On parenthood: I remember when I first visited El Salvador many years ago. I had read and studied and thought I knew about issues of 'developing' countries, but when I got there, I kept thinking, "How did I not know this?" The lived reality was so completely different than any book or article. The vibrancy, the connectedness, the way of life were all so much more viceral and tactile. Being in versus knowing of.
Same goes for parenthood. I have friends with kids. I know tons of kids. I know lots of parents too, including my own. But again, I sense, "How did I not know this?" How did I not know the sleepless nights but how, really, they don't matter? How did I not know how attached I'd be (literally - breastfeeding means I can never be more than 90 minutes away) and yet how, really, it doesn't matter? And how did I not know how parents, all parents everywhere, have done this very same thing, over and over, and will keep doing it? My friend Aimee calls it the Mom Club. I guess it's the Parent Club and those of us who have babies especially probably get this best of all. Whether Dylan is hungry or tired or fussy or smiling or poopy or sleeping or sweet or spitting up... it's all the same. I pick him up, hold him, love him.
On time: Last night I tried to take a bath while Chris cared for Dylan. I'd been in a few minutes when I had to come out and feed him. Then our cat Moon wanted into the washroom so I let him in. Then he wanted out. Then Dylan wanted to eat again. I gave up on my bath. When Dylan and Chris were still sleeping this morning, I tried again to have a nice hot bath. I wasn't in three minutes when he started fussing. I got up to feed him but he decided he wasn't hungry after all. I went back into the tub. Fifteen minutes later, he decided he was hungry after all. I gave up on the bath again.
You can only laugh at it, really. My time, it seems, is no longer my own. But if it were anything else, anything, that wanted to consume my time in the same way, I wouldn't respond with the same sense of care, compassion and love. He's a baby. He wants love and holding and to eat. And I can be all that for him. That means much.
Everything takes longer. Making supper, tidying up, getting out of the house. And it's more complicated. I popped into a coffee shop yesterday and had to maneuver the stroller up the stairs, try to keep the door propped open with my foot while pushing him up more stairs, then weave through the narrow aisles and customers going in and out. As I got out of the shop with some help from kind passers-by, I thought about how single and able-bodied, I have an enormous amount of physical freedom that lets me squeeze in, be flexible, know how time can be shaped and used. Time is different with a baby. I don't suppose I don't mind, actually. There is adjustment needed but really, maybe there's something powerful in living on a baby's timetable than my own.
On bodies: When the baby of a friend spat up on me this past summer, I was kinda grossed out by the warm, sour milk all over my hands and down my arms. Do I care about Dylan's spit? Not a bit. I'm elbow deep in scrubbing his poo off the cloth diapers, wipe his mouth with my thumb, feel his hot pee on me as he's being changed. At the doctor's office, his leaky poo was so plentiful it crept out the sides of the diaper, down his legs, onto my shirt and pants and dripped onto the floor. Grossed out? Not in the least. Put out? Not at all. In the past two weeks, with the home birth and all that's been going on with my own body plus Dylan's, we have definitely seen our share of what our bodies have to produce - poo, pee, blood, amniotic fluid, spit up, goopy eyes, snot, tears, breast milk. Even our cat Bosh joined in by vomiting in the crib. And yet all of it feels so completely and totally OK.
On modesty: Before the homebirth, I had some small misgivings about baring my all to our good friends who would be assisting with the birth. For Chris and the midwives, it was no big deal. But how would I look my dear friends in the eyes at dinner parties when they'd seen me so open and so exposed? When it came time for the birth, none - none - of that mattered one bit. Neither was I shy nor embarrassed. It had nothing to be with being nude. It was about birth.
Yesterday, in the grocery line at the store, the woman in front of me, the cashier and I started talking about breastfeeding. The cashier commented that she was scared, when her kids were babies, that she'd be embarrassed to breast feed in public. When it came time, though, she didn't care at all. Me too, I thought. Just minutes earlier, I'd pulled the stroller into the little cafe nook in the grocery store to breastfeed Dylan. "I guess this is weird," I thought. "Having my boobs out in public like this." But actually, it didn't bother me at all. I looked around and noone was staring or seemed to even care. It has nothing to do with modesty. He's just eating.
On the love of innocence: Lastly. When I was pregnant, and particularly near the end when I was huge, people on the street, in meetings and at work would generally be pretty excited when they came into contact with me. Standard questions were when I was due and whether I knew if it was a boy or girl. I suppose this was a way for people to be connected to the baby-to-be. I never minded, though sometimes it was pretty funny and sometimes a little too predictable. But Chris rightfully pointed out early on that it's because people love babies and they want to be a part of that.
Now with newborn in tow, what I thought would be less attention has become more attention. Some of it is crazy overt. At the grocery store, I swear every woman over 60 years old pulled me aside and asked me about Dylan - his age, his size, his sex. They smiled and warmed over and wished me many blessings. But that's not all. Not including all of our friends and family who have been so over-the-top generous with gifts, visits, food, emails, calls, thoughtful notes, there's also this kind of warmth from even passers-by. I catch them sneaking peeks into the stroller. I see them making way on the sidewalk. There is a kind of joy and reverence at the newness of being and, I think, its innocence.
I think people love babies, even ones they don't know, because there is so much hope there. In all the things in our lives and in the face of so many challenges and struggles, there are really few things that are such unadulterated simplicity as newborns. They're not corrupt or conniving, not tricky or sneaky. And what's more, they don't even know about these things.
As I nestle with Dylan in my arms in bed, stroking his head and feeling him fall into a deep and peaceful sleep curled up against me, I think, "Know this, my little one. You are loved, you are safe, you are cared for and you are wanted."
If, at this point, he knows anything, I hope it's this.