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I’ve lived more, and harder, in the past six months than I have my whole life. My heart has been like a sponge cake that’s just sopping wet and oozing all over with strawberry sauce, only the strawberry sauce is, like, tears. Or just emotions, really.
I’ve always been able to write a lot about pretty much everything I’ve been going through. Whether I kept my thoughts to myself under lock and key in a paper diary (1986), or in Microsoft Works documents (1995) or shared them with a few secret friends on LiveJournal (2001), or now in this blog, the words almost always oozed out with as much vigor as the strawberry sauce.
In the spectrum of noteworthy experiences, experiences that are worth writing about and sharing with others, having a child is probably one of the biggest ones (and yet, also, the most ordinary thing ever). So big that I’ve found myself completely unable to write about it. Or even think about it, because thinking about it just made the tears flow faster. The hormones are a bitch. Up is down, down is up, on is off, and the pain of the chronic sleep deprivation always brought to mind this image:
But to counter the ultimate suffering is ultimate joy. And Jimmie has been that. He was born of average length and weight, but didn’t gain weight his first month of life, leaving him looking like a small, hairless shar-pei, all skin and wrinkled forehead.
Turns out I wasn’t able to produce enough milk for him, or the transport mechanism wasn’t speedy enough, and at 4 weeks old his weight was at the third percentile. He Got Milk, just not enough. I spent a few frantic weeks taking nasty tasting tinctures, making lactation cookies and pumping my brains (my boobs?) out, on a round-the-clock schedule, but it still wasn’t enough so we began supplementing with formula.
Suffer Like a Mother
For months two through six we would breastfeed five times a day, so he still got a little of the good stuff, then immediately followed it up with a bottle of formula. Even without the horrid pumping machine, it was a tiring schedule leaving little time for bikes, pedicures, emails, phone calls, or even showers. It’s weird feeling like you have to ask someone if you can take a shower. Especially when you used to be a girl who would just put her motorcycle in her van and drive to Las Vegas.
Nothing prepares you for motherhood. Not even reading “nothing prepares you for motherhood” over and over and over again prepares you for motherhood. Everyone’s experience is so different, and yet so much the same. I like to think that my experience was particularly challenging, as I moved from San Jose to Santa Rosa in my first trimester and got married in my second trimester. But every new mother has her challenging story and I’m slowly learning, thanks to the rigors of marriage, to stop competing for who has the hardest job or the hardest story. It’s all hard, so we just accept that and move forward together.
It takes a village to raise a new mom. Well, if that new mom is me. Thank god I’ve had my parents, my husband, his parents, my cats, my age, my experience. I’d have been hopeless without any of them.
Secrets of the Baby Scheduler
I’m a baby scheduler. It started when Jimmie was around four or five weeks old. Rather than trying to decipher his cries, I fed him and changed him on a regular schedule, and this transitioned nicely into a nighttime sleep schedule, and then a daytime nap schedule. He has been sleeping through the night since he was around 10 weeks old; or, rather, I’ve been sleeping eight hours a night since then. He’s gotten me up maybe four times since then? He’s a brilliant little sleeper and I’m beyond grateful. The trauma of the first few months of sleep deprivation turned me into, like, an abused dog who bites hard any time my sleep at night is threatened. Jimmie’s health and well-being always comes first, but second to that is an aggressive dedication to my slumber.
What scares me? Everything. I like to think that my neutral, even cheerful calculation of the worst that could happen helped keep me safe on motorcycles. Unfortunately, this is not a very cheerful process anymore. I imagine the worst that could happen to Jimmie and it leaves me feeling wrung out and sad, even if we’ve had an outwardly cheery day. I wage constant battles in my mind against future nefarious high school friends wielding drugs, tumbles down the stairs, drunk drivers, creepy neighbors, pointy furniture corners, earrings on the floor, and the worst, the biggest…WHAT IF HE STOPS LOVING ME? Or, just…doesn’t call me that often?
On good days I have all these problems solved in my head. I’m tired, but feel accomplished. Other days I feel buried and hopeless. Killing myself on the motorcycle racetrack is one thing, harming this perfect, gorgeous creature that I brought into the world is a WHOLE NOTHER THING ENTIRELY.
At least I’m still able to get out and ride my bikes, and sometimes even with my husband:
The sad days happen less and less often. Things are looking up.