Ten weeks ago I was furiously cleaning my house in anticipation of possibly going into labor, though I had no idea that I would actually give birth in just a couple of days. My swollen feet matched my ripe belly, and I was fueled purely by frustration. I did not love being pregnant. I did not believe this baby would actually ever show up. I had grown apprehensive about the prospect of labor and delivery, and about what it would mean to have a child. My partner and I had different ideas about what was important to get done in anticipation of adding a new person to our lives, and hormones dictated that I loathe him at that stage in my pregnancy. It is a biological imperative. Human men ought to be glad that women don’t literally kill them after intercourse or exile them to live with a different pack/pride/pod/etc. after producing offspring.
Work had been kicking my ass for a month. There was a panicked push to meet deadlines and get everything neatly wrapped up to hand off to someone else for my twelve week absence, and clients on the west coast that needed assistance late in the evening while those on the east coast required early morning attention. I routinely stayed up working until almost midnight in those last few weeks, and leaped (lurched, really… stumbled, shuffled slowly) from bed as the early morning light was just peeking through my bedroom windows. My body was enormous and my bladder tiny, so it’s not like I was really sleeping anyway. I was meeting myself coming and going, and the hormonal rage that had been a hallmark of my pregnancy surged to dangerous levels. I was always surprised when they checked my blood pressure and it was within normal range.
I cleaned my house for four hours that day, shoving furniture around and awkwardly lowering myself to my hands and knees to scrub this or that, cussing like the lead role in a Tarantino film. It is not advised for such a heavily pregnant woman to clean with chemicals, or to move furniture, or to be on her feet for hours and hours. But my innermost hillbilly—my default setting— had risen to the surface and taken over at that point, all screaming and expletives, throwing beer bottles at people who dared question me in any capacity.
Today, I am sitting in my bath robe drinking late morning coffee. Dog hair floats in the air. The sun is shining so I can see dried breast milk droplets on the table next to me where my breast pump resides full time. There is a changing pad with baby poop on it lying on the floor next to the pack ‘n play, a quick in-the-moment discard from right at bedtime last night. The house is cleaner than a lot of houses, and I am okay with this new threshold. I cleaned the upstairs yesterday, and rearranged some of the furniture. That gives me enough sense of accomplishment to stave off the “you should be doing this” gremlins for a while.
Life with a new baby happens in snippets. Every moment is precarious and unpredictable, a metaphor for life in general. A glorious exchange with giggling and cooing can devolve within seconds. And then, out of nowhere, the little ball of joy who was just melting your heart with his bright light has suddenly shit his pants so fiercely that it exploded all the way up to his shoulder blades. And he’s remarkably chill about it, but that special bonding time has passed, and now you have to make some real-time decisions about what to do next. Strip his shit-soaked clothes? Put him in the bath with his clothes on? Strip your own clothes and get in the shower with him? Put him in a galvanized tub on the back porch? Call his dad home from work? Leave him by the curb and see if anyone comes along to pick him up?
I haven’t bothered trying super hard to catch the sound of my son’s laughter on camera because I don’t want to waste one single millisecond of that moment with him. I would rather soak it in myself, remain engaged with him, file it away in my soul for use later when I am away from him or when his neediness is testing my sleep-deprived limits. Just this morning he squealed with glee for the first time in the midst of a hard-won laughing fit. He hasn’t been feeling well for a couple of days, and after he puked up a lot of what he’d just eaten, I animatedly pretended to vomit. He thought that was hysterical. And for fifteen seconds, he laughed, he squealed, and I kept doing the same ridiculous motion over and over to keep that train running for as long as I could, to hold tightly to a moment that is unavoidably fleeting.
So much has happened in the past few weeks. I gave birth to my own heart embodied, this perfect little nugget that has awakened in me instincts and passions that I had no idea existed. These days have been long and sometimes thankless, but always so much more rewarding than I expected. I laid to rest two significant people from my life within days of Leo’s birth: one, the weekend before he was born; the other, just a few days into his little life. Death and life juxtaposed have this way of blowing away the cobwebs from your self-awareness, highlighting what is important to you and letting the insignificant stuff fall away.
The floors need cleaned, the dog needs brushed, there are three loads of laundry on the basement floor, some coding needs fixed on this site, there is a work project I probably should start easing into, and I haven’t showered since Thursday. Not even a quick “I’ll squat in the tub and clean the important parts” or a partial shower. Even still. I think I’ll keep sitting here, listening to the hum of the dishwasher, sipping my cold coffee, and watching my baby sleep on my chest.