Monday, May 2, 2011

One Fart at a Time

I stare at Mollie in the early morning light on a Saturday. She is amazing. Her cheeks, begging to be kissed, are relaxed in her milk-drunk state. She inhales and exhales her sweet breath out of her slightly open mouth and I lean in to hear her breathing, to feel her breathing, to smell her delicious baby smells. Her eyes are closed and she sleeps so peacefully and I am so in love with her that I ache, and I literally have to remind myself that she is the same little person who screamed for three hours the night before. But in that moment, in the early pre-dawn moment, I don't care about her screaming. I don't mind that I can't think clearly, can't remember simple things, and occasionally forget that the milk lives in the refrigerator. She is so perfect that she is my only care, my only concern, and I am so grateful for her existence.

"Eight weeks ago we watched our first sunrise over Boston together," I tell her, marking the fact that she has been in our lives for 56 days. I tell her this every Saturday, willing myself to hold on to the feeling of that morning, even as it fades from my memory, even as I can literally feel it fixing itself in my memory like a photograph of someone else's life, now replaced by new Saturday mornings.

And then she farts.

She startles herself awake, kicks her little feet inside her swaddle blanket (baby straight-jacket), and squawks, sounding part piglet, part rooster. I laugh at her, kiss those irresistible cheeks, and think, "so this is how you learn to be a parent: one fart at a time."

Two Thursdays ago she cried inconsolably for four straight hours. Last Monday, Matt and I spent 20 minutes in our pediatrician's waiting room only to find out that Mollie had terrible diaper rash and was in desperate need of nothing more than frequent diaper changes and a massive tub of Desitin. I have stopped eating eggs. Every other day she has a projectile spit-up that lands on the floor, and there are splats in the kitchen, in our bedroom, in the nursery. Two Sundays in a row we have found ourselves out with friends but not spending time with them because we are rocking, rocking, rocking our daughter and trying to magic her back to calm. Our apartment overflows with baby things -- a boppy, a swing, a bouncy seat, a giant yoga ball. We have most of our conversations while moving, up and down on the yoga ball, side to side as we sway her. I find burp cloths in our bed, in my sock drawer, draped across my shoulder as I am ready to walk out the door.

It still amazes me how much my life has changed in two months. It amazes me even though I felt like I was truly prepared for my life to change, for the burp cloths and the baby things. I saw my friends become parents, saw the many ways that babies change you, laughed when well-meaning acquaintances posited that they would have more time for things like the gym when home on paternity leave. I knew that the waves of parenting would just keep coming.

BUT. But, wow. I was prepared for the change, but I wasn't prepared for how stunning it would be, for how different I would feel because of it. I now really think that you can't anticipate all of the madness/chaos/amazement/insert-strong-adjective-here of parenting until you actually become a parent. No matter how prepared you feel (or are), no matter how many babies your friends have had, no matter how desperate you are for a baby, no matter how many books or blogs you have read. This is the wildest, most intense, most exhausting, most amazingly terrifying experience I have ever had. I couldn't possibly have readied myself for it. I couldn't have possibly known the depths of my love, but also my self-doubt, my uncertainty, my inability to make a decision for the very real fear that I am taking us down the wrong path.

I have always questioned everything. Now I question it twice, consult the internet, call another mother, ask a friend for a second opinion, and discuss it with Matt ad nauseum, all before making a final decision.

And then she farts. Which makes me laugh out loud and forces me to calm down, trust myself, go with my gut.

She doesn't need much. She needs to be changed, fed, and burped. She needs to be kept warm enough and cool enough. She needs vaccines and pacifiers. But perhaps most of all, she needs to be loved, and cuddled, and rocked. She needs to be able to fall asleep, milk-drunk and full, and fart herself awake, trusting that someone will be there to laugh at her, change her diaper, kiss her delicious cheeks. And thanks to her, I can do those things in my sleep.

mollie and mommy

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