6 1/2 Weeks.

I was wrong. Sleep is everything.

Best not to think this sentence:  “All I need is one full night of sleep.” Because it can only be followed by this one: “You’re not going to get that for a long, long time.”

I thought I could outmaneuver all those sleep warnings. I thought I could break down the day/night industrial complex. I thought all it took was the right attitude.

The thing is that I really can’t blame the boy. His needs are too pure. I can’t steal sleep from his wants and rhythms. But from B.? It’s not in the middle of the night, but in the morning, that he can, at times, become my sleep nemesis. I think I do for him too, but I don’t want to assign him my own character defects. It is he that has the power to give me more sleep. He who can take the boy for a walk. He who can pace with him upstairs while I fall back asleep for that precious hour more. I would like to say that I think graciously of his needs in these moments but the laws of scarcity apply and sometimes, well sometimes if sleep were money I’d rob a small child of their candy fund just to get more of it. These are the moments when I glimpse the borders of my own basic kindnesses.

I’m immensely disappointed about all this. Not the tiredness itself, but to have fallen into the most obvious of new parent modes. Also, yesterday we ran into another set of parents whose babe is only two weeks older than ours and they get six and seven hour stretches and I walked away from that conversation saying to B., “We need to get serious about a bedtime ritual.”

Evening as it is now is something that comes on us suddenly. The day moves along at a meandering pace; morning and afternoon seeping into each other until suddenly, as if we’ve been dropped over a hidden waterfall, B. and I find ourselves sweaty on the couch at 8 o clock, 9 o clock, 10.  He is bare chested. I’m in my nursing bra with one flap open, a nipple airing out, and the boy, having finally fallen asleep, lies before us unbathed and still in his day outfit. You’d never know it though, looking at him. No signs of the long day show. Instead, he makes sleep look good, lying there, a gorgeous being straight from the cosmos.

We had talked earlier of the movie we would watch. The emails we would send. The random tasks that we’d accomplish with great satisfaction. Instead, we lean gently into each other so as to keep our sweaty skin from touching too much of the other’s. We kiss. Say, “Good job,” with a laugh. And then we assign the first shower, hurrying towards bed, the clock already running down towards the moment when the boy will stir sleepily, stretch, still looking adorable, until, very quickly if not intercepted, he’ll begin howling with all the unmitigated fury of his need to survive. Sometimes, if B. is the one to bring him to me, I think in my hazy sleep that I already have in my arms. I hear his cries, and feel the shape of him in my arms and then fumble around blearily to find him in the covers.

He is fed, and held upright to help with the gas, and then rocked back to sleep, and though I know how the next sleep cycle will end, he gets me every time–the look of him a mighty balm against the raw edge of the interrupted night.

6 weeks old.

I should be sleeping. I should always being sleeping, apparently, and I’m tired of this command/objective/goal hanging over me every time the boy drifts off into his gorgeous slumber. (Nothing quieter than a house in which a baby is sleeping.) It’s true that the failure to nap can leave me ragged and here I am writing about it again but I’m also just tired of the whole thing. It’s all anyone ever warned me about, and it’s the first question people ask, and aren’t there other things to talk about, be warned about, strive for?

I’ve had a low lying unease these last few days, and I think now it’s because the brand-newness is wearing off and I’m hearing the slight whir of routine. I don’t want the dazzle to go but it’s already going and I hate it. Yesterday I cared for the boy all day. I mothered. I fed and rocked and burped and walked and smiled, even, but it was more like work than like discovery and I know, I do know, this is fine and what’s going to happen some days but I’m still sad to be leaving those first early weeks. They were a shock yes, but they were also tremendously exciting. Every damn thing was a monumental achievement. Now the boy is crying more, and I do what I can, and I walk to the park, and I shift from shoulder to arm, but it’s not necessarily a thrill and sometimes (often) I’m not sure what to do and I have to remind myself of the simple fact that babies cry sometimes without us knowing why,

There’s a shift happening. We’re waiting for this growth spurt everyone talks about. B. thinks we’re on the edge of it. I don’t know. The boy eats and sleeps. And also, there’s my body.  The initial recovery is coming to a close. I’ve pretty much stopped bleeding which means that my uterus is back to it’s former size. It means I can swim again, think about running, exercise, sex.

Sex.

Also, sex.

Ok. Sex. But what do I do about my milk-filled breasts? I don’t want to wear a boring black nursing bra while doing it for the first time since, but what’s to stop this personal sprinkler system of mine from being switched on? And what if it’s not as good? What will I feel? What will he? And also, a hesitation I don’t know how to name…how to welcome anything in when the last major activity there was the boy’s head and sensations that left my brain scrambling for, and not finding, anything in the pain to grasp onto.

I’m just not always so good at transitions. I’m a little scared and a little sad. I want the technicolor. I want the way it was when B. running his hand through my hair was intense, ultimate bliss. Fulfillment in itself. Everything in every day was so much there was nothing more to want. I liked being the version of myself that didn’t ask for more from a day. I want to keep her.

39 days old.

Today, B. and I solemnly pinky swore to the following items:

1.) To seriously lower our standards in regards to anything house related.

It’s pretty spotless right now, and the fridge is always stocked, and our laundry being done and, here, in week 5 (week 6?) B. is crashing. He needs to do less.

2.) To nap during the day!

It’s getting ridiculous. We’ve been told an infinite number of times to sleep when the boy is sleeping and we keep on not doing it and then we get crabby and tired and slip into circular conversations that don’t even count as arguments. In these, I talk about his “tone” and he talks about me not not hearing him. This goes on too long until we kiss, shake and make up and realize that while there is a kernel of truth to each of our points, mostly we’re just being stupid and acting just like the boy does when he’s too tired and doesn’t know what he wants and thus complains about every damn thing including his favorite things. (Which at this point I think are milk, cuddling, and wiggle time.)

3.) To build flexibility into our plans.

This is huge, and every time I do it, so liberating. What this looks like:  Friend says, “Do you want to meet up on Sunday?”, and I say, “I’d love to, but is it ok if we check in that morning and then decide?”.  And then Friend says, “Yes, totally,” and  I say, “Thank you!,” and then when Sunday comes around and I got no sleep the night before and the poor boy is stuffed up and breathing in too much air while he nurses (sounding exactly like a piglet at my breast) and then spitting up and he’s exhausted and crabby too and we just can not get out of the house and all I want to do is watch the rest of the Planet Earth “Great Plains” episode while he blows snot and drips milk all over me I can cancel on Friend without feeling horribly guilty.

4.) Be more honest with guests.

Aka, if Friend is over and the boy suddenly falls asleep and he’s really out, then we say to Friend, “Please enjoy watching our marvelous boy sleep while we go downstairs and do the same.” Ideally, then Friend and the boy bond. I can’t say. I’ve only tried this one with grandparents and god-grandparents and since they love every single second with the boy they’re not really a reliable test case.

Of course I am now breaking rule #2 because the boy is sleeping and I’m here awake and I’m so hyper and excited to be able to write and then putz that I have no interest in lying down. Also, I ate a brownie and drank an iced coffee not that long ago and am feeling like a super hero. Also, I really want to watch Insurgent with B. on the couch. And not be nursing while we eat the pizza he’s making. And send a few text messages. And make shortcake cause we have raw cream from a Jersey farm and I bought strawberries and I want to eat strawberry shortcake. For this last one though…I have a hunch that those berries will end up whole in a bowl, some cream poured over the top, a spoonful of sugar, and I’ll call it a delicious day while trying to simultaneously nurse and cuddle with B. and watch the movie that I seriously doubt we will get to the end of and actually all of that is sounding pretty dreamy. In my wildly ambitious grocery buying today I even bought a few lemons to zest. For the shortcake.

Yeah.

If I open that bag of flour, I’ll write about it and title that post “Flour Day.”

32 days old.

I really don’t like it when people stand over me while I nurse. It’s the bride phenomenon all over again. Did I write about this already? At my wedding it was as if I was moving in a force field. Everyone stood a few feet back from me, staring and grinning, and I felt their love and excitement, but also wanted to remind them, “You can still talk to me.” The force field is back, and stronger. Sometimes it’s because people don’t want to come too near the open boob. This I can respect even though it’s still irritating. But I think it’s something else too.

I feel like I’m being nudged to the periphery. I know I’m still loved, but am I now also inconvenient? Perhaps it’s a speed thing. I don’t have any. We are a slow moving unit, the boy and I. We can’t keep appointments. We can’t work the crowd at the picnic. It’s creature comforts now. Eating. Sleeping. Staring at the leaves on trees. He, and thus we, don’t go anywhere if he’s tired or grumpy or upset. The feelings must be dealt with, can’t be shunted aside for the sake of a schedule. He, and thus we, don’t conform to the world at all. We move at the pace of need. It is indeed the great simplification. And yes, it’s freeing, but it can also be lonely.

At that picnic gathering I noticed the re-grouping; the mothers and children in one area and everyone else simply someplace else. This is what people talk about with this country; we segregate our mamas and children. We just don’t seem to be good at multi-generation living and I always preached about how it would be different with me when I had a kid but now I’m seeing that it’s not only up to me.

In the first two weeks everyone wanted to come and we wanted very few because in those days the color of the green leaves were electric against the blue sky and set me buzzing with joy, but also everything was charged and everything saturated and in that state of being a simple conversation could use an entire day’s worth of energy. And so we nestled into our cocoon of three and put off visits. But now I’m and craving that company and B. says just ask for it and I’m trying but am surprised by this feeling of distance.

My friend said that when I’m nursing it can be intimidating. In part because it appears so intimate. I suppose it is. (I don’t think I’ll ever forget one moonlit night in the first week when I was in the rocking chair by the window just looking at his face and weeping.) But it’s also been made mundane by the sheer number of hours, and I spend enough time doing it alone to want the company. As i’m writing this I know that I did this too, with the first round of friends to have kids. Saw them settle with their babes, and then shifted away because I didn’t know where to place myself in relation to them.

But now that it’s me I don’t want to be moated off from the world. I suppose it’s time to get a lot more vocal, and begin to send out invitations into this new land of ours.

13 days old.

No time to waste. The babe is asleep on the pillow wrapped twice around me. He fell asleep on my boob and then I accidentally coughed him off of it. He likes to sleep with the source just an inch from his face. The last few days he has decided that he doesn’t want to be put down ever. Also, that he would like to be fed often. Very often. The result is that I have had him pressed into my body or close to my body for days on end on now. I am becoming ever more tightly bound to him; like my body is hardwired into his. I wake up at literally the smallest of noises from him. I know his smells. Can sniff out changes to his physical self long before I see or touch them. Yesterday while I was nursing in the park, I tried to use my teeth to pull my coat better over him and B. laughed, “That was very lioness of you.”

For most hours of the day there is this magnetic pull. To be close to him. To be the one on watch. Last night, B. was going to stay on the couch with him for the first sleep shift and I went down to the bed. At first the cool, empty sheets were a sweet, exhaled release and then, very fast, I was tense and finally had to accept that the only way for me to sleep was to take the couch. To be closer to the babe.

But then, of course, this pull is exhausting. My muscles always engaged, the drag of the tide, I am not simply me in my body. It’s hard to find full ease because I am hooked in perpetually to the babe’s needs and moods. I keep on catching myself clenching my jaw. I don’t want a day with the babe to be an endurance test, but I’m not sure how to get away from this being a measure of stamina…the countdown to the moment when all of a sudden I need a moment alone. The baby book’s advice is essentially to surrender fully to this time. That it passes. To treasure the long nursing sessions. In essence, to accept that my role is to nurture and feed and comfort this new person. The frequently repeated advice is that there is nothing I need to do right now; care for the babe and sleep when he sleeps. But what about what I want to do? I traded a precious hour of sleep last night for an hour on the couch with B. and two episodes of Louis. I think this counts as a need.

I was nursing lying down the other night, and asked B. to touch me. Not to turn me on, but to run his hands through my hair, down my back. With the first pass across my head, I shuddered with the release and tears came to my eyes.

In the park yesterday, I lay on the grass and sent B. to do a loop with the babe. The setting sun was on my face and my spine sank into the grass.

And yet, after too many minutes, I was lying with my face turned to watch for B’s return.  When he did, I heard the babe crying, and then all I wanted, needed, was for him to be unstrapped and delivered to me.

I’ve been peed on twice this morning. Worth noting that not until the second pee did I feel the need to pull off my dress.

I stand in the shower for a long time easing muscles open. And generally, it is the one place I can’t hear him when he begins to cry.

My body is not my own. Is my body not my own? And then of course, there is the simple fact of loving this being so much it leaves me completely speechless and awestruck. I cry daily.

Week 36

B. activated my boobs.

He’s working from home this week, which is the best thing ever. We each have a nook with our desks and computers and talismans and pen arrangements, and most mornings we settle into our respective projects and don’t speak for a few hours but I love hearing him stirring. Also, he plays music when he works and I don’t but the volume is the exact right amount of muted to hold the silence of the house at bay. Sometimes when I’m working from home the world becomes scarily silent and I feel very alone; as if I am a forgotten speck as everyone wheels around me doing their thing. My mother calls it “existential angst.” Other times, she calls it “the fundamental loneliness of being human.” There was this book that always seemed to be on a table somewhere in our apartments called, No Man is an Island, but somehow I always read it, and remembered it as, Man is an Island. But B. is home, and so I don’t have to question my existence or my place in the universe. i can just type and wander up to his desk to steal sips of his sweet and oh-so caffeinated coffee.

Him being home also means that my midday reward has been much more rewarding.

I finally got that rug for the babe’s room. It is smallish, ivory wool, soft, and we put a nice felt pad under it for cushioning. For the babe. It was a sunny afternoon but miraculously I was in no rush to get outside and when I closed my computer I went and stood over B.’s chair smiling.

“Lunch?” He asked.

“Sure,” I said. Smiling.

“Hold on a sec,” he said, and then met me on the rug.

After, we were laying about in the radiant room (literally-the ceiling is a deep yellow, and in the afternoons it glows) when he went into my boobs once more, only to come up with a surprised smile.

“What?” I asked.

He just looked at me; grinning, eyebrows raised. I was slow to get it.

“No! No way.”

“I tasted something sweet.”

“No you did not.”

“Ummm. I did.”

I stared at my nipple, and then, using both hands, gave it a slow squeeze and, sure enough, two drops appeared.

I screamed and he laughed.

“Holy shit.”

I got the drop on my finger and tried to taste it, but for me, nothing.

“I don’t taste anything.”

“It’s sweet.”

I gave the other nipple a squeeze, and yes, there they were, two drops produced by my body, sitting milky and distinct on the tan, nubbly surface of my very own breast. I screamed again; also laughed and shouted “Holy Shit” a few more times. Finally, I gave those drops a swipe too. But, “I still don’t taste anything.”

“Well,” B. said, “My tastebuds are more sensitive than yours.”

I punched him in the arm. Though this does happen to be true. Back in the day, he was better at wine than I was.

And so. My body has made four drops of milk. Which is the craziest thing ever that has ever happened.

I recounted this little episode to my doula and friend, and she laughed, and then also reminded me, “Careful. Nipple stimulation is a good way to bring on labor.”

I’m still quite chilling with the babe staying inside of me and so, although I’m sad about it, the nipples have been declared off limits for a few weeks. Also the spicy food that I pretty much want to eat every day. Things are cooking in there. The babe is nudging. But not yet. Not quite yet. I still want a little more time. And, of course, a few more afternoons on the sunny rug.