April 5, 2007

Getting to know Mom

It's hard for me to believe, but I've successfully kept Evangeline alive for over two weeks now.

Of course, I can't take all the credit. Sam unlocked his latent super-Dad gene, and my mother just left town two days ago. Nonetheless, I feel proud of my accomplishments in the field of motherhood.

I regret that I haven't written anything in two weeks, because somewhere along the way, I feel like I've become a new person. I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I started thinking like a mother (it wasn't the moment she was born - I was still just me, except I had a messy little human flailing on my chest), but I can tell you about some of the things that have changed in that time:

My definition of "small." Before Evie was born, I would fawn over the little dresses and onesies that people sent us, remarking how cute and tiny they were. When we brought her home, she weighed less than 6 1/2 pounds, and those tiny dresses looked like comically proportioned muumuus.

When we set Evie down in her crib for the first time, she looked like a tiny leaf adrift in the ocean. When I see 6-month old babies in public (or even worse, playing newborns on TV), they look positively enormous to me. Someday, Evie will be that size - heck, someday she might be taller than me - but for now, I am comfortable holding her entire body along my forearm.

My relationship with sleep. I've always been a sleep enthusiast, an avid sleeper who relishes the sensual pleasures of down comforters, dark bedrooms, and mornings without alarm clocks.

Pregnancy rocked my relationship with sleep, as I found myself rolling my giant belly out of uncomfortable positions every couple of hours. But whoever said that the sleepless nights of pregnancy prepare you for the sleepless nights of parenthood was crazy.

This is a completely different kind of sleeplessness.

Physically, I can get comfortable. I can get soooo comfortable, in fact, that I have dozed off on the couch, on my rocking chair, in bed with my head wedged against the headboard, and (almost) while standing in the shower.

Falling asleep is not a problem. Staying asleep is the tricky part.

Evie has slept in her crib, in the nursery, every night since she was three days old. Nonetheless, every time I wake up, I panic about her safety and whereabouts. On numerous occasions, Sam has found me frantically uprooting the bedding, looking for the baby, even after he reassures me that she is snoozing peacefully across the hall. I feared he might send me to the home for crazy mothers, until one night I caught him in a sleepy haze, doing the exact same thing.

We're incredibly fortunate to have a baby who will sleep 4-5 hours, uninterrupted, at night. I wish that I could say the same for her mother. Every little crackle of the baby monitor stirs me awake, and when I do snooze, I dream about the same things I fret about in waking life - feeding baby, taking care of baby, neglecting my pets to the point of despair.

My attitude toward body parts and their natural functions. I wasn't exactly a prude before having a baby, but I do think I lost some innocence somewhere around the delivery room.

My modesty about my own body was the first to go. After I went from giving birth in a surprisingly crowded room, to having various medical professionals "check on" me repeatedly for the next few days, I wondered why I should bother getting dressed at all when it was always time for another feeding. And while I still haven't mustered up the courage to nurse Evie in public, I'm rapidly expanding the list of friends who get to see my breasts without a prelude of tequila shots.

Once I became totally comfortable with my own body, I was surprised again to discover how easily I adapted to Evie's. After my early fears that I was starving my child, her first wet diaper seemed an accomplishment worthy of international acclaim. It suddenly feels perfectly appropriate to discuss my daughter's digestive processes with friends (I try to restrict these conversations to other parents, but it's not easy), and it's hard to contain my giggles at the look of satisfaction on Evie's face when she has just filled up a diaper.

It's strange, feeling myself become this new person.

Last week, someone from my doctor's office left a voice mail on my cell phone. The message was for "Evangeline's mom." It took me a moment to realize that it wasn't a wrong number or a mistaken identity. Evangeline's mom is a real person. At the moment, she's as new to me as the tiny person sleeping in the crib, but if the first two weeks are any indication, I think I'm going to enjoy being Mom.

No comments: