Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad Mama

Baby boy was wide awake and ready to start his day at four this morning, as he is every morning.  Unlike all the four-in-the-mornings which have come before, however, I was not so eager as Mads to greet this one.  He wiggled, kicked his feet, punched his little hambone fists in the air, cooed and chatted, and I rolled over and buried my face into my pillow--for twenty minutes (or so Wolfman informed me--he woke in the other room, and watched the clock while listening to our baby's noises become more heightened and disgruntled; why I feel guilt over letting Mads fuss and my husband does not is clearly an essay for another time).

I was not feeling the whole Mommy thing this morning (if four hours before dawn can be called morning).  My right wrist hurt, the muscles in my arms and back ached, my nipples were raw from the hourly feedings all night (that's right, hourly).  Twice in the night I'd had to scoop Mads up and carry him into the living room to bounce him back to sleep on the yoga ball.  The second time, he kept spitting out his pacifier to smile at me, and I worried he wouldn't fall back asleep at all.

These are the tedious complaints of new mothers the world over, and I don't expect some special compensation or pity.  I'm only explaining that for the sake of my very sanity, I needed those twenty minutes of laying on my belly with my face buried in the pillow, the way I used to sleep before Mads existed, before he took over every aspect of my life, including my sleep (the position I sleep in, the room and bed I sleep in, the quality and quantity of my sleep, the subjects of my dreams).  During my fit of temporary, elective deafness, Wolfman rescued Mads from my neglect, and I took an extra ten minute vacation to brush my teeth, dress, attempt to tame the nest that is my hair these days, rub coconut oil on my face and frown over the newly acquired wrinkles gracing my forehead.  (My husband refused to commiserate with me over my rapid aging post-partum.  "I've had forehead wrinkles since I was seven," he said, then made monkey noises at the baby.)

Being a bad mother does not, surprise, come easy.  Every instinct I have urges me to put the little'un first, at whatever the cost, which is why I went two full weeks without showering in the first month of Mads' life.  I exist now, biologically speaking, to feed, nurture, and shelter this (admittedly precious) new life, and it's been a struggle to find my way back to myself.  For two months, I skipped showers, I skipped meals, I skipped opportunities for me-time in favor of caring for (serving, really) my baby boy.  But day by day, as he smiles more and grumps less, as he shakes off the PTSD symptoms after being pushed and squeezed violently through my body and out into this bright, cold, loud world, I reserve little segments of time to do things that make me feel like me, an autonomous human being.  

I've managed, lately, to write in my journal, send a couple letters, begin the process of emptying our storage unit and rearranging and filling our home, and, even, getting a little naked with my good looking husband (ahem).  Little things, these--writing, organizing, sex--but huge boosts in Mommyland morale.  In the mornings, I do a few yoga stretches and twist my hips and torso belly-dance style (the greatest and most fun ab workout) while Mads watches me placidly (usually) from his crib or Fisher Price vibrating hammock, which I carry with me from room to room of the house throughout the day.

He's not the most patient fellow yet.  He fusses if I spend more than a few minutes at a time without looking at him or speaking to him.  He's an energy vampire if ever there was one.  I spend, easily, 85% of my day with this boy in my arms, but that baby-free 15% of the day has been revolutionary for these hands and mind of mine, and I don't mind so much stretching that percentage bit by bit as Mads' development progresses.  We jumped from the laying-in period to an intense mommy-only phase; I've been sapped (but somehow not dry?) for two-and-a-half months now.  So, stolen moments here and there, even if and when he complains, are special.  This blog update, for example, took several of those stolen moments, and I was shouted at mercilessly during a few of those moments by the boy.  What he doesn't understand is that being a bad mama some of the time is a requirement to be a good mama most of the time--call it the Mommy Paradox.    
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