My little guy is four months old today---that is, counting from the actual day he EXITED MY BODY. (It took me, oh, around 3 days to birth him. I guess you could say that he had a birth weekend.)
In four short months, he's gone from this:
Aside: nobody told me that, in addition to "boy" or "girl" it was possible to give birth to an elf. Doesn't he look like a lawn gnome? I'm tellin' ya, some greeting card company is missing out on a million dollars this holiday season because we didn't shop around a photo of him dressed in green and red...but I digress.
Wow, four months. What to say, what to say...
My sister A. was here visiting recently. One of these days (SOON! right, A.?) she's gonna have a little one of her own. Funny, having watched her good friend have a baby and go through the early "baby days," she (my sister) in some ways knew more about it than I do. But you know--there are some things about motherhood that you just can't know until you experience it. Lest that sound haughty, let me clarify that I say this to MYSELF.
I didn't dive into motherhood without expectations. However, looking back now from four months into this, it's enlightening to see what I did and didn't expect.
So, A., this one's for you. Here's my freshly-experienced list of Did/Did Not Expect about birth and motherhood.
Pregnancy and Birth
Did expect: to become rather large when pregnant.
Did not expect: all the stuff that would do to my body. My God! Heartburn? Back pain? Who knew? Yeah, I know. This sounds stupid. Of course your back would hurt. But honestly, I didn't expect it.
Did expect: to dislike getting "fat".
Did not expect: how much I LOVED my pregnant body--especially my belly. Oh, I loved it. LOVED IT. I told E. all the time that I'd miss my belly after Loo was born. He said, "No you won't. He'll be here and you won't even think of it." Well, he's right pretty much. But still, I do miss it a little. Did I mention LOVED IT.
Did expect: pregnancy cravings.
Did not expect: to not have them at all! Frankly I was disappointed.
Did expect: to birth my baby within a reasonable (uh, say, 24 hours?!) time.
Did not expect: my actual experience, which included my water breaking a week before labor began; acupuncture to induce my body to GET GOING ALREADY; 30 + hours of hard labor (shudder: probably 10 or so of pushing); and a C-section to top it off. Which just goes to show, you NEVER KNOW WHAT YOUR BODY WILL DO DURING LABOR. Do yourself a favor, pregnant mamas: don't visualize your birth or expect it to be a certain way. You'll have an easier time of it. Oh well. We did finally get him out of there. BTW, I loved me the anaesthesiologist once we got to the hospital.
Did expect: to breastfeed.
Did not expect: what a challenge it was to get started. I thought they grabbed the boobie and ran. Well, maybe some of them do, but it turns out that a great number do not. Get thee to a lactation consultant! Honestly, we would not have gotten it without the one who helped us in the hospital (plus a couple helpful nurses). She was awesome and I now have a 17-18 lb baby to show for it.
Did expect: to be tired, and up during the night, etc.
Did not expect: to be so freaking exhausted at times that I become, literally, someone else whom we do not (and do not wish to) know.
Did expect: E. to be as involved as me in the baby day-to-day.
Did not expect: him to, well, leave me to it while he dove into work. In his defense let me just say that E. is the SWEETEST MAN ALIVE, and from the start we were in this together. We dreamed together, bought baby stuff together, planned together, went through the birth, well, sort of together. Still, once we actually had the baby we found ourselves in these automaton gender roles. I did most of the "baby" stuff while he read tech manuals for his new job. WTF!!? Evidently this is not uncommon. Men can react to fatherhood's added responsibilities by concentrating on work, so that income/financial security is assured. And then on my side, women sometimes don't speak up about what they need. Well, we've worked through this and we're now much more balanced. But boy was I pissed a couple times (see "Did not expect" above).
Did expect: to be limited (in terms of getting out, etc.)
Did not expect: to not be able to GROCERY SHOP, take a shower, do laundry, read. Oh, they told me, but I didn't believe it. Surely they exaggerated. Well, no.
Did expect: to be relatively good at mothering.
Did not expect: to be at my wits' complete end at times. In my own defense, it truly does take a lot to send me to the end of my wits. You know what though? A good deal of the difficulty came from my expectations, which were either just ignorance, or gained from reading various books. Don't get me wrong; I've gotten a LOT of very helpful and workable information from all my reading. But I've also gotten sort of set up to fail. Reading various baby theories/methodologies can lull you into thinking that it won't be that hard. Well, it is. But you know what? That's OK!! I've realized that just about everything is rather normal (barring full-body rashes and hellacious fevers and the like). I wish one of these books would begin with a chapter entitled "DON'T WORRY. AND GET SOME PROPER REST, WHY DON'T YOU." Likewise, I wish someone wise had sat me down, looked me in the eye and said, "MamaLoo? Don't worry. Babies do not adhere to your methods all the time; they will change on you, and you will think it's you, and that you're failing. You are not. I repeat: Don't worry. And go get your nails done for Pete's sake." But then again, I probably wouldn't have believed them. Hindsight and all that.
Did expect: to be stressed a times.
Did not expect: to experience a level of stress exceeding anything I've had to deal with in years. Really. Apologies to all parents who warned me and whom I didn't believe. It is demanding and monotonous and self-effacing to be a stay-at-home mother with a small infant. I am sometimes crazed with boredom. But our baby is thriving. It's worth it.
Did expect: to love being a mom.
Did not expect: to need breaks from it so badly. I have a lot of endurance, and I wanted this baby with all my being. So, of course I shall love him always, and I will not need to get away much. Right? Wrong. I need time away from my baby to love him properly, because I need to be my proper self for him. This includes time to just wander the mall or whatever without him. I honestly didn't know I would need this.
Well, I think that's good. I'll leave you with this colorful picture of my lovabaLoo, loving him a walk in his stroller with his Mama who forced her reticent stay-at-home self out of the house for his sake.