bop me on the head out of nowhere, days that leave me feeling more isolated and helpless than I ever have. After a tough night of Baby wakefulness, in which all the tools of Thunderdome did little to lull her to sleep, the little one demands a nursing day, in which we stay awake for eight hours straight, feeding, cuddling, consoling, and watching episode after episode of Prime Suspect and Call the Midwife. I'm hardly able to stop tending her long enough to run to the bathroom or shove an egg--peeled, hard-boiled, at the ready--in my mouth. Where was this sleep-for-16-hours a day prescription the baby books promised me? It's all I can do not to rush her to husband and say "Here! Help!" as he walks in the door.

On days like this, my world is as small as a thimble; Baby fills it utterly.

The Thunderdome matches are unpredictable, from choppy seas to smooth waters and all that. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

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