A sense of self

I am in a Facebook group of mothers in Canuckia who were all due in January. It is an interesting mix of first time moms through fifth-time moms, from all over the country, rural and urban. It is my main parenting resource, if I am honest. One mom is a lactation consultant. Three are nurses, two are doctors, one of whom is a pediatrician. We share questions and qualms, funny moments, and selfies while trapped under babies.

There was a thread this week of moms lamenting that their babies will smile at everyone and everything except them. Spud will smile at me, but he’s more likely to smile at the fish tank, or the cutting board on the counter. He’s now super smiley for Pea and his doting visitors. For a while I thought maybe I wasn’t engaging with him enough, or smiling at him enough. One of the Facebook moms noted that, at this point, our babies still don’t differentiate all that well between them and us. So we get fewer smiles, because why smile at yourself? I don’t know if this has scientific backing, but it makes me feel better.

Spud is growing daily more aware of the world around him. Smiling at familiar faces, reacting to smells and sounds, making his own set of distinguishable sounds. Kicking things, swatting at things, and, I swear, dancing when I sing to him*. He is becoming an active member of the world, and it is so fun to watch.

I used to think moms who described what their baby was doing with the adjective “we” were sappy, or weird. I get it now. Sometimes it genuinely was both of us: “we got up every two hours, didn’t we?”. Sometimes it really is just Spud, but I find myself saying we, because I feel it along with him: “we are back to having an upset stomach and painful gas at 4 am”**. I am trying to not do this, because we are not a “we”, not since just shy of midnight on January 1st, but it slips out sometimes. It is surprising how often I’m feeling “we” when it’s really just him.

A few people have complimented me on “getting my body back” so quickly. I am at my pre-pregnancy weight. I am back in my pre-pregnancy clothes. I am a bit softer round the edges, but not so acquaintances would see. At the same time, my linea negra cuts a sharp line down my stomach, over my swollen and often uneven breasts. My hair is dry, and unwashed more often than not. It is pulled up in a ponytail or untidy knot to protect from tiny fists. My back is sore, my arms buff. I have eczema flaring on one hand, a symptom of stress and sleeplessness. All of this is not “my” body. But that compliment rings most false because my body is almost never alone right now, between nursing and soothing and naps.

Spud still sleeps on me, either in a carrier or camped out on my chest, for almost all of his daytime naps. The exceptions are when he sleeps in his car seat while it is in the car, grocery cart, or stroller. I want this to change, objectively. It would be useful to have hands free time while he naps. I have tried to put him down the past two days, but he wakes and won’t settle. I could push this, be firm, but I think he is still too little to sleep train. Also, even though being trapped under him for hours each day is preventing much needed naps and productivity on my part and is somewhat driving me batty, I don’t really want it to stop. There is a part of me that is deeply, restfully soothed by having my baby sleep nestled into my chest. It heals damage I didn’t give proper credit to while I was busily pasting bandaids over heartbreaks and forging forward. 

All this to say Spud is about to gain more autonomy while I unexpectedly find myself mourning the impending return of my own.

* either dancing or protesting, but he looks happy. Particular favorites are “Down by the Bay” and Sarah Harmer’s folkier album, “I’m a Mountain”, from which I have borrowed a song for his evening lullaby and another for when we are both being silly and cheerful.

** Spud had immunizations right on top of a wonder week/developmental leap and I was worried about sleep, but he slept better than he ever had! Five hour and three hour stretches to get through the night for four glorious days. Now he is back to his usual self, and, very sadly, back to his 3,2,1.5,1,0.5 hour pattern. It turns out getting some sleep might be worse than getting almost no sleep if it gets taken away again. Or maybe it has kept me sane. Hard to know. I am very tired but Pea has been forcing me to nap in the evenings and that is helping.

One thought on “A sense of self

  1. Turia

    Both my babies transitioned from carrier naps to crib naps around three months. P was much easier than E., probably because I already knew it was possible to break the habit. You will both figure it out.

    I still have the bad habit of answering a question like “what’s new?” with what my kids are doing. It’s especially hard not to when on mat leave because my days are filled with their needs, but it frustrates me. It’s like when mothers make their profile picture on Facebook their kids but not them as well.

    As for autonomy, I do get a lot of hands free time but I still rarely go the bathroom unaccompanied or undisturbed and this was true even before P came along.

    Your sense of self will never be the same because now you are a mother. You can’t hold that old self and love your baby as you do. It’s not a bad thing- it just is. Your heart is now outside of your body!


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