So I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this mommy thing. I'm starting to figure out what kind of mother I am and what that means for me as a person. I am not saying that I am coming into my own as a mother (not yet, anyway), but day by day my confidence increases and I feel better about being able to meet Charlie's needs.
On the whole, my emotional landscape is beginning to level out. I wouldn't say that I've turned a corner, but I think I am beginning to emerge into the Land of Emotional Stability. I do still have bad days (and nights). I do still cry several times a week. I do still doubt myself and my ability to be a good mother. And I do still feel haunted by my birth experience.
But what's missing are those feelings of utter hopelessness and despair. I had nights in the first month of Charlie's life where I was really wishing that I was dead, and that scared me. I often wondered if I was experiencing postpartum depression but I also knew that the baby blues (which is something different from postpartum depression) can be very intense. The person who saved me during those really dark moments was Roy. Even if he had to get up and go to work in the morning, even if he'd spent the bulk of his day or evening caring for Charlie, he never hesitated to take over baby duty when I was crashing and burning. As lonely as I felt, the fact that he was willing to get out of bed to help me really made me realize that I wasn't in this alone.
So yeah, things are getting better. I don't feel like I'm going to fall apart at any given second, it's been quite some time since I worried that I was going to accidentally hurt Charlie in some way (like by dropping him, for example), I don't dread feedings like I used to, and I am able to drive like a normal human being without worrying constantly if Charlie is going to break his neck if I turn a corner at five miles per hour.
The sleep deprivation, however, is still an issue. Charlie is going longer between feedings at night (usually), and we are getting more sleep than we did at the beginning, but it's just not enough. By the end of the day, I'm fading fast, and I find myself running low on patience. Fortunately, Roy is always okay with taking Charlie for awhile once he gets home from work, but I also know that, like me, he's completely beat and sucked dry by the day's events combined with lack of sleep. We are still caring for Charlie in shifts at night, which is great for getting us enough sleep so that we can be somewhat functional, but is not so great since we are sleeping in separate rooms every night. This has really begun to affect both of us emotionally, and we realize that we can't do this for much longer. We miss each other.
I have no idea how to get back to "normal" life. I'm not sure how to be a regular human being while also being a mother. I do still do normal people things, of course, but when it comes to things that really need to get done, like revising my thesis proposal (for example), it is no longer as simple as putting aside some time every day to work on it. The time really just isn't there, especially when I tend to choose sleep, hygiene, or food over everything else. I'm assuming that as Charlie gets older, he will have more predictable sleep patterns and that our lives will regulate more. That's the hope, anyway.
If there's anything that I've realized since becoming a mother, it's the very simple fact that time is not my friend. Time is not going to slow down so that I can get everything done. So it's imperative to make the time to take care of the things that matter. I'm tired of making excuses for not doing certain things. I think I have a lot of talent and potential, but my main problem is discipline. I've always been drawn to living a life that celebrates creativity, and in a sense, my life does reflect that: I write often, I take photos every day, I listen to music and read and go to museums. But I have never taken that leap into full immersion into my vocation (whatever my vocation is). I have always, I feel, played it safe. I went for the office job because I needed some practical experience on my resume, I went to graduate school because I didn't know what else to do. I can't say that I regret either choice. I just wish that I would stop talking about the life I want to have and start making it a reality. I annoy myself in this regard. I think part of me expects that I will somehow just be discovered and that'll be that. It's completely naive and stupid to think this way - not to mention it is completely contradictory to the way that I live my life on a daily basis. I am not a passive person, but I am truly not proactive enough when it comes to the life I want to have.
Most people may think that having a baby means that I can kiss all this stuff good-bye, but actually, if anything is pushing me to live a life of my own making, it's Charlie. I firmly believe that the best example I can set for him (and other future children) is by making good choices, not just for him/them - but for me. I don't believe in being a martyr for motherhood, I don't see the sense in giving up my dreams because I'm a wife and mother. I am still my own person.
Yesterday evening I was headed to the bathroom to take a shower when I heard unfamiliar music drifting from our bedroom. Roy had put Charlie in the Pack and Play and turned on the mobile, which plays music and turns in a circle. Charlie was staring up at the mobile with big, shining eyes. Roy and I just stood there with big dopey grins on our faces watching Charlie discover this amazing thing. I felt the sting of tears in my eyes, and for the millionth time this week, I said to myself, "He's getting so big."
It was, as they say, a defining moment - a moment not just about us as parents seeing our child reach a milestone, but a moment in which this little human being taught us something: giving oneself up completely to the experience of living. I guess we could all learn a lot from a baby. I know I have.