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.
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.