Of all of the surprises that come with being a mom, there's been one for which I was least prepared. Books go into great detail about all of the messy stuff like hemorrhoids, projectile vomit (both yours and the babe's), and episiotomies. All moms go on about the gushes of love that squirt out of them like milk from your leaky nipples. Parenting mags are full of the funny stories like the time junior said something embarrassing at the local food mart. He's a stitch, that little scamp.
What they all neglect to mention is how freaking boring it can be a lot of the time. Sure, there are moments that would melt even the hardest heart, but what surrounds them is generally a lot of mind-dulling, well, dullness. I don't know how stay-at-home moms do it without coming completely unglued, staring off into space for hours on end while muttering all of the words to Moo, Baa, La La La. Those that still have all of the chalupas on their combo plate have my eternal admiration.
The almost three months that I was home with my niblet were nearly my undoing. Newborns are generally not the most entertaining of critters, content to just eat, sleep, poop and wail -- sometimes all at the same time. What no one told me was that while this angelic loaf of baby was doing all of these things, it would demand your complete and utter attention.
Coaxing just four ounces of fluid into the child was an hour-long, two-handed affair, during which I could do little else but watch her and listen to daytime TV. (And if the boredom of watching your child eat while you gaze lovingly into her eyes doesn't get you, I'm willing to bet that the insipid shows on during daylight hours would.)
Sleeping was no better. For the first several weeks, she only wanted to sleep on an adult, either snuggled up on your lap or nestled in a shoulder- hollow. Again, pretty much all I could do when the baby napped was watch her and try to remain as motionless as possible. How very mind-expanding. Now, of course, I can look on those days with some fondness, since now the last thing the child wants to do is snuggle for any length of time. At the time, though, it was a different story.
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Poop was always a nice change of pace. Changing diapers always imbues one with a sense of purpose. The wailing, however, was like walking into a pitched battle, without any real idea where the enemies were. Was it gas? Was she tired? Was she wired? Was she hungry? Different remedies were tried. Only one succeeded. For those first few precious months, the only thing that would soothe the child was holding her head near the running kitchen faucet while gently agitating her, like a washer before the rinse cycle. I dare even the most martyred of moms to do that for an hour without feeling like you are about to start smashing coffee mugs onto the floor simply to break the monotony.
Back in those days, I would knit when I could, since it was one of the few activities that she didn't seem to mind me doing. Hats kept flying off of my needles, by far the least brain intensive wearable that I know how to make. Still, there was some creativity involved. Many trips to the local yarn shop were made and I would spend the better part of an hour wandering the aisles with the baby on my chest, dreaming of all of the amazing things I could create. I haven't made half of them, I'll admit, but what I have done has been satisfying on a level that I never before dreamed a hobby could provide. Knitting was the thing I could control best. Mistakes could be easily corrected, my hands were busy, and the overall goal was clear.
Now, of course, the tyke is almost a year old and a 20-pound whirling dervish who is in to everything she spies. Still, a good part of the day is spent pulling her off of things she insists on climbing, like the outside of the playpen or a bookshelf. And when our backs are turned for an eyeblink, she's scaling the thing again. And again we pull her off. It wears on you after a while.
Interspersed with the climbing is the tossing. Every horizontal surface is now miraculously clean of household detritus. While the spouse and I would normally celebrate such an occurrence -- seeing as how it is the sort of thing that was as frequent as a lunar eclipse before the baby came -- we've merely traded one mess for another. That stuff now lives on the floor. Some days, I don't even bother to pick it back up when the baby naps. Crossing the living room has become like trying to ford a rushing river, gingerly hopping from one clear spot of floor to the next.
After a weekend of picking up crap, pulling her off crap and watching her feed herself Cheerios and fruit chunks (she now roundly dismisses pureed foods as stuff only babies eat) I am ready to hand her off the kind, patient souls at day care, who get paid to perform repetitive tasks. I'm not saying their jobs are easy. Far from it, in fact. They're doing one of the hardest things on earth, watching a very small person learn how to live in this world the only way they can, through endless cycles of trial and error. They are better women than I.
While the boredom put my feet on the road to nuttiness, the lack of a
creative outlet was what packed my bags for the trip. Now, by letting
someone else be in charge of some of the drudgery for a few hours, I have
some of my own precious moments to write. Some days, especially after
sleepless nights that are becoming increasingly less frequent as the baby
grows, all I could manage was a quick email or two before I'd drop off
for a nap. Recently, I've been churning out copy for paying freelance gigs
and my day job. It seems to be the relief valve that my subconscious
bleeding off the steam of rote baby tasks that are necessary for her
well-being but dulling to mine.
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