Here's a fairly concise illustration of parenthood (!): listening to your four-month-old (!!) happily and loudly talking to himself in his sweet, baby voice, cooing around his own fingers, which he's recently learned how to suck on... at five o'clock in the goddamn morning.
(Andrew: "I guess I'll take him downstairs and we can both practice our vowels.")
(Sylvia: "You try your handful of notes / the clear vowels rise like balloons.")
For a while I had a drafted LJ post going where I kept having to change the age at the beginning: 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 11 weeks, before I finally gave up. Let's see if I can actually finish this one, even though it'll be hilariously far from the comprehensive, thoughtful post I imagined. 'cause summing up four months of the most intense phase of my life in one entry should be easy!
That notional LJ post about the whole baby-having thing would vary wildly in tone depending on how much sleep I've gotten lately. Chronic, unpredictable sleep deprivation is a level of demoralizing I can't possibly describe. And the immense host of variables that could contribute to why the baby is upset at any given moment or sleeping extra badly in any given week is so so frustrating. If the immediate and obvious solutions aren't working, there's no way to ever reliably know what it is or what you could do to fix it. The internet will kindly provide 28 different and conflicting possibilities plus impossible-to-implement fixes with murky timelines. It's like a universe where cause-and-effect seem totally divorced. So that's a lovely, helpless feeling. We've dealt with not only the miserable first couple of months of breastfeeding trouble but bad reflux and chronic overtiredness and some kind of food sensitivity to something I was eating, which I could not manage to isolate but which seems to have hopefully resolved itself?
And hardest of all, we got a baby who does. not. nap. And if he doesn't, of course, gets insanely overtired and spends the day declining steadily until he's in major meltdown mode by late afternoon. Poor kid. So like 90% of my daytime feels like it's spent fighting the sleep wars, trying everything imaginable -- both the things you're supposed to do and the things you're not -- to get him to fall asleep. And if he actually does, he snaps wide awake 21 minutes later, almost without fail. Know what you can do in 21 minutes, during which you're probably already holding or strollering the baby? Not a goddamn thing. Definitely not nap. Or shower or use the breast pump or fold some freaking laundry. I'm so insanely jealous of people with babies who nap for decent stretches or at semi-predictable times or even just in a crib. And it's not like there are even options for sleep-training a 2- or 3-month old (myr_soleil, I've thought of you with sympathy so many times.)
Weeks when he's sleeping somewhat decently at night -- and my bar is so low, by that I mean maybe a 4-hour stretch and a 2-hour stretch -- I can kind of function. But times like last week, when he had a stuffy nose and was waking up every 90 minutes and then refusing to fall back asleep -- and with the aforementioned nap problems, I can't nap during the day -- feel like torture in a very literal sense. Even worse, there's rarely an obvious cause like the stuffy nose. And I never know which kind of night it's going to be, so it's like having PTSD. (Or not even post-traumatic: ongoing-traumatic?) I've never felt so out of control of my life and never, ever for so long.
My maternity leave ends next week. Part of me is really, really sad that our time together hasn't gone better, that it's been so rough that I haven't been able to enjoy him to the level I'd want or settle into any kind of routine. (Or accomplish even my lowliest goals: clean out one drawer in my office. Get to inbox zero.) On the other hand, part of me is excited to be going back to work. I seem to remember that your coworkers don't arbitrarily spit up on you and you can choose which order you do things in. And actually feel a sense of accomplishment for finishing discrete tasks? Maybe even go to the bathroom any time you want.
(The 'is it harder to stay home or go to work' debate doesn't even make sense to me any more; work doesn't occupy every single second of my waking time or have constant 2am emergencies. It's like comparing oranges and fish.)
On the other hand, the baby himself is a freaking delight. He's cheerful and funny, with delectably kissable cheeks and chunky thighs, and watching him engage with the world and figure out his body is this ceaseless, private joy, a series of tiny, daily miracles. Like the week where he figured out he could bring his hands together and spent every spare moment doing that, in front of his own eyes, with intense concentration. Or the week when he discovered how to kick one leg at a time and turned into a full-time trick-pony, furiously stomping out the answer to imaginary math problems. The time early on when he decided our ceiling fan was the most hilarious thing he'd ever seen and would just lie on the bed grinning and chuckling at it. When it wasn't even on.
I love him and I like him: his persistence, his curiosity, his dimples (!), the way he beams at Andrew, the way he cuddles into my chest in his brief windows of unguarded tiredness. Best of all, the way he lights up entirely when I come in the room or lean over to pick him up in the morning. That smile is so unguarded and genuine. Like a shot of unbridled joy, straight to my bloodstream, to my brainstem, every single time.