This morning, I woke up with a toddler’s foot on my neck. I had just enough room on the bed not to fall off of it, and my clothes were slightly damp from the postpartum night sweats that have been making me feel extra cute lately. I woke up my other son (he’s a new addition—only 12 days old!), fed him until he passed out, and then spent time changing diapers and taking things from my toddler that he knows he should not have. My glasses. A fireplace poker. A fireplace shovel. I’m writing now with my baby in a bouncer, and my toddler literally hanging from my neck and attempting to type on my computer.
In other words, my morning has gone the way that I expect it will continue to go for the foreseeable future.
If you want to feel your most philosophical, have a baby. In my experience, there’s nothing else that will make one feel as extraordinarily introspective or reflective. Aware of the passage of time and the ways in which it seems to move too fast or too slow, all in the same day. Hyper-sensitive to one’s perceived flaws and actual flaws and rarely willing to recognize what one’s doing right. Focused on one's own home and family in a supremely intense way that doesn't feel selfish so much as absolutely necessary.
There doesn’t seem to be any other time of life—at least, life as I’ve lived it—quite like this.
Is there any other feeling similar to those first newborn days, when you feel simultaneously as if you’ve re-claimed parts of yourself that you had temporarily ceded and as if you’ve signed large parts of yourself away until…until the incremental stages of newborn development slowly start loosening the reins the teensiest bit? I’m luxuriating in being able to bend over without pain and in eating what I want and sleeping on my back again, but various and sundry sore body parts remind me that the demands placed on my body are just as high now. (Maybe higher?) Breasts are working breasts again. My head is muddied from the small chunks of sleep that I furtively take, and my vagina is recovering from doing the real and glorious work of vaginal labor for the first time.
When moments of marveling and studying remind you that you’re working so hard for an independent being, someone who will grow bigger and stronger, someone who will shortly be crawling and walking and playing with his brother and making you angry and proud for the things that he’s choosing to do, all on his own? Raising a toddler at the same time as a newborn makes this trajectory even clearer. Or the flashes of amazement you feel when you contemplate pregnancy and labor in general, and the miracle of creating and loving and adding someone beautiful and special to the world?
When it feels as if the days are so short, and the approach of night brings on a vague feeling that’s somewhat like dread and yearning and desperation, all because you remember what it was like to get several hours of sleep in a row? And don’t get me started on the glares and ridiculously overblown huffs that you can level at your sleeping partner. I’ve never felt so petty; I've also never been so aware that some things are strictly my responsibility, my privilege.
When you realize that it’s not the two of you anymore, or even the three of you, but the four, and two children are depending on you for everything. Everything. Their food and their clean diapers and their happiness and well-being. You could really do great work here; you could really screw them up. And the realization that two children are your everything; that your happiness and well-being is intimately tied to theirs.
This is going to be interesting. And fun. And terrifying. And humbling, frustrating, and bewildering. And it’s already the best thing to happen to us.