Friday, July 16, 2010

It Gets Better

A friend I went to high school with had a baby about 3 months ago.  The past few days she's been posting on Facebook status updates like: "Been in my PJs all day," or, "Completely exhausted."  The one that got the most comments was, "I feel so isolated." 

I think I told her to hang in there and to get out of the house if she could, but I wanted to say more.   Like all mothers who have "made it through" those bleary eyed, emotional months, I have a good idea of what she's going through, and I remembered some of the things that I went through in my children's first year of life.

 I remember once, when my oldest daughter was about 5 months old, my husband and I went out to brunch with friends in Baltimore.  My daughter had been introduced to rice cereal recently, but I was still her main source of food back then.  When she was born, Hadley was almost 10 pounds and I swear it was like the whole reason she decided to come out was to breastfeed.  She would eat around the clock if I let her. So I was hungry.  All the time.  At brunch I ate what I believe was a stack of 6 or 7 pancakes, all the potatoes and bacon, plus the remaining food on my husband's plate.  Then when we got home, I made myself a sandwich with potato chips and cookies on the side. 

When my second daughter, Harper, was born that brought another set of challenges along with it as well.  For me, there was a lot of guilt that I wasn't spending as much time with Hadley as I used to.  We couldn't go to the places we used to go together as easily, or at all because of naptimes or whatever.  Along with the guilt, the managing of two human beings was overwhelming at times, too.  One afternoon, I had spent a ridiculous amount of time making myself a nice lunch.  Just as I was finishing preparing it, Harper was ready for a nap.  In the time it took me to change Harper and put her down for a nap, Hadley had taken my lunch off the kitchen counter, and devoured it.  And to top it off, the last two pieces of bread were used to make that sandwich. 

There were days (and there still are) that were filled with lots of tears.  Someone told me once that entering motherhood is like visiting another country with a language you don't know how to speak and a time change that you can't quite get your body to adapt to.  But everyone has their ways of figuring it out, and I know my friend is finding her way as she spends time with her daughter.

For me, it was finding some joy in a particularly stressful or tiring moment.  This is not an easy skill for me to master, but every once in awhile I can do it. 

I nursed Hadley until she was 11 months old.  I'm not writing this to brag.  I couldn't stand breastfeeding.  It just wasn't for me.  I didn't find it difficult, but it wasn't something that felt natural to me at all. Still, I decided I'd do it until she was 1 year old.  However, by 10 months she began to lose interest and I primarily fed her in the morning when she woke up and again around 4 or 5 in the morning.  Those break of dawn feedings were hard.  You know it's too early to wake up, but by the time you've fed the baby and put her back to bed, you're wide awake. 

The morning Hadley turned 11 months, she woke up around 4am crying.  Like a robot, I went into her room, fed her, then put her back to bed.  But for some reason she didn't want to go back to sleep.  Too tired to have her "cry it out," and too weak to rock her to sleep, I brought her into bed with me.  She fell right to sleep on top of me.  I dozed on and off until about 7:30 when Hadley woke up.  

Hadley was never a cuddler.  She didn't like to be snuggled up with me or my husband.  She was always too busy and interested in what was going on in the world.  But this morning, as the sky went from black, to deep dark blue, to a white light, Hadley and I rested together.  My hand on her little back, her legs draped on either side of my waist.  One hand on my neck, and the other holding onto her pacifier.  I didn't know it then, but it was the last time I would ever breastfeed Hadley.  I look back on this moment as a little present for myself.

I'm not revealing anything new when I write that the reality of motherhood is that it's filled with unbelievable joy and unbelievable exhaustion.  Every mother knows this, and my friend is finding this out as well.  I supposed the "trick" is figuring out how to live with these two really strong tidal waves.  Because hopefully, they'll be around for a long time.


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