I finally found my jeans. They’ve been missing since I tried them on at one week post partum and could barely get them past my thighs. After wriggling back out of them dejectedly, TJ asked me to please wait a while before I try them back on.
Then they mysteriously disappeared. I suspected he hid them in an effort to keep me from judging myself against their tiny taunting waistline, but he kept saying I lost them all on my own. Maybe I did; maybe it was Freudian.
Anyway, I wore them today. They’re loose on me again. How have I been walking around in this body, never really knowing its full capacity? How have I been so fixated on the things I was convinced needed changing, when there’s this whole mess of muscle fibers and tendons and a precious flow of blood over bones that just knows what to do moment by moment; that’s working together like an orchestra of anatomy that sings LIFE! LIFE! LIFE! over and over again?
And how do I casually take all that to the grocery store like it’s just no big deal? We are so used to the miracle of humanity that we forget the miracle of humanity. We glimpse it in newborn babes and the still-fiery spark in our grandparents’ eyes when they confide to us that they’re the same person who was twenty, thirty, who was the CEO of a powerful corporation at forty. Their body reacted to time, but their spirit–well, that trumps all.
I’ve been thinking about how Charlee is nearing six months old. She’s learning and growing so much and I read somewhere about the importance of sleep because it’s the only time our brain heals. And Charlee’s brain is firing away all day long, so I’m always like, “Hey Little One. Sleep. Think about that beautiful brain of yours. Let’s heal it. The world will be here tomorrow. Time to close your eyes and rest that brain.” I might turn it into a lullaby, who knows; we need more children’s songs about brain health and overcoming the national sleep deficit for kids under five and less children’s songs about ashes ashes we all fall down (creeeeepy).
But almost six months ago, I didn’t just birth a baby. A mama was born that night, too. She was scared and overwhelmed and in love, yes, but I think that love usually goes without saying.
What doesn’t go without saying is how the baby-friendly hospital has the brand new baby sleep with the severely sleep-deprived parents. Everyone is so brand new at doing everything that needs doing through that first night, that nobody gets sleep. I remember tiny baby Charlee Jane, her striped cap with the huge bow screaming IT’S A GIRL! I remember her little eyes tightly shut most of the time, as if to say that maybe she was still wherever she had been–maybe if she kept her eyes shut, this brand new world isn’t actually giving her no other choice but to be in it.
I remember me–this also brand new mama–feeling a little the same way. I was afraid to call the nurse because I felt like that would be bad mothering. I didn’t wake up TJ, because I felt like someone, at least, should actually get some sleep in this hospital room. I didn’t even know how to swaddle my baby. There was a bright fluorescent light that blinked all the time, coming from under my bed. Nobody knew how to turn it off–not even when I asked them to please turn off the party lights in my room. Worst rave ever, folks.
I set my alarm for two hours later, afraid that I’d sleep so heavily, I’d miss Charlee’s hunger cues and she’d spend her first night ever with an empty belly. Little did I know her hunger cues are in fine working condition and I’ve never slept through them ONCE–not in almost six months.
I was a newborn mama that night and I was scared. I got a flood of kind texts–most assuming that life felt magical–and there was a magic to the evening (especially when I looked at her perfect face. Oh God. I knew then and there I’d spend my life doing anything I could for that face)–but I think most magic comes at a price.
I think love always comes with the cost of giving your heart away, and here I was with a kind of bone-aching tired punctuating every thought–and in the moment, all I wanted was to lay down and sleep. Those first moments of motherhood demanded that I lay down, sure, but not to sleep. No, I laid down on an alter unlike any other I’d ever known, and for the past six months I’ve been giving my life away in ways I never knew I could.
And now I’m an almost six month old mama. My brain has healed so much since that first night, as I’ve slept since then. I’m better at asking for help. If I’m blessed with another, I will ask the nurses for help. I will ask TJ for help. I will beg my mom to sleep in the hospital with us (she did the next night, God bless her).
I guess my point is, we all have growing pains and we never start where we end up. I look at Charlee with her storms of emotions that flit across her face. I see her grabbing her toys and stuffing them into her mouth like a champ with a heckuva pincer grasp. She’s growing. I just put away a whole bin of tiny clothes she can no longer wear that I’m not ready to part with. She’s growing so much.
And along with her growth, our family is growing, too. None of us are newborns anymore–and it feels so good. I’m not scared; I’m not exhausted; I learn everyday that I can do this, too. After all, as a mama, I’m almost six months old.