This is probably incredibly boring, but I was thinking the other day about how to explain to a friend where my days go. I never really know, and I wanted to see it outlined for myself.
And I’ve been thinking about what I do each day when I write — this phrase came to mind: turning the day into language. I really do try to do that each day, at the very least for myself, to turn the day into language. So maybe this post is the least metaphorical interpretation of that phrase.
Waking at 6, 6:20, 6:40. He fusses, his mouth roots at the fitted sheet, he stretches his arms, it touches me, he falls back to sleep. Again and again, this goes on for almost an hour — not quite asleep and not quite awake. When his eyes open I sit up, I lift him to me in one ungraceful swoop that causes his arms to shoot up as if he’s falling. He doesn’t wake smiling like he did the day before. I work for a smile, and finally on the changing table there is one. I go through the hellos with the baby, our ritual to the wagging tails: hi moby, hi joonie, hi roxy, hi lucky. Hi beautiful day: I open the curtains to show him. He looks at the light.
His arms still move as if he’s swimming in amniotic fluid. I have put on my blue robe, the temperature out there is 27 degrees. I take off his diaper, which is heavy with pee and cold. It’s a cloth diaper and the wet is wicked off the layer that touches his skin and sits heavy and freezing in the insert. He kicks his legs, he spreads his knees, I swear he helps me clean him up. We put on a clean diaper, then I put him on the bathroom floor and close the door to keep out the animals while I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth.
I let one dog outside and then another as I hold him. I put him down in his soft baby chair and start to make oatmeal. I clean the kitchen some. I wash some bottles. Steve comes upstairs from his treadmill run as Henry has begun to cry again for more food. I sit down, unzip my robe, and feed him to prepare us for our walk. It’s 8:15. Steve showers. He holds the baby as I put on the baby carrier and my boots. I wrap the baby to my chest as Steve puts on his boots and leashes the dogs. then off we walk, downtown, stopping on the way to drop off the rent for my studio space, which I have not visited for a month. I write each day, but not there. It’s still so early, I’ve just figured out how to take care of the baby inside the house, I don’t yet know how to leave the house with the baby without feeling a lot of stress. My home will have to be my studio for a little bit longer.
Henry sleeps for the whole walk, as he always does as long as I feed him first, lulled to sleep by a full belly, having been up for two hours it’s amazingly already time for a nap, and inside my coat it’s so warm. We return from our walk at 10, and I hold the baby while Steve makes juice for breakfast, then Steve holds the baby while I pump milk for the day. I pump six ounces – the baby takes about four ounces per meal these days, though most of the day he seems to like to snack. I put some in a bottle and some in the fridge, and Steve feeds the baby while I shower.
I shower for a long time. I never know how to leave the shower. I leave it when there’s no more hot water left. When I get out, Steve is walking Henry around the dining room table, around and around, listening to Cat Power. Henry’s almost asleep, but he’s rooting for more food. I get my things ready to leave the house, then I feed the baby for ten minutes until he is asleep while I check the internet. Then I put him in his car seat, where he wakes but is calm and sleepy. This is the stressful time. It’s impossible to nurse while driving, and if he’s not asleep in the car then he’s usually crying. We say goodbye to Steve as he packs up his laptop for work. I put a pacifier in the baby’s mouth while I drive and he falls asleep.
I drive to the pharmacy and grocery store to pick up and return some items. Henry sleeps for the car ride there, then wakes when I take him out of the car into the bright and cold day. I haul his car seat into a grocery cart – I’ve learned to park by the cart collections in the parking lot — and he smiles at me throughout the store, up and down each aisle he stares at me and waits until I look back and then he smiles. We get back in the car and he starts crying as soon as my face is no longer in sight. I try to put a pacifier in his mouth while I drive, but he’s not calmed. I drive and hold a bottle of expressed milk to his mouth, my right arm in the backseat while my left hand drives. This isn’t safe, but it’s not safe to hear a baby cry while I drive, either. He’s calmed, but it’s impossible to find his lips with a bottle and I worry I’m digging it into his eye. I worry he’ll choke and I can’t help him. Steve has given me directions to get to the next store – I know I’ve been here for six and a half years, but I still need help with the highways. I misunderstand his directions and end up very far from town. Oh, this is how it’s stressful to be in a relationship when there’s the constant stress of a new baby. I call him, unhappy, and he directs me back to town before I abruptly and tersely hang up. I’m stressed out. Ah, love.
I’m at a gas station and the tank is empty so I buy gasoline, feeding the baby from the bottle as the tank fills. He cries briefly when I get back in the front seat, but then he sleeps and I arrive at the local baby store. Henry sleeps as I haul him and his car seat into the store, and he sleeps as I talk about baby carriers and receive a demo on how to better use the moby wrap and I learn how to use it while nursing. He stays asleep while I try on a nursing bra, but he wakes when I’m putting my clothes back on, and he’s crying. Crying, I’m learning, is a language, not a manipulative tool or a sound that might annoy me. I answer it as much as I can. I love to heed it, I do. I go to the bathroom and feed him from the bottle, squatting on the tiles beside his car seat, until he stops crying, then I quickly pay for the nursing bra and leave.
He cries the whole way home, and I can’t seem to find his mouth with the bottle, my right arm in the backseat, my circulation and patience dwindling. Driving alone with a baby sucks. I keep having to take arm breaks, stretching my shoulders, and he cries harder. When we’re home it’s 1pm and I run to let the dogs out, grab some water and tortilla chips, then sit down with him and nurse. As soon as he’s out of his seat he smiles at me, and he smiles for so long that it’s hard for him to form his lips to nurse. He is so beautiful, my God. I check the internet and feed him until he sleeps.
I put him in the moby wrap and carry him while I write thank-you notes for some baby presents until he cries, then I nurse him in the wrap while I eat lunch too late, 2pm, beans and rice, leftovers from last night’s dinner. He sleeps this way for a few minutes, then he wakes up crying and calms when I take him out and put him in his baby chair on the kitchen counter. He sits there while I clean the kitchen and write some more thank-you notes.
He hasn’t had a solid nap yet today and it’s 3pm, so I lie down with him in bed and nurse him until he sleeps. I fall asleep, too. He wakes with a start at 3:30, I don’t know why, and he cries and nursing doesn’t stop his cries, so I take him to his changing table and he calms down. I change his diaper – it’s not the diaper that bothers him ever, but the changing table almost always calms him. He’s so serene and playful there, kicking his legs and staring at the wall and at my face. I put him in the moby wrap and bring the dirty cloth diapers downstairs to the washer. We talk as we go down and the dogs follow us. We go in Rosie’s room and turn off her bedside lamp. We climb over her piles of clothes. We go upstairs and I go on the internet to do some research for a bit more until he cries — maybe crying is a harsh word for these sounds that signal that something inside of him is looking for balance. But that word ‘fussing’ doesn’t feel right, either.
I feed him as I work at the computer, pecking away with one hand unproductively, and he sleeps briefly until Steve comes in the door at 4:30. Steve holds the baby until he cries, when I feed him some more, then give him to Steve while I get ready to write for an hour. There’s some milk in the fridge for them. As I leave the house, Steve is walking the baby around the dining room table and they’re listening to Cat Power together.
I spend so much time looking at a creature who is less than a foot away from my eyes, sometimes it’s hard to adjust to looking into the distance as I drive. I order some decaf coffee at a coffee shop and write and feel so different without a baby attached to me. I feel strange, like I’m lying to people by not having the baby with me. They don’t know what I know about myself, they don’t know who I am. It’s a Friday early evening and there are babies with their parents all over town it seems, and I want to show them that I’m one of them. I feel like I’m missing an arm.
I drive home and assemble the cloth diapers while Steve tends to Henry, then I feed him while we wait for our friends to come. When they come, we drive together down to the neighborhood restaurant/bar, but the wait is an hour. Maybe before we would have waited an hour, but babies are heavy and unpredictable. We drive to the vegan restaurant and only have to wait fifteen minutes. With this new diet — no dairy, no soy, no onion, no spice — I am able to eat a salad, which makes me feel sorry for myself but it’s actually surprisingly good. His stomach still seems sensitive to something, and I worry that when we go to his doctor’s appointment this week, the doctor will suggest that I also surrender all wheat.
Henry is asleep the whole dinner after a day of no solid nap. Beautifully asleep in my arms, heavy in my right arm and I wish he were leaning the other way so that I wouldn’t have to hold my fork so awkwardly in my left hand. He sleeps from 7-9:30, sleeps for the car ride home, then wakes to eat as we talk over whiskey in our living room (our friends insist we try it, we’ve never tried it before, and the tiny glass they pour me is so sweet and also dark). I’m so tired by 11pm when our friends leave, too tired to be helpful and articulate. Looking outside of yourself for so long, every minute tending to another creature, holding a twelve-pound baby all day, it is surprisingly exhausting. Steve puts Henry to bed without a diaper change — we’re still traumatized from a week ago when he woke him to change his diaper and the boy would not sleep for four hours after that — and he sleeps through the usually impossible transition from arms to mattress. I fall asleep beside him instantly, blissfully.
He sleeps until 1, then is up every hour from 1 until 7 for just a small drink before he falls back to sleep again. The sleep is too fitful, I can’t get into it deep enough and I feel so hot, the night is warmer than others previously and our heat must be too high. I want someone to take the baby for an hour so I can have just a little more sleep, but there is no other food source in the house and so we all wake, Steve lets the dogs out, I feed the baby and we head out to the grocery store to buy some food and coffee for a weekend breakfast.