Those first few months of being home with my baby were weird; Science fiction weird,”Woman wakes up in uninhabited suburbia weird.” Who was I? What was I doing but holding a disconsolate child; I was certainly not getting any dishes washed, clean clothes put away, or floors clean. I was not contributing to the family’s budget (accept by cutting expenses, which is a big deal, but not usually one that is easy to appreciate). I was barely getting showered.
It was eventually wonderfully rewarding, but hard. Not so much the not sleeping – although when the lactation nurse at the hospital unapologetically woke me up at 2AM to check my nursing technique, I thought she was a mad sadist. I was learning a whole new way of working and being that had no relation to my past experience and training. I was working harder for fewer visible results, it was supposed to be, “intuitive,” but I actually needed some skills.
I did figure out how to read books while nursing. Usually when I research a new topic, I read all the authors until I understand the different schools of thought. I don’t feel like I’m done researching until I know which schools of thought are out there, and where the authors line up. Man, baby how to book authors are not civil to each other. Diametrically opposed advice with dire predictions if you dare pick the wrong approach.
Then winter set in (it was snowing when we brought him home in November, in Northern Illinois). I’d listened to Focus on the Family, my mom and mother in law had stayed with us to stock my freezer with soup and casseroles, my husband was wonderfully kind, I had friends, and I’d interviewed Moms since I started babysitting (I was nervous I didn’t know enough about young children, because I was an only child). And it was still hard. Our pastor gave us his old car, so I could get out more, I was nervous about driving in the snow and did not get as much sunshine as I meant to. Then I got used to carrying all the stuff, made more of a priority of getting outside, going to Laurie’s house if I was weepy – the colic took a LONG time to resolve, and I’d given up swaddling WAY too early, like at 4 days, not 3 months. And I got through it – but I felt like I’d failed, because it was hard, not quick and easy.
So years later, when my father in law gave me (maybe it was really for DH, but I snagged it first) Nancy Piercy’s book “Total Truth,” for Christmas, I had a freeing aha moment on page 327.
“Rachel Cusk, in her book A Life’s Work, says most women describe becoming a mother as a “Shock.” Their lives are turned upside down by the constancy of a baby’s demands. At the same time, they are astonished by the intensity of the love bond they form with their newborn. They feel like aliens entering a strange new world of home and childrearing.
Why does all this come as a such a surprise? Because through young adulthood, most of us have been carefully primed for participation in the public world – while growing out of touch with the private world of babies and families. ”
So, I tell my friends to check out that chapter when they are coming home from the workplace to be with their babies, our library has a copy.
Because raising babies is wonderfully important, really hard, and it’s real work.