A few weeks back, I was at a pig roast with my 3-month old son when a woman asked me what one thing has changed the most since I had a baby? What happened to my brain the second she asked that could only be called mental paralysis. Every synapses misfired and I was left with just a blinding, twirling list of answers that refused to organize themselves into a cognizant response.
Cate Blanchett's answer to a similar question was that having children is close to being reincarnated. Your life is altered so fundamentally, you are very nearly a new human being. I like her answer. I want to steal it.
In the interest of elaboration, I want to explore this further. What has changed the most?
My life is unimportant beyond the needs of my child. There are plenty of magazines and talk shows and books that will tell you how important it is to make time for yourself when you have a young baby, which is supercute advice, but so unrealistic as to be laughable. While this state of self-negation is temporary, it is reality. I am not important beyond the well-being necessary to provide for Atticus. I wake when he wakes, I eat when he lets me, I sit when he allows it, I plan every moment of my life around him. That balance will slowly shift as he continues to grow and gain independence. But for now, I am in his service.
We now eat in shifts. I overheard a friend talking about some crazy, delicious meal meal she and her husband had eaten the other day and the thing that was the most intriguing to me about it was that they had eaten at the same time. I forgot people did that. My husband and I eat in shifts, usually me first because my husband is nice.
All things are scary. The fear for a child's life and well-being is so everpresent, the world becomes a monster full of teeth and snarls and claws. I have horrific dreams at least once a week in which terrible, terrible things happen to my baby. I wake from them sure that I will make some dreadful mistake with consequences I cannot live with.
Heart transplant. I don't have a sentence for that one. All I can say is that when you have a baby, your heart and center live outside of you and it's a terrifying way to live. The number of bad things that can happen to someone suddenly feel quite present and feasible. I know this is similar to my previous paragraph, but it's slightly different. I don't mean just physical danger here, though that falls into this as well. Example: my son was laying on his grandparents' bed and a number of his cousins were scrambling around him, playing, squealing, enjoying their little lives. One of them accidentally kneed my boy in the head mid-scramble. When Atticus started wailing, I wanted to change the infrastructure of the universe to make him stop. I didn't really want to hurt the cousin who did it, but the impulse toward protection was so strong that it scared me a little bit. That heart sits out there too clumsily. I cannot rein it in.
Time as an abstract becomes more abstract. Some weeks back, the time changed, but my son and I have no real concept of that. Sure, it changes the time I leave for the classes I teach on Tuesday and Thursday morning, but those few days are not enough of a marker to really signal for me that the world is altered. Again, I wake up when my son wakes up. I sleep when he sleeps (hopefully). That we have gained or lost an hour means nothing as we hold to his erratic sleeping schedule. There is no more or less daylight hours for us.
The stores I go to, oh, how they've changed. Much of these entries overlap; that cannot be helped. Furthering the idea that my life is unimportant (for now), I now find myself in Gymboree, the Children's Place, and Once Upon a Child far more often than the Gap or Banana Republic. I have become learned in the ways of considering a child's future size and weight and the price I am willing to pay for that swiftly-changing body.
The foreclosure of thinking. I love the line from White Oleander when the mother says of the experience of having a new baby: "I was used to having time to think." Not only did I have time to think, I had time to write, to ruminate, to malappropriate, to create, to wonder, to wallow, to brew, to listen, to fume, to submit, to conjoin, to divide, to conquer, and all other sorts of infinitive verbs. Now I am lucky if I can remember to refill the toilet paper roll in the bathroom.
I am that mother. While I try to retain a sense of self, my blog and my Facebook persona reflect nothing so strongly as my changed status in life as a mother. It is central to who I am now. It is the ever-present subject of my life and I am probably boring people with it. I know my Facebook picture should be of me and not always my son. And I know I should use my blog to remind myself that I more than just a milk-delivery system, but for now, this is who I am. For now, I am that mother.
The strongest arms you've ever done seen. Not only are my forearms and biceps unusually strong now, they are more adept at one-handed or one-armed acts. Formerly two-handed acts like making coffee, emptying the trash, and checking e-mail are now one-handed feats.
There are more, but my husband has been minding our littlest one this morning while I took the time to write this and he would probably like an opportunity to have his temporary independence this morning before we begin another day of sublimating our lives in the interest of our son's development. We do it completely, if not always cooperatively. And it's worth it. My sister-in-law calls motherhood "the best job there is." I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but I will say it's the most challenging and the most interesting even as there are days full of boredom. Would I reincarnate as a mother again? Some days, yes, some days, no. Today? Today, I don't even have time to consider it.