To let the dogs out the back , I have to get on my knees and put on their dog collars, but then I have to put the baby down, and when I do that he cries. The dogs look at me and pace, and pace and look at me.
To let the dogs out the front, I have to hold two leashes, but I can’t do that and also hold a baby.
To let the dogs back inside, I have to get a bowl of warm water and dip eight paws to clean off the Spring mud, which means the baby cries for many minutes. Real tears, tongue curled, face almost purple.
To feed the baby, I have to eat, but it seems that just as soon as I’m famished, he’s also hungry, and then he’s crying. Everything I want to eat takes too long to make, but if I eat only jelly beans like I’ve been doing lately, then he’s not going to have the milk he needs to grow.
He needs his diapers washed, definitely, but in order to wash them, I have to go downstairs, then put him down somewhere where the dogs won’t hurt him. But it’s so dirty in the laundry room, and besides, when I put him down he cries. And there is so much other laundry to do, and there is a mountain of clean laundry upstairs that someone needs to fold. But if I put him down to fold it, he cries.
To feed the family, I have to stir items in a bowl, which takes two hands, but I only have one. I can’t stand the look of a teenager who has been waiting for dinner eagerly all day to learn that we’re having leftovers, but in order to have a new meal I have to get to the store, but driving to the store means the baby cries. The dogs pace and look at me beseechingly.
Once I sit down to nurse, I can do something besides juggling counteracting logistics, I tell myself. I can read, or I can write with one hand. But when he latches, there is this rush of hormones that knocks the wind out of me every time. I feel dizzy and a little sick to my stomach, and with that comes an almost unbearable thirst. Then I get tired, a symptom of that rush of hormones, so tired and brain dead. I remember I once asked a woman who had a baby what it was like. She’s much older than I am, and she’s a poet. Brain numbing, she told me. I’ve remembered that for ten years, and now I understand. It literally makes my brain feel numb to nurse him so many hours a day, all day. I sit down and think I have time for myself, but then I disappear to myself and want only to sleep. I see why so many new moms are on Facebook. Status updates and browsing websites are about all I can muster with one free hand and a quarter of a brain.
I get half an hour a day that is set aside for me to write without a baby attached to me, but in order to have that half an hour, I need to pump milk for Steve to feed the baby. But in order to pump, I need someone to hold the baby. While I pump he gets hungry, so Steve feeds him a bottle. Then, no bottle to spare, I get my writing time with the knowledge that if the baby cries, I’m on duty again. The baby rarely lasts half an hour without crying for food these days. I can get fifteen minutes at a time to write.
In order for me to get time to write when no one else is home, the baby has to be asleep. But in order to get him to sleep, I either have to be holding him nursing him, which means I have no hands and no brain, or I have to lie down with him, which means I inevitably fall asleep. If I don’t fall asleep, I get up so very slowly and the baby lasts maybe five minutes before he realizes that he’s alone. Then there’s that crying sound again.
And all this difficulty, all these moments of feeling so bored of myself — the catch 22 — I have to experience it in order to feel this new kind of love. This ever-evolving beauty.