Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not the Girl You Think You Are

"You're not the girl you think you are / someone's standing in your place / the bathroom mirror makes you look tall / but it's all in your head, in your head"

Diana is one month old today. Since she was born, she has gained two pounds and has grown an inch and a half taller. She is the cutest baby in the whole wide world and not just because she still sometimes sleeps for four hours at a stretch, mercifully between midnight and 4 AM. She has just begun smiling, cooing, and gurgling and making sounds that seem like real attempts at talking. I thought she even laughed once, at some stupid song I made up to calm her because she hates having her diaper changed. Every day she does something new that makes me laugh or wonder or learn. And she's only a month old. I have longed to have this child for four years, maybe longer. Maybe all my life.

And yet . . .

This is really fucking hard. I know I have read this exact sentiment in many a mommy blog, and I thought I would have something original to say about it. I don't, except maybe for the profanity. And even THAT is unoriginal. I am just too tired for creative curse words that possibly involve donkey penises. Besides, this is a post about motherhood so I should keep the swearing to the barest minimum and get on with the whining already.

Yesterday I felt like motherhood had slammed me into a wall. It was 2 PM and I hadn't showered, brushed my teeth or hair, or changed out of my spitup-stained pajamas. I had accomplished nothing except feeding and changing the baby every two hours since 7 AM. My daughter, the Duchess of Eatington, was hungry just about every 90 minutes. When she wasn't eating, she was pooping [sweet gods the pooping] or fussy and fidgeting. She was not happy unless I was holding her or rocking her to sleep. I had to go to the bathroom with my child strapped to me in a mei tai. I've done my share of freaky shit in my time, but that was just WEIRD.

The house was a complete mess, with dishes piled up at the sink and swaddling blankets or washcloths draped everywhere. I generally keep a tidy household, but I try not to be too picky except for the kitchen. I absolutely must have a clean kitchen or I start losing my shit. And yesterday, I started losing my shit. Every time I thought the baby was asleep, I would put her down in her crib so I could clean the kitchen. She only slept in 20-minute intervals and needed changing, rocking, or feeding when she woke up. It took me nearly FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to do the dishes and clean the kitchen, but I did it. I rewarded myself with a shower while my daughter slept [FINALLY] in her cradle chair on the floor next to the tub.

The thing is, Diana is actually a really good baby and things are going great. Dusty and I have gotten into a groove again after the flurry of activity and visits in the last couple of weeks; we've even begun a nightly bedtime routine for Diana. We have heard horror stories from other parents: colicky babies who would wail for 48 CONTINUOUS hours, moms who couldn't produce enough milk to meet their babies' demands, dads who only slept two hours a night because one or the other of their kids would be awake and cranky. That I managed to not only clean the kitchen but also shower at some point during one of my worst days is apparently a triumph. But this parenthood gig is unlike anything I've ever done before. It's turning me inside out and forcing me to rethink who I thought I was.

I admit that I cannot do this alone; I have a newfound respect for single parents. I'm slowly learning to ask for help from Dusty and others when I actually need it, not when I've gotten too desperate to ask. I'm constantly checking myself so I can hold my shit together even when the baby is freaking out, or at least seem like I'm holding it together even when I am freaking out. I rock and walk and bounce and sing over and over and over, hour after hour, until the baby realizes she is tired after all and falls asleep.

I look in the mirror and do not see the Amazon Bitch Goddess I'm used to seeing. That girl needs nobody and doesn't want anybody to need her. In the mirror is someone trying really hard to become more humble, calm, and patient, to get used to needing people and being needed. I'm not sure I know who this girl is, but she is definitely somebody's mother.


"Not the Girl You Think You Are" by Crowded House

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