Jacket photo via Ingrid and Isabel
Some things about new motherhood surprised me. I was not prepared for those first shell shocked weeks, for the sense of suspended time, or how fragile I felt without my big belly anchoring me to solid ground. I somehow didn’t expect the hours of sifting through the Internet, a search history revolving around sleep habits, ounces of breast milk, and—guiltily—postpartum wardrobes.
Before the baby arrived, I loved him, in that hypothetical way that you love someone you have never met but whose kicks you count diligently each day. I wasn’t prepared for the warm, wet body they placed in my arms, for that primal connection: “Oh, it’s you”. Before the birth, I wanted to beg my husband, “Even when the baby comes, still love me first”. But as soon as I knew him, that small face and bright eyes, I knew that we are nothing more than in his service, at least for this moment. This is an unfathomable love.
Before the birth I thought this would be easier. I thought the baby would be a lovely plus one in our solid life. Now nothing is solid and a primal love overcomes any “me” who came before. I don’t always recognize myself, and it doesn’t bother me. I’m too busy running to keep up with my little boy, three months old and demanding every ounce of me, every drop of milk, every tender hug, every smile and song I can provide. I have never been this needed, this strung out, this elated, this delicate. I’ve never been this strong, this emotional, this unsure, this instinctual. Nothing I am or have seems to hold much value in the face of this little person entrusted to our care. I cannot remember ever being this fulfilled.
But I worry all the time. I worry how we will rediscover ourselves, how we’ll find balance in this whirling new world. Where do I find time for my marriage, my creativity, my silent thoughts, when all I can think of is the next gummy smile, the next weight milestone. When just keeping this baby thriving takes every ounce of my vitality. I sit awake after a 2am feeding, scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, trying to find in the quiet apartment a trace of what was before and what should be next.
I am surprised at my capacity for single minded, fierce love. I am surprised that I can keep up. I am afraid to fall behind, to miss a vital signal in my baby’s face, to lose myself irrevocably in this holy, ecstatic calling. I am suddenly everything but also nothing at all.
Somehow I get us out of the house. Somehow I wear makeup. Somehow my voice and touch bring a sweet smile to his tiny mouth. Sometime soon I’ll figure all of this out, or I won’t , but my days right now are too full and this child too precious to give it more than a passing thought.