The Day We Stayed Home

I wanted to be ac­tive and busy in the early weeks with my baby, but I fi­nally re­al­ized that I was do­ing more than enough.

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By VANESSA MILNE / il­lus­tra­tion by NATHALIE DION

Some­times you have to aban­don your go-go-go plans to ap­pre­ci­ate the joy of life with a new­born.

WHEN I WAS preg­nant, I had a plan for how my first few months of mother­hood would go. Many plans, in fact. Each day I would go for a long walk or meet friends for cof­fee. I would pump breast milk so that my hus­band could han­dle the first overnight feed­ing ev­ery night. The baby would sleep, tightly swad­dled, in the bassinet that my fa­ther had made for me.

The first point was es­pe­cially key. My mom friends had told me over and over that leav­ing the house ev­ery day was the se­cret to life with a new­born.

It was go­ing to be great. Then the baby came.

I had no de­sire to spend my lim­ited “me time” pump­ing. My son, who had colic, slept in the only place he didn’t scream: snug­gled up against me in my arms. Oh, and he woke up ev­ery two hours and re­fused to be swad­dled.

But I did pull off one part of the plan: I al­ways left the house. Some­times I met a few other moms at a lo­cal cof­fee shop. It was fun, but it was also hard to get there on time, and more of­ten than not, the baby fussed just as we ar­rived. I signed up for a mommy-and-me yoga class, but my son was al­ways over­whelmed. We paced the back of the room to­gether as other in­fants slept on the floor, their moth­ers watch­ing over them from Down­ward Dog. I low­ered my ex­pec­ta­tions and went to the gro­cery store. One time, I parked and got halfway out of the car be­fore re­al­iz­ing it was still mov­ing. In my sleep-de­prived state, I’d left the gear in neu­tral.

My hus­band came home ev­ery day and asked what I did, and I re­ported on our out­ings. I’d say I saw my friend for cof­fee, or I took a walk with the mom group, or I went to song time at the li­brary, or I sat in on a pub­lic-health class about in­fants, or I bought gro­ceries at the su­per­mar­ket. It all sounded nice, and he mur­mured ap­prov­ingly. He liked the idea of our go­ing on ad­ven­tures. He still be­lieved in the plan.

But slowly, I be­came more tired, more wor­ried about driv­ing, and more con­sumed with anger at my baby. He was so un­help­ful, and so much grumpier and less sleepy than other ba­bies seemed to be. Why was he get­ting in the way of all my plans? Why was it so hard to do any­thing, even to go down the street for cof­fee?

Then one day, I gave up. I was just too tired to try or to care. We spent the whole day in­side, do­ing noth­ing. I didn’t shower. I lay on the floor and made faces at him dur­ing tummy time. He slept in the swing, and I napped on the couch. I looked deep into his eyes, and he looked, with fas­ci­na­tion, back at me.

I fell in love with him again, star­ing at him like that. And all of a sud­den, I got it.

The prob­lem wasn’t that I couldn’t do any­thing and take care of him at the same time. It was that I hadn’t been valu­ing child care at all. It was to­tally ab­sent from my daily re­ports, and yet tak­ing care of this baby was the only thing I was do­ing that truly mat­tered. Sure, it would have been nice to have an easy baby who could go any­where or to be one of those moms who laughed off sleep depri­va­tion and so­cial­ized all the time, but that wasn’t who we were. The truth was, I felt hap­pier when we stayed home, and so did he. It was time to give up on my plans and ac­cept that for now, this life was go­ing to be dif­fer­ent from what I’d en­vi­sioned.

I set a new goal for my days and came up with new an­swers for my hus­band at the end of them. What did I do to­day? To­day, I fed the baby. I changed the baby. I played with the baby. To­day, the baby had a nap. To­day, I kept the baby alive for an­other day. It’s a big job—and I did it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.