It is so hard to write about the experience of early motherhood while one is still in it. But I know I will not remember the details of it later. Writing about this is like trying to catch cobwebs, gossamer threads of thought that shimmer and then disappear when I try to catch them. Delicate, tender feelings that I want so much to remember. To leave a trace, so other new mothers who read this will know they are not alone. But my exhaustion leaves me clumsy and inarticulate, like I'm wearing big muddy clogs in the garden, stomping around and making a mess of the fragile strings.
I have heard that the first 6 weeks are the hardest. I have heard that the first three months of life with one's first baby is the hardest. I have heard friends who had the hardest time in the first 9 weeks, the first 8, the first 12. I was told that the only thing I could count on being consistent was the inconsistency. I was told not to expect to achieve more than one thing every day, and that one thing might be brushing my teeth.
At 6 weeks I thought I was doing great. I was starting to feel relatively rested. She was mostly sleeping through the night. I felt overwhelmingly in love. I felt confident that I could read my tiny girl's signals about what she wanted and needed. I was making lists of a handful of things to get done every day and mostly doing them. We were getting out to mama's groups and yoga and making new friends. We had settled into a rhythm. I got a little bit blasé. And then everything changed.
At 8 weeks she decided she didn't feel like sleeping during the day much any more. Or maybe at night either. I nurse her until my breasts ache and she she squirms and pulls and hits my breast. When I take her off to give my body a rest, she cries to tell me she's still hungry. None of the ways I used to be able to soothe her seem to work any more. I wrap her in the yards of stretchy fabric that hold her tight against my heartbeat and bounce and sway in the kitchen, walk circles around the bedroom. I bundle her in the stroller and walk the mile to the beach and back and around and around the grocery store. I put her in the car and we drive down the freeway with no destination in mind. And she's still awake. And hungry. She gained a pound and grew an inch between 6 and 8 weeks of age.
This week, at 8 and a half weeks, I have had moments of fervently wishing I could have my old life back again, pre-baby, pre-exhaustion. I want to sleep through the night. I want to be able to knit or pick up my journal and write in it any time I want. I want to eat more than crackers and trail mix for lunch. I want to again take for granted the idea of having a shower every single day.
But when she smiles at me - her newest skill - when she wakes up from her little cat nap I am utterly melted. And so I wrap her up in my arms and she snuggles in the way she does and makes her little baby noises and I go back to doing the mama dance and try to remember that this tiny baby period will only last a little while and that I will miss it - oh I will miss it - when it is done.