I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but I found myself getting caught up in that well-known downward spiral of perfectionism… I wanted to write but it had been long enough that I wanted what I wrote to be significant and amazing, so I stalled…and on and on the cycle went…only each time I wanted to write, the content had to be exponentially more amazing than the previous time. So one day, at a relative low, I cracked open a bottle of pink moscato and just wrote.
Let me recap: I had a baby – an actual, real life BABY! He grew inside of me and after a painful and (I can proudly say) a drugless 5-hour labor, he somehow made it out into the world. I kept looking at him in awe thinking, “Whoa – he’s really a real REAL baby – like a BABY baby.” Even as I was being wheeled out of the hospital (turns out, you’re not allowed to walk out – hospital policy), I kept thinking, “So wait, they’re just going to let me leave with this baby? That’s IT? I can just HAVE him?” I guess when you wait until you’re 36 to have your first baby, the whole process seems much more unnatural and strange. As it was, I felt like I was downright stealing a baby. Even after I felt every moment of searing pain to get him out of me, he still didn’t feel like mine. He’s been with me for 12 weeks now and I often wake up to see him next to me in bed and think, “Who are you and how did you just suddenly get here in my life?” It’s not an angry thought – it’s purely a curious thought. How the heck did those 10 increasingly fatter months lead to this ever-growing little life?
As far as babies go, I think I got lucky. He’s what the nurses called an early smiler, and he smiles pretty much any time I or anyone smiles at him…which is pretty darn cool and awesome and funny and great. To have this little face smiling at me – even if it’s 3am – is soul-filling. I’m pretty sure someone could live longer if they were deprived of food but had baby smiles every day…pretty sure. So Jack was born on his actual due date – which Google claims is only 4% of babies – making him the top 4% of punctual people on the planet. Other than that, I try very very hard not to be the mom who compares her baby to everyone else while insisting that he is smarter and more alert and more developed than average (which I’m convinced he is). It must have been the negative stereotypes, but the Baby Einstein moms who play nonstop foreign language and Mozart to ensure their baby’s superiority completely turns me off and gives me the heebie jeebies. I sing and dance with Jack, but I’ve decided that he’ll let me know when he’s ready to learn things and I will TRY not compare him to anyone else. That said, in these last 12 weeks, I have only come into contact with 3 other newborns. The first seemed super chubby and I was glad Jack wasn’t, the second had a humungous head and I was glad Jack didn’t, and the third was a super cute girl (his cousin) and even then I was glad I had a boy…so I’m 0 for 3 on comparing. Even the doctor’s office seems to encourage comparison – they printed stats about Jack saying that he is in the 90th percentile for length, the 20th percentile for his head (explaining why the big headed baby seemed so big-headed), and the 40th percentile for weight…so I can’t help but compare right away – average weight but super long body with a smaller-than-average head.
What a crazy journey it’s been up to this point. I sometimes think about writing a book about surviving the Army. I can look at the last 10 years and see a clear love/hate relationship with the U.S. Army. It tore my marriage apart; it supported me; it gave; it took; it took back; it gave again. In the end, it’s been like most circumstances in this world – it’s not so much about the institution itself so much as how I responded to it and what I chose to do with it. When I felt and acted like a victim, I was most certainly its rag doll puppet. When I rose up and took control and used it to my benefit, I found myself abundantly satisfied.
Though there were times I never ever thought I’d be a mom in this life, I look at my little man (who really is quite long), and find myself amazed at this crazy life. All the turns and speed bumps and dead ends and detours I’ve taken, my path seems less-than-straight. I’ve messed up, made mistakes, started over, apologized, forgiven (myself and others), started over again, and found myself lost on countless occasions. And yet, I have a healthy, handsome, smiling baby boy. It’s quite a thing, this life. I’ve stopped trying to second guess it, and have started accepting with open hands the gifts I’m given. I’ve been given friends from all over the world, a body which seems to heal from just about anything, a heart which has proven resilient beyond expectation, and a little life that has been trusted to me. Wow. Life is certainly unexpected and fickle and inexplicable…and wonderful.
OH – I forgot to explain my “relative low” that got me to crack open the pink moscato. I’m chalking it up to the standard adjustment a new mom goes through…that of shedding her old life view and everything that goes along with it. I stopped and looked at myself in a public mirror today, and saw nursing bra straps hanging out, frizzy hair sticking out from under my hat above each ear, 18 or so extra pounds, and an overall unkept appearance. It’s that frumpy, frazzled, and fatigued self – the triple F-word threat – that takes some getting used to and patience. I think my immediate future holds squats, lunges, situps, some naps, and most definitely more moscato!