1. Everything is relative. A few months ago, I would’ve whined about getting 5 hours of sleep. Now, I hold it as a matter of pride that we were able to sleep for 4 consecutive hours for two nights in a row. And my body, oh my body feels fantastic. Brain’s shriveled off somewhere, but brain’s delirious anyway.
2. Everything changes. When he was born, Tolly hated swaddling, or being really wrapped or dressed in anything, including his diaper. My kind of kid. Now that the world has gotten so INTERESTING and OVERWHELMING he’s all about looking like a caterpillar. Everything changes.
3. Some things don’t. Tolly still likes: music boxes, Christmas lights (and now the Star Hedgehog Masha got him and Meow Wolf Masha made him), striped and plaid shirts, Leo’s voice, rhymed poems, long walks and hanging out at the table while Deep Conversations and Music are happening around him. He still hates putting on clothes and taking them off.
4. I’m changing. First of all, according to my colleagues I now have “mom face”. I’m not sure what that means, but I definitely have ‘mom hair’. At least now I have an excuse.
5. But in all seriousness, I have expected a deepening of random guilt-ridden anxiety and frustration and irritability and questioning of everything. Instead, I feel oddly at peace. With myself, with the unpredictability of our days, with saying “no” and “I need ____” ,with leaving chores undone and projects languishing, with the clearly ranged priorities in my life at this moment. I don’t know whether it has to do with the natural organizing force that is caring for a child; or with the fact that I am still amazed my body’s been able to pull this off (and is making all this food), or with hormones, or with the fact that I’ve been ready to have a kid for a while, and this feels right --- either way, I’m welcoming the changes. I like being calmer and more assertive all at the same time, even if I paranoia-Google a lot.
6. I think a lot of it has to do with the way time works differently, now. I noticed this in teaching (and oh, teaching full-time has prepared me in many important psychological ways for motherhood), when you don’t necessarily have the time to agonize over each decision, because that compromises the next decision you make. You apologize, you move on, you do better, next time you make a different choice. Before, it seems, I had a lot more luxury to self-doubt and waddled piteously inside my own head. I thought thinking so much about each and every thing would make me better at living. But I’m not so sure anymore – I think I’m becoming a better person without the guilt.
7. Some of it has to do with the fact that Tolly has reminded me of things I loved doing and that I wasn’t taking the time to do nearly often enough -- and how important self-care is when caring for someone else. For example: long, daily walks in the mountains. Before, there was always some excuse, some chore that needed doing, some project to agonize over, instead of simply marking ground and talking about philosophy with myself (now Tolly), and feeling my body move. I knew that walks curb my anxiety and depressive episodes. I knew that they significantly up my happiness level. But it was not enough to know this and do this for myself. Now, I know that one of my most important jobs in taking care of him is to take care of myself, too, and off we go, around the lake, and up the mountain.
8. Because of such walks I’ve had time to think about things a lot, too, and that has been good. I’ve also had a chance to get angry at things, which is also good. My recent anger has been at how our culture sexualizes/genders babies from the get-go, in ways that I guess I didn’t pay as much attention to until I had a kid myself. No, Tolly is not a “stud”, “heartbreaker”, not “such a boy”, and he is not flirting with anyone. He is not bothered by the pink onesie. He is two months old, and if you are at loss at what to talk to him about, talk to him about the Star Hedgehog. It’s the latest craze. He’ll get to the gender stuff when he’ll get to it, and, hopefully, the pink onesie won’t bother him as a concept then, either. I want to take all the time I can to learn who he is before heavy-handedly imposing who he 'should' be.
9. It is still possible to do other things I loved doing, but they need to be readily available and my approach to them needs to change. I can still write, read, draw, and collect bones in the desert (literally). But I need to be ready to stop a project five minutes in, or leave it for four days, or forget about deadlines. Barbara Sher’s scanner method of having ‘work stations’ around the house has helped tremendously – I have two computers with two different writing projects open on them (one quick poem editing, one longer article-writing); a table with a drawing and my pens ready to go; a clean and organized kitchen (thank you Leo) to jump into to cook. I do miss binge-writing for hours and hours and hours, but I have also been strangely more productive because procrastination doesn’t happen as much anymore. There isn't a work station for it (unless you count the bath).
10. A lot of my creativity now has to do with making up imaginary adventures of Tolly’s favored toys and improvising silly songs with Leo. I am fully okay with this. I get rewarded with attention and smiles.
11. Last but not least: baby smiles are amazing. It’s like the universe telling you: “hey, you figured out this incredibly complicated puzzle AND made a unicorn fly!” It feels like that, anyhow. Every time.
photo by Masha Shugrina