I knew it wouldn't be easy, but these first few weeks have been even harder than I expected. People warn you about the sleepless nights, but there are so many other challenges that no one can prepare you for. Frankie, for example, screams his head off every time we change his diaper or his outfit, so Frank and I dread diaper changes way more than we should for a newborn, because we don't want to feel like we're torturing our son. Or there's the way this little one eats - constantly. I think there is a picture of Frankie next to the word "insatiable" in the dictionary. So I spend at least half my day with a little one glued to my chest, and I feel so very unproductive thinking of all the things I'm not getting done. On the plus side, I've learned how to do all kinds of impressive things while breastfeeding, like standing, walking and sitting at the table to eat dinner. Desperate times call for desperate measures!
I've concluded that being postpartum is like being constantly tipsy, in that everything seems to take way more mental effort than it should. It feels like such a huge accomplishment to do something as simple as showering and then tackling last night's dishes. Yesterday I managed to finish and order a photo book journal I'd been working on throughout the pregnancy, and I practically felt like I deserved a medal for having the mental energy and perseverance to get that done and ordered in one day! Meanwhile blogging seems so daunting, because stringing together words into a coherent thought (much less a whole post!) is not my strong suit right now.
But through it all, that kid is so darn cute and lovable. It is hard, really hard, to spend all your time caring for a little person who doesn't respond or acknowledge your efforts. Sometimes, when I'm tired and annoyed, I begin to think that he is just a bundle of needs and crying. But then he stops crying the second I snuggle him into my chest, and I remember that he knows my smell, and my voice, and heartbeat, and in his little world I am the safest place he knows. The privilege and honor of being that to someone is more than I can quite comprehend. It takes my breath away and makes me give thanks, again and again, for this tiny beautiful child God has blessed us with.
One particularly hard day, the first week Frankie was home, I broke down in tears when my mom was over. "How do women do this??" I sobbed. "I'm so tired of nursing all the time and not sleeping! How does anyone have a second child? Or more??" My mom, who raised seven of us, smiled at my dramatics and assured me it would get easier. Then she said, "you see, honey, in a way, all mothers are saints." I've thought a lot about that. Isn't it true? In being mothers, we find ourselves tapping into deep wells of selflessness and patience and sacrifice that we never knew we had. In doing so we burn away the self-centered parts of ourselves and, like the rabbit in the tale, become Real. The crazy part is that I'm thinking this after less than three weeks of motherhood - I can't imagine how much greater are the reserves of patience and fortitude that older mothers and mothers of more children have. I know I'm just on the first leg of this lifelong journey.
Well, my little needlet is hungry, so I'm off again. I'll try to write again sooner!