Entries from July 23rd, 2019

Signs of Life

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I almost gave up on this painting multiple times since I started it about a week after Rowan was born, but I am glad I didn’t because I finally finished it this morning.

I’ll probably hang it in the bathroom, over the toilet. Which is to say, I wouldn’t call it my greatest work, but I like what it represents to me: Signs of a more regular life returning.

This is the first week of my maternity leave that hasn’t been packed with daytime visitors. I’ve loved the company, and have socialized more with family and friends in the last month than the whole rest of the year. But those visits, which usually coincide with Rowan’s naps, also impede my ability to do anything else. So I’m grateful for the break in company this week, as it’s allowed me to do a little bit of yoga, art, cooking, and writing–all introverted things that fill me up, and give me energy for the extroversion, attention, and connection that being a new mamma requires.

My dad shared this fantastic article with me, an interview with Wendell Berry.  It’s a lot to chew on, but what’s stayed with me the most is what he says about the value of limits, how they can enrich our lives and provide meaning in ways that unlimited choices just can’t. I think about my life, how it’s taken on more limits (aka commitments) than I ever thought I’d want or be capable of. Marriage, home ownership, a community that shows up for important events, and now motherhood. A career, too, where people rely on me. I suppose sobriety is its own kind of limit, albeit one for which I am continually grateful. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, despite being tired and stretched thin and limited in a number of ways. I’m surprised by this, but I’m actually okay grabbing wisps of time for myself and letting go of the unstructured expanses. Those expanses were almost too big…and allowed more Netflix and snacks than were ever good for me.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is this TED talk my nephew Mason showed me, particularly the idea of accomplishing big things in very small amounts of time. One time, early in my courtship with Thomas, I broke up with him because “I needed to write my book.” (Another time I broke up with him, I told him I was more evolved than he was. For some reason, he still decided to marry me.) I still haven’t written my book, but that’s an issue whether I’m married or single. Since being married, though, I’ve been able to stop drinking, write my first published essays for pay, and apply for a writing sabbatical. I didn’t get the sabbatical last year, but I’ll keep applying until I do. It turns out that having the right person (and people) around me improved my mental and physical health as well as my creative capacity, despite requiring more from me as well.

My favorite Wendell Berry quote, which I fall short of but aspire to nonetheless is, “Every day you have less and less reason not to give yourself away.”

The Nappers (Mason and Rowan)

All the little spaces

Monday, July 15, 2019

Rowan is one month old today, and I’m typing this one-handed as he dozes/nurses in my other. I’ve had three major emotional meltdowns in as many weeks, likely from the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation. There’s a reason they use it as a form of torture, you know? Of course the beauty and cuteness and sweetness continue, but mixed in there I have 1) definitely screamed at and hung up the phone on someone I dearly love, 2) with hostility and not a hint of humor or affection, criticized my husband’s conversational style in front of a friend, and 3) had teeny tiny fleeting thoughts of homicide toward someone who is better off unnamed, though I can assure you it was not Rowan, passed in a moment, cleared up with a little sleep, and involved absolutely no intent or planning.

When people say that parenthood is hard, and particularly emphasize that motherhood is hard, I am coming to suspect they aren’t just talking about the actual mothering. That, for me, continues to come naturally, and is (mostly) a source of joy and wonder. Even in the middle of the night, when Rowan needs to eat two or three times and I’m the girl for the job, I still feel the bond between us–me the milked, him the milkee. He hasn’t even smiled yet, but he has mastered throwing up on me, and still I’m willing to do anything to take care of him. Thankfully, that part is okay–so far, at least.

What’s harder is how this little person is changing my relationship to everything else. Not just to the big, obvious stuff like my husband, my work and time, my energy and my body and my finances. I anticipated these changes, and I was right to. But it’s other stuff as well. Little stuff. Grocery shopping. Cooking. Going to Target or Starbucks (which I haven’t attempted yet). Even taking a walk or a shower (which I have). Let’s not even start on the topic of taking a you-know-what. All of these things are much more complicated than they used to be. I can’t yet predict when Rowan will need to eat, so venturing out into the world as a nursing mom is daunting (though I trust it’s damn hard with formula, too). The built environment isn’t designed for babies and their caregivers. It just isn’t.

***

The other night as we were crawling into bed, Thomas said he couldn’t have predicted the way having a baby would change his life. He said that he welcomes the changes, but it’s an adjustment. I was so exhausted that I didn’t want to talk, but I’m glad I mustered the energy to ask him where he feels the adjustments the most. He said, “It’s all the little spaces. Spaces that used to be for me, and for us as a couple. They don’t exist anymore. Now all the little spaces are Rowan spaces.”

That’s what I’ve been feeling too. Because even when Rowan is sleeping, life is all about being ready for when he wakes. When he wakes, he needs.

I’m grateful beyond words that I get to have this experience. Many people who want it more than anything else are struggling with fertility challenges, some of whom are close friends. So I hope it’s okay to talk about what’s hard and what’s beautiful, both. Because I need this outlet, where I can use adult words and sentences. Even those crafted one-handedly.

My victories right now are small. Instead of time at my easel, which now I get in microdoses of 10-20 uninspired minutes, I celebrate these: My first trip to the grocery store (baby slept through it while I frantically stashed groceries in his stroller), baby’s first bottle (I’m not longer his only option for food delivery), and managing to shower once a day and eat a few meals.

It’s baby steps around here, y’all. Rowan isn’t walking, of course. The baby steps are mine, and for the time being, all the little spaces are Rowan spaces.

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