what i didn’t expect
I didn’t know that Rosie would cry when she saw her brother for the first time. Really sob as she held him.
Feedings are every two hours, but oh that means every two hours start to start. Which means that, if he’s nursing for an hour, I have an hour to not nurse him before I nurse again. This morning I nursed him, put him in a sling, picked up some clothes, cleaned the kitchen, made oatmeal, and he asked to be nursed again before I’d had a chance to eat. And lunch didn’t happen.
I didn’t realize I’d only have one hand for most of the day. Typing is so slow. Thinking is slow when I type so slowly. Googling is slow. But yes I can read. I can read with one hand so well. I read actual books, whole books, with plots and denouements.
But it is difficult to do dishes with one hand. I pick up a lot of clothes with my feet. It is impossible to bend over the washer and scoop out clothes and put them in the dryer with one hand. Thank goodness the boy seems to like the rumbling feeling of the dryer when I place him on top of it (I am projecting here. I don’t know how to read him just yet).
The dogs have not made one false move. Today Joon gently put her head on the pillow beside the boy as he slept. She very gently licked his hand. Moby has not jumped on me as I’ve held the baby. He waits to be told to be let up on the bed if I have the baby in my arms. They are good to him and respectful. I knew they were smart dogs, but I thought their jealousy would take over and it hasn’t.
I didn’t know that nursing would feel like glass shards cutting through my nipples. Apparently this is more common for fairskinned people and redheads, and on the internets it says it will get better. Someday in the next three months, if the baby and I haven’t cried ourselves saltless by then, it will get better, I will get calloused.
I don’t even care if he’s mine biologically. When the midwife put him on my chest, I didn’t even see what he looked like. I don’t care what he looks like. I’m already over wondering who he looks like. He doesn’t look like me or Steve, he looks like himself. If the doctors had given me a decoy baby I would have been just as content. It makes me realize that adoption, if it were possible for us (it’s not, or at least without a big fight, for complicated legal reasons), it would be possible to love a child that way, too. I just thought I would look down at this new baby and see that he was my son, but I look down at him and feel connected, but mostly I see that he is very much already his own person.
I am intimidated by him. I laughed at myself when I thought this the other night — only I would be intimidated by a three-week-old baby. But I’m startled by his will. He tells me what he wants better than I think I’ve ever been able to tell anyone what I want. If he wants me to walk around, he lets me know. If he doesn’t want me to nurse him lying down, he fusses. If he’s hungry he demands food. He has so much strength to keep himself alive, it shocks me. I thought he would come to me more helpless, but he comes to me ready to coexist with all his might. I thought that if I didn’t hold his head like an egg that it might snap off, but, while he has typical newborn floppy neck, there are some muscles, it doesn’t snap off.
I knew it would be exhausting, but what surprised me is the exhaustion from all sides. I’m still recovering from labor — it takes six weeks to stop losing blood, and my intestines and other internal components that left- or right-aligned for a bit have to shift back to center — and still feeling frail and creaky is exhausting. The pain of nursing is demoralizing. The intent attention on one small being is a meditation on a fixed point all day, everyday, and his life depends on it. Waking up every two hours to nurse or change diapers or console is disruptive, even if the nighttime feedings are already often my favorite time of day. And everything is so new, the learning curve is so steep, each everyday detail takes attention as if I were learning to walk again: how to get toothpaste on the toothbrush while holding a baby, how to go to the bathroom while holding a baby, how to sleep beside a baby, how to time dinner so the baby doesn’t wake hungry right when we sit down to eat. And yet if I were to explain this time, these first three weeks and nine minutes, I wouldn’t say it’s exhausting. We’re alive and enraptured. Very alive, and constantly cuddling.
The bounty of love from others. The food and gifts and cards and emails and visits. I had no idea people care so much and know me so well–and know just what to do. Despite feeling a bit cooped up for the winter, I feel very much not alone.