“Wow, you look like you just survived a plane crash,” said my relentlessly honest friend as I staggered out of bed at 9:30 a.m., red eyed and disheveled, after yet another sleep deprived night. No, blessedly no plane crash, just a 2-week-old baby who has yet to embrace the joys of sleep.
Based on my postpartum experiences, a plane crash is a pretty solid metaphor.
Immediately after birth, I was filled with survivor-like gratitude. The, “Oh thank God, we did it, we’re A-L-I-V-E! Hand me my lipstick. Can I have a beverage now please?” kind of gratitude. After a day or two, that bliss gives way to sheer exhaustion, and for a couple of weeks, all systems are simply down.
My moods, like control panels, fluctuate between deceivingly calm and steady to extremely unstable. I find myself in sleep starved realities that hover just north of psychosis, and I face deeply unsettling nose dives into some of the darker spaces of myself. Thank God for my mother (11 time grandmother), and my husband for their good humor and willingness to take over and keep the cabin pressure stable. Without them, the rest of the crew would be emotional goners.
My support staff keeps us cruising at a reasonable altitude while I slowly resurface a little more full time, slightly less turbulent. By day 10, I’m feeling like I’m over-qualified for the job of staying in bed with my babe and being served, so I get out of the house, run some errands, do a little carpooling, which, in my zeal to return to the pre-pregnant version of myself, often leads to an actual crash. My team, well versed in the drama of me, lets me crash, because they know that this part of rebuilding myself. I know it, too, but in the moment where perspective should be, there is only heavy front winds.
Buckle up kids, Mommy is having a melt-down.
Me crashing looks pretty much how it sounds: A big ruckus, followed by raging tears, and maybe some she-wolf like snarling if my husband happens to be nearby. He usually gets it for the same reason every time–after 15 years of marriage, he still can’t manage to be in more than one place at a time, and although he has participated in the birth of all five of our children, he has failed to lactate every time.
All of this fuss is usually followed by a surprisingly anti-climatic collapse. And then, after a small slot of undisturbed sleep–it’s amazing what an hour or two of sleep will do for the spirit–I’m back on track replete with repentant hugs for everyone and ready for my next meal.
There are mornings, even on little sleep, that I don’t look quite so post traumatic. And I think that has to do with the fact that our new and tiny little Captain is exceedingly cute. I once heard that God makes things that are little so cute so that we’ll want to take care of them. I thank Him profusely for that.
It’s so funny that for all of the control that I impose on my life–meal plans, early bed time, strategically planned family outings to coincide with aforementioned early bedtimes–at the end of the day, it is this fearless little pilot who ultimately sets the course for this whole experience. She smiles at totally inappropriate times, flails like Joe Cocker on stage, and is totally incontinent–yet my world stops for her.
She is our metronome. As little and as needy as she is, she is to a large extent holding the bulk of the reins. Although she is utterly dependant on me for well, everything, (and I happen to find this particular point absolutely endearing) she still sets my pace. If I want to go grocery shopping and she wants to eat, then we stop to eat. If I want to make a stir fry but she needs a diaper change, diaper change pulls rank. If I want to sleep and she wants to party, party on.
I remember reading a quote from a doctor (whose name escapes me) who said, “There is no such thing as a baby. There’s only a baby and somebody else.” I love that I get to be her somebody else. I think that’s the piece that makes mothering so profound and final. If anyone else would wake me screaming incoherently, covered in their own vomit and soil, I may reconsider my options. But she’s mine and she’s utterly lost without me. She can’t even lift her head, God bless. The thought of her vulnerability and dependence is what makes me a mother and subsequently has me melting for her time and time again. Even with my eyes at half-mast and that “just crashed hard” look I would do anything for her.
With hopes of clear skies ahead, travel safe brave Mommas.
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