My daughter will be 11 weeks old this week.
These past few weeks have been, in a word, crazy. It has been the most shocking, beautiful, and also the most challenging time of my life.
Everything I have endured and achieved thus far in my lifetime does not even compare to what it's like to be a mom to a newborn baby.
It is literally the hardest thing I've ever done (and the best). People always say it's life-changing, but you can't truly understand what that means unless you are living it.
There are so many blog ideas that have been bouncing around in my head these few sleepless weeks: Breastfeeding tips, things you definitely don't need to buy for a baby, funny moments to remember, etc. Those blogs will come.
First, I've decided to write about what is weighing heavy on my heart. At least for today.
The reason I say motherhood is beautiful and challenging is because my daughter has had some health problems. These issues are nothing that other babies haven't been through and nothing that can't be fixed with time - she will be fine - but nonetheless they are hard for both her father and I. The gut-wrenching pain of watching your baby suffer, especially when there is nothing you can do but wait out her cries, is indescribable.
It hit me like a wall last night when I was cuddling my sweaty, crying, red-faced child with tears in my own eyes: Being a mother is like wearing your heart outside of your body.
It is, quite honestly, terrifying.
As parents, you are the only people completely responsible for a helpless human being. Ultimately, you are responsible for their suffering or their happiness, regardless of the cause.
Was I prepared to deal with tough times and sickness and the suffering of my child? Yes. I pondered these things in the decision to have kids. Was I prepared to deal with all of this in the first two months of her life, when I'm still learning to be a parent?
No. Talk about initiation by storm.
There are so many decisions. You often don't have the answers, and you can do all the research you want - but the books, the doctors, and even your parents, all contradict one another on what is best. Often you and your spouse also contradict one another on what you think is best, which doesn't help things.
At the end, you have to make a decision that you believe is right. You have to follow your biological intuition as a mother. It might piss people off, and it might be wrong, but you have to do something. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them but it will break your heart.
Or, sometimes the answer is to do nothing - there isn't always a fix - you just have to do all you can to comfort her, and just sweat it out.
I think that mothers have it the worst. Mothers are often the only people that can truly calm their baby.
There is a biological bond that persists ... after all, my daughter has been part of my body for 9+ months. She has known my smell and my heartbeat for much longer than she has been out in the world.
In addition, when breastfeeding, mom is the food source, and basic survival instinct requires that babies be very attached to their food source. They say a baby can smell their mothers milk from 20 feet away.
I think that sometimes, even if she isn't hungry, it's calming for my daughter just to be near me for that reason.
On top of all of that, moms usually spend 24 hours a day with their babies on maternity leave. During this time I've become very attuned to what she needs, what works, and what doesn't. She became very used to me being around. It's a wordless and complicated dance that the two of us perform, day in and day out, but we do it pretty well. (I suppose we talk to one another, but it's not normal human conversation!)
All of these things add up to the reason that babies sometimes cry just because they want their moms.
This is a huge responsibility, and one that I wholeheartedly chose and accept and fulfill. I never wanted to be the only one that can calm her, but that is, in most cases, what happened.
There have been times when I've been so tired and frustrated and overwhelmed and I have to remind myself: If not me, then who? I am her mother and this is my job to care for her, even when it's hard. I have to continue to try and do everything I can and keep my cool. It is my responsibility to do so.
But that begs the question, what if something happened to me? If I am gone for a ten minute shower or a half hour run and my baby can get so incredibly worked up and choking on her own tears and sweating, what would happen if I hit my head or got really sick and was gone for hours or even days? What will happen when she is at daycare for hours? Will she cry for hours upon end and wonder why I am not coming to comfort her?
I find that thought horrifying.
My heart is so is easily bruised and sensitive to her needs. When she cries, I feel this unstoppable need to intervene and help her. I don't like that feeling, but sometimes I can't fight it. I may insult others when I want to hold her when she is crying, but nonetheless the feeling is there.
The love I feel for this little girl is unlike a love I have ever felt before. I would literally do anything for her. When she hurts, I hurt too.
I've immersed myself in anything having to do with her, and somehow everything else has become incredibly unimportant.
The cat, that used to be my baby, is now .... just a cat.
The job that used to drain every passion and challenge me mentally and physically is now ... just a job.
Time, like Salvador Dali's clock, melts away, day after day.
Drama, office gossip, arguments? Forget about it, I don't have the cerebral space for that anymore.
The aches and pains I complained about in previous pregnancy posts? They seem so incredibly minor.
Those easy dinners out on the weekend? I'd rather stay home. She will most likely cry most of the time and it will just be stressful anyway.
A few months sacrificing dinners out for my baby until she is a little older to handle it - in the big picture of my long life with many years ahead - is really nothing.
I think about the spare time I had for hobbies, the incessant TV watching and internet surfing. The incredible amount of books and newspapers I used to read. And I don't miss it. I had no idea I wouldn't be able to do any of that for a while - but still, I don't miss it. They will be there for me when she is older.
Did I expect to sacrifice my life in this way, to this degree, for my child? Not exactly. I expected sacrifice. But I didn't and couldn't understand the emotional ramifications and incredible responsibility I would feel in caring for her as she is now, a high-need baby with some health problems.
I would never, in a million years, go back to my life pre-baby.
I love her in an indescribable fashion. Yes, motherhood has rocked my world for now. But it won't be that way forever.