I have one week left at home before heading back to work. I’m trying not to feel too miserable about it — not because of work, but because I’ve been holding a baby for almost nine weeks now and my arms are going to feel so weird being empty for 9 hours straight and my heart is going to hurt every time I realize that I have an aged PC in front of me and not the bright eyes of the child I birthed.
Everyone said that maternity leave goes by so quickly. My time off has felt like ages, especially when I think about all that happened. Being at work feels like it was years ago. I don’t even remember how to hate Mondays or coffee breaks or TGIF or gas prices. Or whatever it is that goes on at a workplace. It makes me laugh when I think about all that Pregnant Kelly thought that she would accomplish while on leave. It’s taken me three weeks to type this paragraph. There would have been no way I could have finished anything noteworthy that didn’t involve keeping a baby alive and well.
I will rush through some best of stuff from this year (although the older I get the dumber I think compiling best of lists is, as if it really matters. Can you even remember your favorite movie of 2006?). Here goes: anything Jason Sudekis did on “SNL” (which I watched 1,000 episodes of on Netflix); “Community;” the Love Language “Libraries” album; Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra LP (I got it as my 4th of July present); the Mexican pulled pork/tinga that Richard makes is the best food from the year (from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe); visiting pals in New Mexico; and the best people are all the people I know who were kind and generous to my family during my pregnancy and after. People did things for us that were beyond what I expected, from little gifts to watching our daughter during an emergency. I look forward to passing on that kindness to the next pregnant lady I know. And, seriously, everyone does this for people with new babies, but bringing a meal over is really the best thing one can do. There wasn’t anything that we didn’t enjoy eating and I don’t think we did anything more than reheat for almost a month. Oh, and I also liked the movie “Ponyo,” but I think that came out in the US last year.
Read any postpartum literature and you’ll learn that the first few weeks with a new baby are weepy ones. Although the time is full of amazing discoveries about this new life, it’s also littered with crazy due to the emotions, frustrations, and complications that come standard. If any new mom claims to have bonded with her baby immediately then she is either a liar or is remembering it differently (or is just making me look like a jerk). I was so unbonded to my child that at first I made her sleep in her car seat. IN THE CAR. Eventually I agreed to shelter guidelines and let her sleep inside when the weather got too cold.
She was the center of attention to her many grandparents who seemed to think she was hand-delivered by an angel from heaven and pooed dollar coins that only bought happiness. They did nothing but take photos of her, completely disregarding that she wasn’t even around a week before and therefore hadn’t had a chance to make such a profound impact on their lives. What did they know about her? It was hard to understand why other people felt such a connection to this little human that I gave birth to while she and I just hung out by ourselves in awkward silence. There was never any doubt that I would do anything to take care of her, but it was more like a job than a joy. It was as if she were a some highly-valuable being or state secret, and I was the trained operative assigned to protect her. Like a political thriller, only with more crying.
Though, as they do, things made themselves right and now I get the fuss of motherhood and can list hundreds of reasons why I love my daughter (or probably just 70– she’s not that old). I’m afraid of next month when I have to do something other than be around to feed and soothe her. How can I return to work full time after spending more than two months sitting in a warm bedroom, chilling with my girl while we watch endless hours of Netflix and take naps? They probably even expect me to wear shoes and a shirt without spit up on it when I go back to work. UGH, YOUR IMPOSSIBLE DEMANDS. I don’t know where my shoes are.
It was hard for me to get used to being home all the time. I thought the pets would drive me bonkers and that I would go mad not leaving the house and having no adults to talk to. Both of those things happened, but eventually I embraced it and accepted that during this time my only job is to take care of my child, then take care of myself, and, if time, let the dog out for a few minutes or do some laundry. And because most of the time my hands are full with baby, I pass time by watching countless hours of SNL and “the Office” reruns. It takes me until noon to get ready most days, and that’s on the early side if I don’t spend forty minutes convincing myself that I need to get ready. There’s nothing to “get ready” for other than creating the impression to my husband that I didn’t spend all day in the bedroom in my pajamas.
Since I have already proven that I can run errands, take walks, go out to eat, see pals, etc. with the baby I have nothing else to prove but that I can totally shut down all ambition and that part of me that feels like I’m wasting time and just be with my daughter. It’s pretty easy. She’s so freaking cute and it’s interesting watching her develop. I’ll put her down for a nap and when I check on her she’s doubled in size. She’s a little doughball like that. And also, parenting is hard, but at this stage it’s basically “don’t let the baby die.” Since babies are stronger than we are careless that part isn’t hard. I can go on for about seven weeks worth of material about parenthood, but the gist of it is that Richard and I enjoy being parents. A lot of it comes naturally, and the rest of it we look up on the Internet.
She’s in the week where most parents notice the first social smile in their babies. She makes triangle shapes with her mouth when she starts to nod off but those aren’t smiles. I’m waiting for that huge grin that will let me know that she recognizes me or even likes me. I’ll give her until week eight, and after that she’s back in the car for her bedtime.
Here she is singing my praises.
(ps — I am one of those mothers who is going to be strict about my child’s public online presence, but here’s a photo anyway).