Until this past June, my life had pretty much been all about me. But then a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel/alien entered the world and co-opted my selfish instincts for himself. I suppose since his needs pertained to more life or death issues (“feed me or I’ll whither away”) than my own (“but I really want a beer right now”), this move was justified. But man is it an adjustment. The irony is that one of the reasons my husband and I decided to move into the “next phase of life” and have a kid was because we felt like our lives were becoming too much about us – we wanted to be more generous with our minds and time; worry about things other than our own increasingly repetitive issues; break the 20-turning-30-something habit of navel gazing and stare at someone else’s infinitely cuter navel. Careful what you wish for. Goodbye us and me — hello baby!
Let’s start with an example:
The other day nature called. But baby had fallen asleep on my front in the Baby Bjorn during our afternoon stroll. Solution? Sit on that porcelain God with baby strapped to my body, the entire time thinking this is wrong this is weird this is wrong ew ew ew. Baby survived un-disturbed, at least so we’ll pretend until the therapist bills roll in during his tweens because he “can’t seem to go without having a really uncomfortable feeling he can’t quite place.” Sorry future son.
And maybe one more because this is fun:
How about every second and every decision of every day. Can we leave for the Cape at 10? Nope, gotta wait until sweet pea is fed, otherwise he’ll lose his shizz in the hot traffic on 93. Can I wear that dress to that wedding? Nope, gotta find one with boob accessibility. Can we watch a movie? Nope, dear angel has reached his limit after 7 minutes of tummy time. Can I grab lunch with a colleague? Nope, sorry mama, you’ll need to guzzle that sandwich in one bite while leaning over the sink because the physical incarnation of the twinkle in our eyes is hungry/tired/frustrated/bored/does it matter why he’s crying?
But we (meaning anyone that has chosen to become a parent) asked for this, right? This is the full life we all imagined. Maybe we’ve traded in the white picket fence for a too-small parking spot in the city and the golden retriever for a plant that really is trying so hard to live (sorry Fitz), but the cherry on top of this blissful sundae has always been a child. A little photoshopped version of its parents to carry the torch into the future long after our own light has gone out.
Is there any more optimistic move than to introduce a new life into this muddled world? Or, I suppose, (enter double-irony) more selfish move?
We wanted this human to remind us that there is more to existence than worrying about where we live, what job we have, what our title is, what our salary is, whether we’re good enough, smart enough, powerful enough, pretty enough, happy enough…enough. In one fell swoop (if by “fell swoop” you mean 12 hours of labor after 9.1 months of pregnancy), a child sucks all those worries away and replaces them with a totally soul-crushing arrangement of eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks on a little noggin gently perched on top of a pudgy combination of body and limbs.
And then he breathes!
This little thing actually breathes! And cries, yes… but he breathes! And his heart beats and his eyes water and his fists open and close and, when you’re particularly lucky, his lips form a smile that makes your own heart sing. Suddenly your sole reason for being is to keep all those functions going. That’s it. Devising marketing strategies, assessing profitability, tackling stuffed inboxes, excel models and power point presentations — those fun activities have flown the coop. All troops are now assembled to help this little nugget become a boy and, sooner than anyone will expect, a man. In the midst of the sleepless chaos that is infancy, this child — for all his wailing and lovely scented diapers — has brought a calm to my mind and a singular sense of purpose I’d been desperately seeking.
In a caffeine-induced high or the occasional moments of parental triumph (e.g., that one time you got him to go to sleep before he became, dun dun dunnn, “over tired”), all the above is glorious. Living with blinders on makes the focus of your gaze quite important. And when it’s so damn cute, it’s not hard to allow it to consume you. But I realize one day, probably quite soon, the world outside my blinders will creep in and pull my gaze slightly away from our little miracle. I’ll return to worrying about all of the “[insert adjective here] enough’s” of life and inevitably feel torn between my duty as mom to our son and my other duty as me to myself — not to mention wife to my life-changing and -making husband.
But for now I’ll enjoy the cocoon that protects my son and me from the rest of the world and allows us to see and concern ourselves with only each other. At 3:17 am after being up and down since midnight, I’ll try to remember that I wished for this and that I’ll long for this evolving memory even more acutely when he’s coming home at 3:17 am after not texting when he said he would. I’ll kiss his little nose when he’s not expecting it, massage his tiny and, yes, slightly-webbed toes when he’s bored on a car ride, offer him my finger so he can learn to grab and whisper over and over just how much I love him every night when his eyelids get heavy, even though I know he hears nothing but a soft familiar sound.
As I fight in “the trenches” that are these early weeks of his life, I’ll look at this blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel/alien and see the promise of and hope for a better tomorrow that brought him here in the first place — and remember that, thankfully, it really isn’t about me anymore. It’s about a greater, more powerful, life-altering “us.”
Well, and a damn cute navel.