A gentle surrender
So he’s here, and it seems that I didn’t even realise this family was unfinished until this last baby completed us. The day before his birth, I couldn’t imagine a baby amongst our existence; the day after, couldn’t imagine life without his being part of it.
He’s perfect, he’s zen, he’s so comfortably present.
I wonder why it’s taken nearly a month to even post about it, but then each day I attempt to do things, am thwarted, and learn to adapt by downsizing expectations.
Domestic order, I’m delighted to let slip first. But I do have my standards. My goals for each morning are three: Wash up. Clean the kitchen’s horizontal surfaces. Make the bed. (It will never win any awards for perfect hospital corners, but on a good morning, the pillows are back in alignment and the sheets kinda taut.) Then, if I’m lucky, I score a shower during a break in feeds. Sometimes this happens before midday. In the shower, I indulge in dangerous fantasies that I’ll have time to achieve other stuff when I’m out of the shower. Sometimes I make a mental list. Sometimes I even form sentences of prose to type when I’m dry. They’re yet to make it to any page, as I’m usually greeted by a crying baby before I’ve toweled off the curling grey steristrips across the scar on my abdomen.
I feed A even more than a usual newborn; he’s taking both breast and bottle. (More on this in a later post.) Plus he has a great appetite. I probably feed him for half my waking (and sleeping, and not-sleeping) hours. Then burp him for, like, forever, particularly after formula feeds. I’ve got David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in position next to the couch. Turns out it’s a great choice: its fragmented narrative works brilliantly with a fragmented reader.
And I am ridiculously, extremely, almost manically happy. I was not this happy with my earlier babies: not because of the babies, because of me.
I keep using the word “surrender”, and not negatively. It may be the wrong word to use. I have surrendered to motherhood, to this evaporation of time in milk and nappies and fatigue and baby vomit. I am old enough, and maybe comfortable enough, to not resent that the only real role I can play right now is this one. Any other identity (or psychoanalytic ego-driven ideas of self) is on hold, or changed, or maybe gone. Perhaps I was affected by having my sense of self changed by an outside force (a little, baby-sized one) with the last kids, in my thirties. I know I’m still capable, but whatever those capabilities are, they’re funneled into a rather noble pursuit for now. The fact that it’s so commonly done does not diminish its nobility. Maybe that’s what I didn’t get, before.
This surrender is akin to acceptance, or mindfulness. Mindfulness. Fuck I hate that term, but it fits, despite being smashed out of shape by newage cranks and opportunistic pseudo-gurus.
And I am incredibly lucky to be able to surrender to normal baby-raising things. I am lucky to have a partner who makes school lunches if I’m tied up feeding. Who pulls his weight, and sometimes some of mine. When Daddyo says he enjoys doing the vacuuming, I choose to believe him. I am lucky to be part of a community that drops off pies and offers to drive the kids to soccer. I am lucky to have parents who help with dinner when we need. So I have the luxury of being able to sit, and feed, and burp a baby, and allow myself this calm inertia that I call surrender.
We were incredibly moved by our friend Todd’s show, The Button Event, last week. Even when we know some of the story, his performance underlined the needs of managing twin babies, and then the special needs of a sick infant. This obviously resonated with me right now. We know wonderful parents of children with special needs, of children who are unwell, and their stamina and strength inspire and astound me. Constantly. My miniscule efforts in deceleration to tend to the needs of a regular newborn are nothing compared with their momentous daily, ongoing efforts.