Friday, February 11, 2011

Notes From A House Frau XII

I Have Always Slept With The Door Open

This is how I spend much of my days. Dressed in scrubby pajama-like clothes, hair -- a complete disaster, some sort of food or other mess stuck to my forehead, and a baby on my lap. Usually he's sprawled out on My Breast Friend, the awesome-est breast feeding pillow of all time, or on my elephant pillow that Sam gave me for upstairs, as I am either playing Scrabble on the iPad or reading. If you can believe it, we had company over this day. Yes, this is me "dressed" for company. I have owned that stolen sweatshirt for many, many years... it's actually embarrassing how old it is, which made me think a lot about what I wanted to write today: musings on the subject of permanence.

I know the above state is not permanent. That the baby won't always want or need to fall asleep on me or will even be an infant for much longer. The time goes by so fast. He's already 16 weeks, and will reach his 4-month birthday in about ten days. So, he's ever-changing. Whether it's a new sound he makes or a funny thing he does, it's delightful to see his personality emerge. He's an extremely happy baby. He maybe cries/fusses for about 15 minutes a day and usually only when he's overtired, so if we can catch him on the wave into exhaustion, he doesn't cry at all but does demand A LOT of soothing before crashing into sleep either on me or my RRHB, as noted above.

But when I was lying on the massage table after restorative yoga yesterday, and the RMT was pulverizing my back to try and get at the massive knots, she said that the best way to combat the muscle issues was to drink more water, get exercise and stretch it out. In my head, I thought, "And when does one have time to do ALL of that?" Plus, blogging, plus walking, plus taking a shower. Her actual words were: "I know having a baby can sometimes be time consuming...but..." And then I asked the dreaded question, "Do you have kids?" "No," she replied, "I have friends that do."

And therein lies the ultimate dichotomy: the complete disconnect between how much time -- and I am surely at fault here for my own misconceptions before having RRBB (I am not just being critical) -- a baby takes up in your life at this stage. The 2.5 hours I spent at yoga and getting a massage were the ONLY moments I have been away from the baby (with the help of the RRHB) in a week, since the last time I went to restorative. And next week, because my RRHB is doing a play, I will be taking the baby with me to yoga, and as well the week after that because he's back doing some work. I'm even taking the baby to see the kidney doctor on Monday. I have no choice. And this is the permanence I have been thinking about for the last couple days.

Way back in the way back, when I used to be friends with a woman who once dated my RRHB, they were discussing kids. Keep in mind, we've been together for almost 13 years so this is a long, long time ago, and I've known my husband since I was 15. Annnywaaay, this woman said that it's no big deal to have a baby in your life, you just mold them into what already exists, the change isn't that drastic. This was the argument she was using to try and convince him, at 25 or so, to have a child with her. He didn't buy it. And I am completely admitting my own ignorance. I thought the same thing. That they were like cute little bits of baggage, dress them up, pack them neatly, and cart them off. Yet, despite how utterly portable RRBB is at this age, that doesn't mean that the change to our lives is anything less that completely and utterly drastic, and, yes, permanent.

Yet, the idea of swift, permanent change isn't unfamiliar in my life. My mother's accident when I was fourteen; disease at nineteen, multiple job losses over the years; etc. I know how to respond to tragedy. It's almost always in the vein of Keep Calm and Carry On, push it all down, deal with it later, one day in front of the other, victory garden kind of stuff. I am strong, apparently, a "defeater of death" as one friend commented via email the other day, and it shows in especially hard situations. I can handle just about everything. Funny how all it takes is a wee, little 13-odd pound cutie-patootie to break me. And break me often. The disease didn't kill me. Losing my mother didn't kill me. All the other tragedy in my life only served to make me introspective and feed the desire to write novels where everyone dies in extremely horrific ways -- novels that will probably never get published. But the baby, wow, that's change on a whole other level that I was not remotely prepared for.

If he's tired, cranky, can't sleep, can't be soothed, has an injury, anything out of the ordinary (he had a rash the other day), and I go bonkers. I worry non-stop about it, can't stop talking about it, wonder how much I'm doing wrong on a daily basis, and honestly turn myself inside out until I am a little blurry around the edges -- you know, like that camera lens they use to make older actresses all soft and wispy. Even my mother-in-law has laughed and told me that I need to temper the worry a little. And she raised my RRHB who climbed the antenna of their house at 2 years of age, walked at 9 months, and rolled over at a week (a week!).

I suppose what's missing from this scenario, as compared to everything else I've dealt with in my life, would have to be the idea of tragedy. There's nothing tragic about our son with the exception of how he came into the world, in the sense that giving birth to him almost killed me, and we pretty much celebrate everything about him. It's a sense of happy contentment I have never known -- staring at him as he sleeps on me for the seventh hour in a day is very different from lying in bed crying because you miss your mother so much even your teeth ache from the loss. They are both permanent. I will never get my life back exactly as it was pre-baby. My kidneys will never work as well. My body is forever changed (have you heard me complain about the awful stretch marks, seriously, I look like a tiger). My mind never strays far from him. I think of so much in relation to him that one would think I was the only person in the world to ever have a child (how ridiculous is that?). It's all new for me, a new kind of coping, one where there are still plenty of tears, because, hormones. But I can laugh at myself a lot more now. I am trying to take things less seriously, less personally, because those are skills I want to impart to the baby.

Mainly, I don't want him to know the "me" before him, in a sense. I want him to know the me that celebrates his existence in my life, the person I'm evolving to because we had him -- there are things that I have come to know, about the idea of happiness, about what I need in my life, about the choices I've made, that are all a direct result of being pregnant, going through the whole WG attack, and coming out the other side. Yes, I am even stronger now, I suppose, which is actually kind of irrelevant. What's more relevant is how permanently and fundamentally different I am now. How permanently different our lives are now. We make decisions because of him, for him, around him, and that's okay. It's not just about us, even though the "us" that existed before (and that we had a glimpse of the other night when we went to see a band at Lee's Palace; twenty years I've been going there, sneaking in before I was of age, sneaking out well after) needs also to evolve, it's definitely a richer, broader existence.

We were looking for ways to expand our lives before the RRBB was even an accident waiting to happen. We were thinking of moving to the UK for a year, just to live somewhere else, swapping houses with another couple thinking of doing the same. My RRHB has been constantly evaluating what kind of work he'd like to do beyond the music, and needed time to explore his interests, and decide whether or not that involved going back to school. Funny how life sometimes decides things for you: the disease made me focus more on writing, on books, things that I had always loved but never imagined would turn into a career; losing my mother made me self-sufficient in ways that I wish I didn't have to learn but did; the baby has opened up my life and my concept of happiness in ways I never imagined or expected. All of these things are permanent. All of these things are drastic. All of these things are worth considering. All of these things make me who I am -- and even if I feel a little lost these days, there are anchors there that I never knew existed, and I am sure, even in a fit of hormone-induced tears, half-naked on the couch, exhausted, I am quite convinced that I won't float away.

I wasn't so sure a month ago.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

Fantastic thoughts on how having a baby changes you. I could relate to some of it, about how your thoughts are constantly on your child. I found all the newness so hard in the beginning - wonderful, but hard & often overwhelming.