In Which Words Fail Me
January 23, 2006
Before Noah was born, people used to tell me that having a child is like having your heart living outside of your body.
And I would nod because, yeah, I can totally see that. Their joy is your joy, their hurt is your hurt, blah blah weepcakes.
But then Noah was born, and this sentiment doesn't even come close.
My love for him is so visceral and deep that it's almost violent. It consumes me. It makes me want to swallow him whole. To put him back in my womb where he belonged exclusively to me, where I could keep him safe and secure.
Now that Noah is here, I feel like someone scraped off the top layer of my skin and created a little person with it.
I feel everything that he feels -- every hug, kiss and mean old needle prick. And I'm standing over here with no skin at all -- raw, exposed and vulnerable.
Being Noah's mom is like nothing I ever expected.
I expected to be sleep deprived, since that's the favorite horror story people love to tell pregnant women. (YOU WILL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. YOU WILL PRAY FOR DEATH INSTEAD.) I figured I'd get maybe two hours of sleep a day and be grateful for it. Instead, I got a baby who sleeps through the night 90% of the time. (The 3 am feeding snafu of last week has been rendered moot by the irresponsible introduction of the abusive rice cereal.) He lets us sleep in on the weekends as long as he's in bed with us in the morning, spooned against my chest, with his arms outstretched and his fingers curled around his daddy's hands.
I never expected to find the sounds of two snoring men in my bed to be so damn comforting.
I expected to never leave the house again. Instead, we found a great babysitter almost immediately. And we got a baby with such predictable eating and sleeping patterns that we can take him out to (appropriate) restaurants knowing he'll sleep the entire time, and even if he does wake up, he loves watching people and is so damn smiley and good-natured that the waitstaff and people at the next table over routinely ask to hold him and fuss over him, even if they gave us dirty looks when we walked in, carseat in tow.
I expected a small chubby baby. Instead, I got a humongous boy, all lean and muscular, who wears six- to nine-month sized clothing already and looks just like a little man when we dress him in jeans and hoodies and MY GOD, I can't keep his feet out of my mouth.
I didn't expect my baby to be kind of gross. I thought babies just kind of stayed perfectly smooth and white and sweet on their own. Instead, I spend hours mopping up big lines of drool and clipping his talon-like nails and cleaning his ear wax and digging out boogers and picking lint out of his toes and scrubbing his underarms and wiping dried spit-up out of his neck rolls. Other women talk about how they don't even think their babies' poop smells. My baby's poop smells. Bad. And I'm always a little relieved when he has his daily diaper-rattling poop at daycare and I don't have to deal with it.
I didn't realize it was possible to be so intimately acquainted with someone's hind-end business and still think that they are the most beautiful and delicious person on the entire planet.
I didn't expect my baby to be so smart. I didn't expect it to take every fiber of my being to not be one of those parents who won't shut up about how advanced their baby is. Babies develop at their own pace. Delays are not the end of the world. I didn't ask about his APGARs until he was three days old because honestly, who the fuck cares? But oh my GOD, this child has the verbal skills of a six-month-old and can sit unsupported momentarily and balances on his legs like a real live person and reaches for toys and rolls over in both directions and blows bubbles and opens his mouth for a spoonful of cereal and plays with his feet and amuses himself with rattles and seriously, when you look in his eyes he's just trying to figure you out and the little wheels are turning and...wow. Where did this big giant brain of his come from, and how do I not fuck him up with my own numbskullness and reality TV habit?
I expected to be able to make my baby laugh. Babies have always liked me, and I am the creator of the famous "OOPS" game, a game that has gone down in my family's history as one of the most hilarious things ever. To play, you will need: one ultra-patient Aunt Amy, one little baby niece named Allie, one of those plastic stacking rings. Put ring on baby's head. Wait for ring to fall off baby's head. Say "OOPS" when ring falls off baby's head. Wait for baby's hysterical laughter to die down, put ring back on baby's head. REPEAT ONE FRILLION MILLION TIMES.
Jason can make Noah laugh. His daycare teachers make him laugh deep, ringing belly laughs just by talking to him. It's absolutely amazing to witness. But I cannot make him laugh. I can evoke beautiful and beaming smiles -- full-body smiles that involve the flailing and drawing in of limbs, but he won't laugh at me, no matter how stupid I act for him.
I expected to maybe feel weird about being a mom sometimes. To fight the tendency to let it define me. I never expected that, on my very first night out with a girlfriend at a bar last week, I'd whip out the camera phone to show off pictures of Noah to every single person who spoke to me because I simply could not help it, BEHOLD WHAT I HAVE WAITING FOR ME BACK AT HOME.
I expected breastfeeding to suck. And...well, it does. It certainly never went like I wanted it to, although I kind of always expected my supply to suck absurd amounts of ass. But I never expected breastfeeding, in the rare, precious moments when it works just fine, to be such a powerful bonding experience. Nursing is no longer about food. When he's hungry, he wants eight solid ounces of milk and has no patience for the four ounces or so that I can provide. But when he wakes up in the night or early morning, or when we arrive home after a long day apart, or when I accidentally ding his head on the door frame, or when the dog jumps on his chest and scares him, he immediately reaches for my shirt, mouth open and panting, his eyes searching my face in a plaintive plea for boob, Mama, boooob.
I never, ever expected to love him so damn much.