When he burps right on cue and it doesn't involve spewing baby goo down the front of my shirt. When he falls asleep without having to cry it out. When he's out cold and in bed by 10 p.m. for the night. Or like the other night when he slept from around 11 p.m. until just after 5 a.m. We were ecstatic to wake up, check the time on our cell phones and realize our baby had slept all night long. Holy cow. And we smile at each other and cuddle our chubby baby close and think, "We have the best baby in the entire world."
And then there are days when you can't eat, or shower, or sleep, or return that phone call to your Mom or your best friend until two days later. Or those times when you go and get the mail, just to give yourself an excuse to get out of the house and walk away. Days when your husband calls before he comes home from work to ask if you want him to run to Walmart and get groceries or to just come on home so you can go and take a break from the baby... and you burst into tears because you've been unraveling all day and his kindness is all it takes to pull you to pieces. And you cry, too, because you have no idea what sounds better: getting out of the house or having him pick up the milk and eggs.
But on the days when it is easy... when things go like clockwork... it feels like perfection. You feel blessed to have your baby and you coo as you change diapers and give baths. You revel in his wobbly warmth and take pictures and video and do ambitious things like start on his baby scrapbook. And you think, "I'm getting this mothering thing!" and you go to sleep with stars in your eyes, all hopeful and optimistic about the coming day. Because you think, somehow, that you've jumped all the hurdles and the perfect day is going to be the perfect forever.
But it's not. Sorry, sister.
Tomorrow could be wondrous. And I'm going to try my darndest to make it that way. I'm going to dream about working out in the morning and actually managing a shower before bed time. Maybe I'll wear real clothes and not run around barefoot all day. Maybe I'll manage to mop the kitchen or take care of the four inches of dust that has gathered on our entertainment center, that has been mocking me for... well... too long.
But maybe tonight will be hideous. Maybe my little man will refuse to sleep. Maybe I will be sitting out here on the couch, bleary-eyed, feeding him for the fiftieth time and watching the sun come up. He might not nap tomorrow. I might not be strong enough to resist the box of powdered donuts in the pantry, simply because my exhaustion demands carbs and sugar and who can pass up the cuteness of a powdered donut? I can't.
I might go to sleep thinking I'm doing okay as Joel's mommy, but I may go to bed tomorrow in tears, convinced I don't know how to do this and never will. My optimism can easily turn to fear. My attitude can quickly sour. My patience can snap. My prayers can be full or repetitive. And I'm learning that that's okay. That there are days when it will feel like it's too much and then the blessed relief of days when it fits just right.
Makes me think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Trying the chairs, the beds, the porridge until she finds just the right fit. And I think that's what we try to do. At least that's what this new mom tries to do.
I want to figure out the system of my son. I want to learn his cries and never miss a beat in meeting his needs. I want to figure out what is just right for him in everything. But I'm learning that I can't. That with my little nearly eight week baby, things are always changing. He may sleep great one minute, but be wide awake the next. He might eat regularly for weeks, but then suddenly be starving as he hits a growth spurt and wants to eat non-stop. There's no rhyme or reason.
He's just a baby.
For Mother's Day this year, one of my gifts was the book, "Discovering Motherhood" (by: Annemarie Scobey) and it had me in tears within the first few pages. I'll quote a portion here, so you can see why:
"... 'He's having trouble being a baby,' became our operative phrase. We understood it to mean that right now, Liam was trying to learn something about his world and it was difficult for him...
The phrase diffused bouts of crying, helping us to remember that for Liam, being wet or hungry was a problem that seemed to have no solution in sight. 'He's having trouble being a baby' gave me the insight to realize that sometimes Liam just needed to be held; not because anything was wrong, but rather because his life experience prior to babyhood was one of constant touch. Somehow, the phrase seemed to carry more compassion than saying Liam was fussy or cranky - negative words that implied that if he wanted to, he could change his condition...
Day by day, he seemed to be finding it easier to be a baby... I rarely had to change his outfit because of spit-up, and he let me know he needed a feeding or a fresh diaper with small whimpers rather than frantic screams. I looked into his eyes one morning when he was being especially delightful, and was amazed at the new baby confidence I saw there.
'You're not having much trouble being a baby anymore.' I said to him. He stuck his fist in his mouth and cooed back at me. And I wondered if he was proud of me, as well. I wasn't having as much trouble being a mom."
When I first read that, I choked on a sob and about that time my husband asked if I liked my new book. All I could do was nod. It felt as though someone more experienced and more level headed and less exhausted and emotional had placed their hand on my shoulder, as if to say that I was doing just fine as Joel's mommy.
He may be just a baby, but I'm just as new at being a mother. I'm not always going to get it right. I won't always have the answers. I'm still going to think he wants food when he wants a new diaper or that he needs to just stay in his crib and cry a bit when he really just needs some cuddles. He has to be just as patient with me as I have to be with him.
I'm just a mommy.