What is it like, having a baby?
Well, the actual having part has been documented quite thoroughly, from the making to the birthing (though the accuracy is quite lacking if you ask me). And there are any number of humorous RomComs and straight comedies about adults coming face to face with infants as a reality (oh, a grown man has to change a diaper, how hilariously unexpected!!!). Besides Hollywood’s take, there is the experience that most of the planet has first hand. I guess it’s kind of expected that the knowing comes with the experience. Or something.
Forgive me if I’m sounding a bit spacey. I haven’t slept for more than 2 hrs straight in nearly 4 months. No amount of napping seems to make up for that.
Anyway, I finally found the correct metaphor for how it feels with my son on a day to day basis. It’s very much like running a race. Actually, it’s like running 3 races.
Everyday, from the time my husband goes to work at around 7 or 8 until he gets home at 5:30 or 6, I run a marathon. But it’s a cross country marathon where the terrain changes daily and I’m not sure about the route or how long the race will last. It’s broken up into segments by feedings (still every 2 hrs) and diaper changes, but that’s pretty much my day. When he’s not eating, he’s either napping (on me) or playing or fussing. The fussing intensity varies, but in the last few weeks he’s started to fuss when he’s tired and needs a nap. He will cry for a while, I don’t know how long really, while we walk him around the house and sing or shush. Then he will fall asleep for an indeterminate amount of time. That is what he is doing now, which is why I have the time to write. If it’s almost feeding time and he gets that nap fuss going, we’ll try to distract him with play until it’s time to eat because nursing usually puts him down. But if we feed him early he just gets pissed off.
When Buddy gets home, the race becomes a relay where we pass him off to each other for various reasons. “Take him, I need a shower.” “Give him so you can wash dishes.” “I can’t take the crying, you’re it.” And back and forth as we do chores or recharge. This is also the main race during the weekends, though I guess that’s more of a co-race situation since we tend to spend as much time doing stuff together with him as apart. The most romantic thing Buddy has done since Buddy Boy was born was offer to take him to the commissary without me. I hadn’t gotten to sleep until 4am for no reason and he wanted to let me nap without someone kicking me every few minutes. I ended up dream-feeding (feeding him while both of us doze) the boy for a few extra hours and we went to the commissary together, but it was still most sweet.
Which takes us to the last race: sprints. Or what most people casually call running errands. We aren’t really racing against time or anything, but it does feel like we are carrying a time bomb in the stroller. Like I said, he eats every 2 hours. So at most we have an hour and a half to run errands before he starts fussing for feeding. Sometimes we can push this further because he tends to sleep in the car. But there’s no way to know if he’s actually going to sleep or if he’s going to stubbornly stay awake. Even if he’s not crying, he’s still not getting a nap that he might need. And once he’s out of the car, it’s a gamble as to whether he’ll stay asleep or wake up. Most recently he’s been waking up as soon as we leave the car, which means it really is a race to see how much we can get done before he goes NOPE to the whole experience. So we no longer spend whole Saturdays running all over creation, browsing and window shopping, etc. My errand running is brutally efficient so I can get him back home to eat.
You may wonder why I don’t do longer trips and just feed in public. I have a few reasons, actually. For practical reasons, I like to split my errands up into multiple days because if I don’t get out of the house every day, I go a little bonkers. Another reason is that it is such a time suck. He takes 30 minutes to feed, if he feels like it. If he is hot, uncomfortable, or ornery, it takes longer and is no guarantee that he will stop fussing and let me finish shopping. So I go through all the effort and just end up spending more time doing errands rather than getting home where I can feed him in comfort. The second is that it is ungainly/difficult. I never realized how un-sitting friendly everywhere is. I personally don’t want to stand in the middle of an aisle trying to hold up a squirming bowling ball for 30 minutes. Because, yes he squirms and he weighs the same as a bowling ball. A very large, squishy bowling ball. It’s bad enough if I do find a nice place to sit because then I have to handle a crying baby on my lap while I try to un-holster a boob, get my nipple shield on (I have flat nipples so we need the help for latching), and get him positioned, all why holding on to a bare modicum of decency under a cover-up so some stranger doesn’t get a free shot of my nipple. And then it’s not like he just goes all comatose once he’s on there. He squirms and kicks and twitches his head around and cries, I have to adjust him and the shield and hope that he settles, but not so much so that he falls asleep before he’s done eating because then he’ll just wake up 15 min later crying because he’s still hungry and I’m STILL not done in Target. All while people watch and judge me.
If I’m worried about decency, why not feed him in the privacy of a bathroom? I’m so glad you asked. First, I’m not worried about covering up that much. Covering up is an inconvenience that I will do if I feel like it. My modesty will extend only to where it is convenient. So if I can’t get him to latch or if it is making him too hot or if I just don’t feel like it, the cover is going to stay in the bag and you’ll just have to deal with it. Once he’s latched, there isn’t much to see anyway since I use the 2-shirt method (tank top pulled down under a t-shirt pulled up). Second, bathrooms are GROSS. Public bathrooms, private bathrooms, doesn’t matter. They’re gross. I have fed my son in a bathroom a couple of times, once because there was simply no place to sit in the store and again in the family bathroom which I mistakenly thought might have a seat in it. Both times were awful. I gotta ask the people who suggest bathrooms as feeding places whether they have ever been in a public bathroom before. I mean, none of the toilets have lids, for starters. That means there’s no place to sit. I might have been able to feed standing when he was really little, but Buddy Boy is well over 15 lbs now and I’m a tiny weak person. I’ve been in a splint for tendinitis in my right thumb because of picking him up repeatedly. He is, what some nice lady phrased, a pork chop. No lids on toilets also means that when they flush, all the stuff in the water becomes a lovely mist that covers up to 10 feet of the surrounding area. So, yeah, gross effing germs on EVERYTHING.
I want a little privacy so you all don’t stare at me while he whines and struggles and in general is a little butt-face while I’m trying to provide him with life-giving sustenance. I don’t get that privacy when I go out into the wide world because breastfeeding friendly spaces are simply not a priority. That’s fine. That just means I sprint through my errands.
There you have it, the three modes I travel in now. The problems I tend to face stem from me forgetting what race I’m in. I forget that in a relay, I can pass the torch when I get tired. Or I get to the middle of the afternoon and realize I’ve been sprinting instead of pacing myself and the next hour or two before Buddy gets home is going to be rough. Or we get stuck at every stoplight on the drive home while Buddy Boy cries inconsolably because we treated errands like a marathon. I suppose the hardest adjustment we’ve had to make is accepting that it will be a continuous race for YEARS. There’s no actual breaks, no time to waste. We can’t just blow off a Saturday and be lazy because that was the ONLY chance we had to get the lawn done. Or fold the laundry. Or whatever. If I can’t sleep at night, I feed my boy and then do some chores. That might be at 2:00am. But then I can spend most of the morning just feeding him in bed while we both finish sleeping. We are tired in bone and body. But I’m frankly not as tired as I expected to be. Well, not physically tired.
I am frequently emotionally tired, psychologically tired, just tired. I get tired of being a mother, being the soul provider all day long, being the responsible one. I get tired of not knowing why he’s crying without guessing. I get tired of not doing what I want to do whenever I want to do it (to include eating and peeing). I get tired of waiting to see what he’s going to do, what his mood is, what he feels up to. So I pass him off to my loving husband for a little bit, sometimes as little as 10 minutes is enough. I do my pumping or read a chapter of Harry Potter and I can retake the mantle of Mommy.
It’s funny how often in the first 3 months I lost my temper. Found myself yelling profanities at my son because I just snapped. He needed a fresh diaper when I thought he was still hungry. Or he couldn’t get settled on the boob, either because he was too tired or just not hungry enough, and I just wanted him to eat and go to sleep. Not really funny HAHA, but funny. Because one second I would be furious, to the point where I’d have to put him down IMMEDIATELY and the next second I’d be holding him determined to figure out what he needed. I felt very Jekyll and Hyde. I still get frustrated now, it never goes away. My fuse is very short. That doesn’t stop me wanting to hold him, cuddle him, make him smile.
What I’m trying to say is it’s not all kitties and rainbows and humorously messy diapers. It’s good days and bad days and just days. And we go one day at a time. Honestly, what other choice do we have?