In the early days and weeks of Owen's life, when I was up every two hours, then three hours, to attempt to nurse him, and then pump extra milk from my confused boobs so I could bottle-feed him the rest, I truly believed there would never be an end. That every two hours for the rest of my life, I'd spend an hour, at least, feeding my child.
I was heavily sleep deprived. I was deliriously in love with and in awe of my child, but fuck, I was tired.
The thought of leaving my house with him felt terrifying. Nursing him was a fickle process. I was clumsy and he was clumsier. I'd have to haul the pump with me or maybe a spare bottle of precious pumped milk just in case.
I'd attempt outings in the painfully short amount of time I knew I'd have between his hunger cues. I'd push my cart through Target, anxiety tight in my chest, just hoping he'd stay asleep. The thought of having to change him or nurse him anywhere but the comfort and confines of the rocking chair in his nursery paralyzed me.
That forest felt very thick. THIS WAS MY LIFE NOW. I was convinced. Though, to be honest, I'm such a homebody that the idea of being trapped at home forever wasn't entirely awful. But still.
I'm happy to report I've cleared many paths through that forest and have nursed in the middle of the night in bed at my parents' house, on the couch in front of family on Christmas Eve, in a bedroom at my in-law's, and in the backseat of my Jeep in the Menard's parking lot.
IT GETS EASIER.
I easily pump at 3-hour intervals at work so he has bottles for the following day at daycare. Owen can nurse without issue. I no longer feel entirely self-conscious when my 6-year-old stepdaughter inevitably watches me pull out my boob to feed Owen in his room while she insists I look at her latest sticker collection.
"Want to see my new stickers?"
Sure, want to see my boob?
It's perfect harmony.
This week Todd and I went out to dinner on a Monday night and I didn't panic (too much). I nursed Owen in the backseat before we went in, and he marveled at all the bright lights and colors once we went inside. He was fine, I was fine, we were fine.
IT WAS FINE.
I mean, it's been more than three months, hopefully it's fine. But I'm so relieved that it's fine. Because in the early days... I wondered whether anything would feel normal. What I was feeling at the time wasn't bad, but, like, I missed going out for tacos, okay?
And for the record, I'm not opposed to nursing in public, in case you haven't noticed the nursing-in-the-backseat trend. I just like doing it within the confines of my own comfort zone. I've actually got a couple pretty nice nursing covers, but if I have the option to pull my boobs out in private, rather than before a busy Monday night taco crowd, I'mma choose the backseat of my car.
Plus, I'm messy. He's messy. It's just better for everyone. But you guys go ahead and let your boob flags fly.
So, I just wanted to go on record as saying it got easier. If I'm ever in that place again or someone somewhere is in that place, THE HARD PART ENDS. Well, the hard part evolves. I realize there are new hard parts. Shout out to all the super helpful* people who love to tell new parents, "Oh, you think that's hard? Wait until this," and then rattle off all the ways parenting is miserable.
*Not actually helpful; shut the hell up, would you?
There are many other things I never expected of myself in motherhood that surprise me daily. My mama rage, for one, although that one was kind of a given, considering how fiercely protective I am of everything I own, from my money to my dog.
But wow, I'm ruthless.
At daycare, one of the other tiny humans apparently called Owen dumb while he was crying during tummy time. Outside, I chuckled and sighed. Inside, I was on the hunt for a 2-year-old so I could beat his ass.
NO ONE CALLS MY BABY DUMB.
If anyone is sick around my baby, I practically hide Lysol in their breakfast cereal just to keep that shit away from my baby.
YOU'RE SICK? YOU'RE SICK? WHY DON'T YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, JERK?
I live in fear Owen getting sick. I don't know why I'm so scared of it, I just am. I know it's inevitable, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't take the actions I can to prevent it as long as possible. Like, just wash your goddamn hands, you know?
Because when he inevitably gets sick, do you know who will be up with him, worrying and feeding and taking him to doctor appointments and losing sleep? Me. And boyyyyy, will I worry.
My anxiety has reached NEW LEVELS with motherhood, and it was pretty real before. I'm afraid to leave other people in charge of him for fear of what I would do to them, if something happened to him. There are exceptions, of course, like Todd. Or my parents, who are wonderful with him. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry even when I leave Owen with his very own father. For no reason other than I am me.
I know this baby inside and out. I spent every waking and sleeping moment with him for the first nine weeks of his life. I know his smell and his cries and every new expression he discovers on his perfectly round face. Giving up control of his well-being is very, very hard for me.
Todd wants us to try moving him to his crib for sleeping this weekend and I simply, flat-out don't want to. I just don't. I don't feel ready. The peace of mind I have when I can open one eye to catch his rhythmic, sleeping breathing at any point in the night is a comfort I can't explain.
I joke that I won't move him until he's 10, and that truly is a joke, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to move him at 3-and-a-half months, either. I just... I can't.
Also, as the one in charge of waking up and caring for the baby at any hour of the night, my vote is a pretty solid one. It's much easier to soothe a baby with one arm over the edge of (my side of) the bed than it is to get up, walk down the hall, and handle a crying infant who now just wants to be held since I came all that way.
I NEVER EXPECTED TO BE THIS MOTHER. Yet here we are. YES, I know everyone sleeps better once he's in his own room. YES, I know moving to a crib is wildly successful in most cases. YES, I know all of the anecdotes.
But here's the thing: [shrug]
I won't sleep better. Not for a while. I'll worry. I'll stare at the monitor. I'll want to get up every time he makes a peep. I'll be mad that I'm even doing it. I'll lose sleep. I'll cry. Hands down, 100 percent, I will cry. I cry.
I'll move him when I'm mentally ready. Or I'll move a bed into his nursery. For myself.
Or I'll wait until he's 10, as ORIGINALLY STATED.
Leave me alone. I'll be ready when the time comes.
Someone asked me recently if I felt different now that I had a baby. Someone asked me yesterday if being a mother, so far, was as I expected it to be.
My answers are this: no and no.
I don't feel differently, as a person. Sure, some of the ways I mother are much different than I expected (you know, the rage and the bedroom guest), but I feel no differently about who I am.
Being a mom is kind of awesome. Mostly because I am still me. I still feel like I'm too young and awkward to have a child. But here I am, having one and doing a good job. Sometimes I look at him and honestly, truly cannot believe he's mine. I AM A MOM. But I still have the same thoughts, the same opinions, the same beliefs, the same goals. I can still have the same conversations and enjoy the same things.
The one thing that's truly different is my appreciation for pictures of newborns. I'm fascinated by them. It tugs my heartstrings when I think about my own experience of that very same moment.
But I still don't like loud kids. Mean kids. Messy kids. Most kids. I didn't just, like, miraculously become a saint because now I have a kid. Surely he'll be messy and loud one day (I refuse to accept that he'll be mean; I just won't let it happen), but I won't like it. I'll like him, but he has the benefit of being mine. I don't have to like other peoples' loud, messy kids.
And so far, in my 14 short weeks, being a mother is not what I expected. It's... better? Which sounds incredibly nauseating and pretentious, but it's better because I'm still me. I really did anticipate this otherworldly change in myself when I became a mom. That suddenly I wouldn't recognize myself and neither would the people in my life.
I mean, sure. They maybe don't recognize my Instagram feed that's shifted from all things dog to all things baby, but I can't help it I birthed the cutest baby who ever lived, NOW CAN I?
I was nervous about how much would change once I became a mom, but other than logistics and a love as expansive as every possible galaxy, not much changed. It feels better and it feels easier than I anticipated.
I made a person. I am his mom. I like it.