Observations on Being a New Mom
It’s been a long time since I updated this blog, but I have a good excuse: I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! I feel very lucky to have had a smooth labor and a healthy baby.
My last post, in July, was about how I really wanted to finish my novel and have it agent-ready before my baby was born. I did end up hiring a professional editor and he had a lot more suggestions than I expected, which together amounted to another rewrite. The bad news is that, though I wrote a lot of the newest version before I have birth, I didn’t finish it. The good news is that my writing didn’t completely stop now that I have a baby. It has certainly slowed down, as it’s harder to find time to write, but I’ve been able to take advantage of some of her nap times and the times when my husband is home to get a little writing done.
Most of my life, however, has been taken up with baby concerns, which is why the rest of this blog is about being a new parent. No real advice here, just some observations:
There seem to be two camps when it comes to opinions about new babies: The “So Precious, Enjoy Every Minute” camp, and the “OMG, This is So Hard I Can’t Wait Until This Stage is Over” camp. After reading several articles from both sides, because they are both all over the Internet, it seems like some people just like the helpless little baby stage and some people just don’t (no judgment, every parent has different strengths). Also, some babies are just harder than others. So far, my husband and I are closer to the first camp, as we both agree that the enjoyable parts of having a baby outweigh the hard parts. I think it’s partly because our baby is usually pleasant and is sleeping well, for now (kina hora!). That said…
“Enjoy every minute” is ridiculous advice. I don’t even enjoy every minute of Disneyland, and its entire purpose is enjoyment. That kind of hyperbole is probably what has spurred all those “sometimes you’ll hate your baby and that’s okay” posts I’ve been seeing on Facebook. Do I enjoy most of the time I spend with my baby? Sure. Did I enjoy those minutes at 6am when I had been up cluster feeding her since midnight and I was exhausted and my nipples were sore and she was still wide awake and wanted to eat AGAIN? No. Do I enjoy seeing her smile and dressing her up in adorable baby clothes? Of course! But do I enjoy scrubbing poop explosions off her adorable baby clothes? Of course not! Which brings me to my next point…
Babies are gross. If an adult made the noises and exuded the fluids that a baby does, he would be the grossest person ever. But babies can be gross and adorable simultaneously. My baby’s burps, farts, and sharts are so loud that our whole apartment complex probably hears them. Half of all our super cute baby moments at interrupted at some point by her spitting up all over herself, or by a poop explosion. If you haven’t had a baby, you might not realize that poop can and often does shoot out of the diaper and onto middle of the baby’s back. Or, if she’s sitting at a certain angle, it might shoot onto her belly. Or both! If I wasn’t busy cleaning off my baby and changing her clothes, I might marvel at the physics of it.
As you can tell, I spend a significant amount of time each day discussing and dealing with poop. Not nearly as much time, however, as nursing, especially since my baby is a champion cluster feeder. (That means I spend hours each evening with her lying across the nursing pillow latched onto me.) I’ve found that my life has now been divided into two types of activities: things that can be done with one hand while nursing, and things that require me to put down the baby. My husband’s gift of a six inch Fire tablet has significantly expanded the first category, which includes: watching television, checking email, surfing the web, reading ebooks (regular books don’t always stay open), critiquing the submissions of my fiction group using Swype to write comments, taking a Massive Open Online Course, eating one-handed foods like bars and string cheese, drinking from a closed cup with a straw, and writing most of this blog entry. (Don’t worry, I also spend a lot of time looking at and interacting with my baby. But really, she’s there for a long time and half the time she nurses with her eyes closed, so we have time for everything.) The second category includes eating foods like soup that require utensils and/or could burn the baby, cooking, washing dishes, Irish step dancing, showering, and going to the bathroom. Writing my novel also falls into the second category, for now, because the writing program I use does not work on the tablet. And editing, cutting, and pasting are pretty tricky without the computer.
My favorite activity by far, however, is watching my baby smile. Every time she smiles, it melts my heart. I think the same forces that make new parents go a little crazy (checking to see if the baby is breathing every time she stops making noise in her sleep, for example) also make me inordinately happy when my baby makes eye contact and smiles at me. It’s a good reminder that, though I’m not giving up on my dreams of being published, I just need to be in the moment and enjoy every stage—though not every minute—of the amazing journey of motherhood.