Our son was born on Friday the 13th, the day after his due date. So far, he has been demonstrating his skills at eating, gaining weight, blinking solemnly and staring. His skill set does not yet include any great prowess with sleeping, but I’m dealing surprisingly well with getting sleep in one hour (and very occasional two hour) blocks.
I had thought I would cry with happiness when I first saw him. When he was put on my chest after he was born, I thought “Huh, a baby,” but didn’t feel a rush of love and affection. That grew over the next two days, until I was having incoherent conversations with the husband while weeping over the baby’s incredible beauty. Tiredness may have contributed to this, of course, but I like to think it was motherhood laced with a dash of hormones.
Edward was a very much desired and planned for baby, and yet his arrival still felt a bit like a wrecking ball. I was sitting with him after a couple of days at home, incredibly sleep deprived, thinking dazedly, “I did want this, right? I wanted my entire life to change? I’m pretty sure I did.” It was nothing like I had imagined – was in fact much harder than I has imagined. I couldn’t plan anything – my hours revolved in a tight focussed orbit over the erratic and ever changing desires of my baby. You want to be fed? You’ve wet yourself again? You won’t sleep unless we’re holding you? Wow, you really won’t sleep unless we’re holding you. That’s a fun trick.
It has become much easier – the first week was probably the toughest, and coming home from hospital after little to no sleep on the ward didn’t help with that. The birth went very well, and the staff at Logan Hospital were wonderful, but life in the maternity wards was a special kind of hell. If a baby wasn’t screaming, then the woman whose baby was in the special care nursery was sobbing, the woman who had just had a Caesarian was throwing up violently, or the woman in the next bed was eating ice. Incessantly and very loudly, until I wanted to go over and tape her mouth shut. The only sleep I really got was snatched during the day, while the husband sat in a chair beside me and cuddled the baby.
Two weeks into parenting and I feel a bit more competent at it. Getting to know Edward a little has helped enormously – if I have some vague idea of what he’s likely to do next, I feel much more in control. An illusion, sure, but it’s one I’m sticking with. I still stuff up all the time of course, fruitlessly rocking him while he screams and then realising belatedly that he’s hungry, even if he only fed a little while ago. He glares balefully up at me while he sucks, marvelling at my stupidity when he so clearly told me what he wanted.
With every day it becomes easier and more rewarding, and I’m sure this will increase exponentially as he starts to respond to us. For now I have to be satisfied with the way he gazes seriously up into my face, like he’s memorising my features, and the way his hands clutch at me, clinging onto my arm when I give him a bath, clearly communicating his scepticism as to whether I’m holding him quite securely enough.