I love being a parent. But saying that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. During the first week of nursing a newborn, I hit blissful highs and tearful lows. At one point, pinned to a rocking chair in our once tidy bedroom upstairs, I relished in the empty bowls and crumpled sheets, the spit up cloths and bountiful pillows that mounted our bed. A glorious mess, I thought. Something was happening in our house. All was full of life.
A few days later, pinned to the couch, nursing a newborn, I felt like my only redeeming quality was breast milk. I didn’t understand then that everything would change. That it wouldn’t always feel so constant, so exhausting. That my baby wouldn’t always nurse for an hour at a time, every hour. That I would one day have longer breaks, that one day I won’t be nursing him at all. Yes, babies grow into toddlers, into children, into teens, into adults. Realizing this constant movement means I can let go whilst simultaneously treasuring the magnitude of Now.
What I didn’t expect to be so challenging is the adjustment we have had to embrace in our relationship as husband and wife, lover and lover. I had heard glimmers of this truth in passing, picked up from segments of documentaries we watched, skimming over that section. That won’t happen to us. How unfortunate. I remember Isaac saying, I won’t be your number one any more. It broke my heart and I didn’t want it to be true.
It is true.
Becoming a mother means shifting from Nymphette to Guardian of the Wellbeing of a Vulnerable Life. It means balancing five spinning plates whilst juggling on your toes. It means online shopping late at night and wearing a baby most of the day, leaving dishes undone and wet washing in the basket. It means realizing that you are a human being who needs to be touched, but not too much! (Your baby will be doing most of the touching.) It means accepting that you cannot give it all, that you cannot please everyone, that your back will hurt, your wrists will hurt, your shoulders will hurt, but they will get stronger. You will get spit up in your hair, bright orange, tumeric-colored baby poop on your clothes, and it will take some elbow grease to get that out. You will wake up during the night and develop new ways of entertaining a constantly evolving human.
You will learn to be spontaneous. You will learn to be helpful. You will learn to be responsive, response-able. You will learn how to wear your baby because it’s best for them and you. You will go for long stretches without food without realizing. You may get incredibly thirsty (and soaking wet) from breastfeeding. It’s likely that you will love your body more after giving birth – mostly because of the respect you will feel for it, producing and then nourishing your incredible new baby. You won’t ever have the same body again. You won’t ever have the same relationship again. You will probably mourn this. You might celebrate this.
I was surprised at how much things changed. But they keep changing.
How do we lovers cope with this unspoken shift, the changing of the spotlight from each other, towards the gaze of a creature you would do anything for? I have wept inexplicable tears whilst looking at my son. The love I feel for him is frustratingly indescribable. But the love I have for Isaac? It feeds me. You will need to be fed. Your partner may feel isolated, neglected, far away. Keep communicating, keep sharing how it is for you. If you feel something spikey growing between you, talk about it. Even if you don’t have words. Start talking. Just share. You will come together one morning in tears, and together the same night in love.
This is what I’ve learnt it means to be in a partnership, to be a parent. A glorious mess. Constantly evolving.